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Managing IT Change Through Clear Communication

Change Management Dependent Upon Clear and Progressive Communication Policy

A key role often provided by external consultants to support an ERP software selection, implementation, and/or post-implementation processes is the managing of proper expectations with executive management, project team members, and staff throughout the business. Recognizing, reacting to, and effectively controlling these expectations can have as great an impact on the overall perceived and real success of an ERP project as the effective management of the project plan and attainment of defined benefits.

It's important that throughout each phase of an ERP selection or implementation project that appropriate expectations are created for all parts of the business as well as those external entities that may be affected by this change—including customers, vendors and business partners. The key to formulating realistic expectations is the design and execution of a robust and progressive communication strategy that is integrated into each phase of the project, from the decision to purchase to a new business software system to well beyond the project's go-live implementation event.

Once the decision to implement a new business or ERP system has been made communication of this decision, the reasons behind it, and its major objectives should be made clearly throughout the business. This explanation and reasoning should also include the role of the consultants that will be assigned to the project if and when the decision to use consulting expertise has been determined.

Once in place the consulting arm of the project team should provide advice and assistance in establishing a continuous process of communication designed to inform all staff in the business as to the methods that will be used to manage the transition, the project phases, the various roles and responsibilities of staff assigned to the project, the responsibilities of those staff who will be asked to support it, the inevitable compromises that will need to be made to ensure its success, and the anticipated timetable.

Having established this initial understanding of the project elements, a communication plan must be created to provide the business with an ongoing and realistic view of the project's progress including any changes in approach, any impediments or any variances which may arise that may affect the meeting of quality, budget or time expectations. In this regard the role of the consultant is critical in ensuring that a realistic representation of the project's condition is clearly communicated throughout is implementation. The tendency by internal project teams is to avoid communicating difficult or unpleasant issues so as to maintain a positive view of the project which can in fact have a reverse impact if unrealistic expectations are created and then not met. The consultant's responsibility to provide an unprejudiced analysis of the project's progress and must extend to ensure that all communications are unencumbered by any misconceptions so that management is in the best position to make the best decisions to positively impact any hurdles that may arise and make appropriate operational or financial decisions in response to them.

The communication tools will vary based upon the needs and capabilities within the business but should be chosen based on their cost, ease of use and effectiveness. Such communication opportunities as regular executive staff progress reports, functional department updates, project promotion campaigns, newsletters and the like are common examples but the process needs to fit the structure and culture of the business.

Only by placing an emphasis on developing realistic and supportable expectations can resources assigned to carry the project to fruition effectively perform their responsibilities and gain the trust and support of the rest of the business throughout the project's progress as well as once the new systems, procedures and policies have been established as part of the day to day life of the enterprise. This same emphasis must also be applied by a consulting resource in providing its clients with realistic and constructive expectations regarding its advisory role and how its activities are supporting project objectives. | CRM Software, ERP Software & Technology Blog