Monday, July 8, 2024

Don’t just focus on the tech for a successful enterprise transformation

As another SAP platform approaches end of life, many organisations are now moving to S/4HANA, while others are looking to introduce, upgrade or consolidate other ERP and CRM systems. With decades of experience in these types of large tech upgrades now available, the common mistake that many organisations continue to make is to put too much emphasis on the tech, with process definition taking a close second.

However every large-scale technology programme requires a change in employee behaviours to achieve its benefits. I have been brought in to turn around programmes that have delivered technology perfectly but not achieved any benefit…because people are not using the system correctly (or at all!).

New technology means employees will need to change their ways of working – usually processes, behaviours and roles will need to adapt, and this change can be disruptive for the organisation, it can even result in (or require) a change of culture.

This article explores the phases change leaders need to undertake and what they need to consider when implementing large scale tech-driven transformation programmes.

Phase 1: Understanding the context

Enterprise technology-driven change programmes are usually approved at the Executive or Board Level and are usually based on the potential for efficiency, identification and faster exploitation of new opportunities or to move off a burning platform of out-of-support technology. The strategic goals will have been agreed, a programme established, scope defined and it’s time for the business change leads to lay the ground for a successful roll-out.

What do you need to know before developing an approach to support your business through the change? A change landscape assessment is essential to understand and document:

  • How does the programme link to the overall purpose of the organisation?
  • What is the vision for the organisation once the enterprise change is complete?
  • What culture and behavioural change will be needed to ensure the technology delivers benefit?
  • How will the change help the company achieve its goals?
  • What is the approach to the technology change? For example, an Agile vs. waterfall methodology will impact how end users experience the roll-out; adapting the business to an off-the-shelf solution and expecting ‘fit-to-standard’ can have a large impact and generate resistance
  • Who will be impacted across the business, and how? What will be the impact on suppliers, customers and other key external stakeholders?
  • Is the business ready for the change?
  • What other change is going on at the same time?

Understanding the change landscape in this way will help to define the scope of the business change required. Taking time to assess the current state will pay dividends as it ensures the right people elements are considered from design through to the post-deployment phase and ensures business change management efforts are focused in the right areas.

Phase 2: A standardised approach…

New or upgraded technology implementations can impact thousands of people across an organisation globally.

It’s important to have standardised approaches to business change management and communications in order to maintain consistent and efficient ways of working – it will be the cornerstone of user engagement, acceptance, readiness and adoption of the changes. The approach will cover how to assess the impact of the change, and the change levers that will be used to maximise adoption, minimise productivity impacts and therefore reduce risk and deliver benefits.

Your approach will be guided by the change landscape and will need to consider company and local cultures, prior experience of change and the available resource to lead change centrally and locally. Standardised approaches mean common tools and templates can be used and lessons learned from one phase / release to the next.

As the programme rolls out more localised change management and communications can be tailored as different countries and cultures will require different change interventions and different styles of messaging. If it is a global roll out you may want to consider recruiting locally based change teams who can adapt central tools to local culture and support recruitment of a local change network.

Phase 3: Recognise the interdependencies and communicate accordingly

A big question to ask at this point is what are the interdependencies? Your change landscape will have identified what is going on elsewhere in the company and it’s now time to work together with those interdependent initiatives.

They can include other large programmes within the organisation, other tech upgrades and of course the wider strategic direction of the business. Other key programmes are likely to have similar audiences and therefore change management and communications activities must be joined up to ensure that colleagues are not asked to implement too many transformational changes at the same time.

A large, complex transformation will undoubtably result in fluctuations around engagement, leadership, talent and development so it’s important to ensure employees do not receive too many and potentially conflicting conversations at the same time.

Think about the scale of the programme and consider providing dedicated resource to manage scheduling and conflicts with other work streams and programmes. But also acknowledge that you need to accept these fluctuations are part and parcel of long-term change. Make sure you keep listening to your stakeholders and people – through regular meetings, pulse surveys and local change networks – so you can plan ahead.

Launching a significant transformation shouldn’t be rushed, take the time now to plan as it will enable you to go faster later.