As a consultant, you are sometimes drafted into projects where the business users are the main blockers. Some might feel that their job is on the line because of the project you are working on. This is a hard working environment as you have a clear remit, but there will be resistance internally. Working with new technology can be challenging, but not having the buy in from business users only add to the challenges. When you are replacing one system with another, comparisons are a natural mindset. Again where you have business users who are confident using an existing system with existing business processes, the user community will have a negative approach to the project. Rather than seeing all the great new functionality that is available, the users will look at holes where the existing system is better than the new one. These issues and other similar ones can be easily avoided through clear and concise change management.
You don't implement a system or solution just for the sake of it
I've worked on a number of major SAP implementations. The costs have been significant and at times there has been some resistance. The one thing to make clear to all those involved in the project is that, it is not being done because someone wants to. To get a significant budget from a board, a business case is normally drawn up. Typically the business case will either identify a current issue or risk within the business that the new system or solution will solve/ mitigate.
Example reasons of an ERP implementation could be...
Reduce the volume of current systems
Increase business integration
Provide a consistent way of working across the whole business
Utilise new functionality that is available in the ERP system
Use a single system to cope with the current business growth, or future growth.
All of these reasons should lead to an outcome.
Reduction in IT costs - hardware, support and licences
Reduction in cost to service the business - head count reduction, closing down offices
Improve efficiency - new functionality will increase sales, reduce costs due to current process limitations.
So to keep this content non specific, every project will have a reason or an objective. The reason or objective will have an outcome, and the objective of the outcome should add benefit to the business in either the short term or medium term.
Getting this message across
The project sponsor should be able to articulate the reason, objective and required outcome of the project. They will need to do this, to obtain the necessary funding from the board. However once they have acquired the funding, and got the project team ready a change management strategy needs to be in place.
Firstly, and most importantly the project team need to be aware of the reason, objective and required outcome. The project team is normally made up of a mixture of internal and external resources. It is important that the whole team is armed with this information. The project team need to be foot soldiers for the project sponsor, and should be spreading the messages.
Whilst informing the project team is important, to get full buy in from the whole of the business, the middle managers need to understand the reason, objective and the required outcome. From experience, a project team will take business users away from their day job, and put them into the project for the duration of the project. Where a project or programme lasts over 12 months, and in some case 3 years, the middle managers can be upset and resistant to providing critical resources to the project for this time. Without knowing why the project is being done, the middle manager will quite rightly be negative towards the project. However if the middle manager, can see that by losing a critical resource for say 12 months, the outcome would be beneficial to them in the long term, their team they become less resistant to losing the individual and the change that is being delivered.
And if you don't do it...
If senior and middle management are overlooked by the project sponsor and are unaware of the key messages they will be naturally resistant to the project. This will lead to a negative perception of the project which in turn put more pressure on the project. Secondly as pointed out before the business users on the project will see the negative aspects of the project, and will focus on them. Both of these will delay the project. This might seem strange, but in reality this actually happens. This is because the scope of the solution may take longer to be signed off by the middle managers. Further to this, the business users on the project, may look at removing from a standard design to obtain the current functionality that is not available as standard. This will increase the scope, and the cost which could delay the planned go-live. In turn both will increase the cost of the project, leading to a lower level of benefit to the customer.
So if you are on a project, where you don't know the reason of the project, the objective of the project and the required outcome ask someone that does. As a consultant you need to be armed with this information. Further to this, knowing this will enable you to design and implement the solution in accordance with the reason, objective and outcome. If you sense the business users in the project or the middle managers are being negative, challenge them to see if they know the reason, objective and outcome. By re-focusing the mind to these three key pieces of information should help remove the resistance and lead to a process where you can all work together to achieve the required outcome and add value to the customer.