SAP Change Management

Change Management

This morning I was musing over the fact that I had not heard a large emphasis on change management for a few years now. When I started with SAP (early 90's), change management was the big buzz word. Every project had a dedicated raaa raaa change management team. And we were made very conscious of the vital importance of change management for the success of a project.

Because let's face it, we were introducing huge changes to the business. And their acceptance of these changes could make or break a project.

My first 3 years of SAP experience was in South Africa. South Africa has this curious mix of first world and 3rd world. So quite a few of the rollouts I did, involved actually teaching users how to use a computer first and then how to use SAP.

In fact on my first project in the US, we even had a user take early retirement to avoid having to learn how to use SAP. In another case, the users refused to use MRP and it was eventually switched off.

Change Management Cycle

Change Management Cycle

So what is Change Management? The definition I like is: Overcoming resistance to change. So how do you do that? From my observations and experiences, it involves helping users realize several things:

  1. SAP is going to help me do my job better? In my case, I tend to work on the Customer Service and outgoing logistics side, so the users I deal with want to serve the customer better. This is not always from the companies perspective. This is often just a case of, can I answer all the questions the customer puts to me (do I have easy access to the information). Let's face it, it's an unpleasant job if your customers scream at you all the time.
  2. Is SAP going to make me more productive or is it going to make my job more difficult? In today's information age, having the right tool for the right job makes all the difference in the world. Example: If you ask me to calculate a whole table of financial and sales figures with MS Word, I can probably do it, but it would be painful and very time consuming because MS Word is not designed for that. However, give me MS Excel and life's a breeze 😉
  3. Is SAP going to save me time which is similar to point 2? So that I can work shorter days and spend more time at home with my family.

Keys to Change Management So how do we get users to embrace and welcome SAP? From my observations the following points are crucial:

  • A colleague of mine always says:

    A fish always rots from the head

    Support for the project and it's goals must come from top down. It never ceases to amaze me how a company can spend millions on an implementation and then refuse to pony up the appropriate resources and time to design and test the crucial business processes and make the crucial business decisions. Or the users they pony up end up doing 2 jobs: there normal job and the project.

  • Involve the users in some of the decision making and definitely in the testing. SAP is going to directly affect their job. Yes management benefits from the increased availability of crucial business making information, but who puts that information in the system - the users.
  • Allocate sufficient time for training. Users do not want to struggle or appear incompetent.
  • Let users know what is changing. here are 3 strategies I have seen work well:
  • A "Show & Tell" session or "Lunch and Learn". Invite users to a demonstration of a business process. Great time to verify that you have not missed anything. You would be surprised how often this brings up something you have missed. Tip: Get a user to do the demo.
  • A more formal process is a "Conference Room Pilot". On one of my projects we had 1 scheduled every 6 weeks. It acted as a project milestone to showcase what had been accomplished. It was typically 3-4 days, also involved smaller breakout sessions to gather more specialized feedback and information and an evening social event. And people flew in from all the plants. It worked extremely well.
  • Publish a regular newsletter.
  • Get Regular feedback from users (maybe anonymous) to elicit rumors, concerns and fears.

The ultimate goal is to prove to the users that the new system is going to provide them huge benefits. Thus reducing their resistance to change. With the increased frequency of smaller companies implementing SAP, this becomes more and more difficult to accomplish. The reason is that these companies have excellent people but are typically lean to start with. One person often wears many hats. One of the big "criticisms" of SAP implementations in the early days was that they absorbed key personnel for extended periods of time (sometimes years). Be aware of this and plan for this and plan backfills if necessary. In a bigger implementation I did in the UK, the company identified 10 people for the project and backfilled their positions 100%. Unusual, but highly effective. In summary: SAP Change Management is answering a simple question.

How do I persuade users that SAP is going to provide them benefits over their existing system thus reducing their resistance to the change.

The SAPGuy