Change Management - A major risk while deploying ERP

As seen in most of the failed ERP deployments across the world, one of the top10 reasons of failures is often failure to manage change. We all know that ERP deployment most of the times hit the comfort zones of users as they are used to work in one or other legacy applications and stopping it to learn a new system is always an effort. While some of them will have the motivation and the urge to learn something new, some are neutral and rest might be distracters for bringing the new system. Also, as most of the leading ERP systems enforce business discipline, compliance, transactional transparency and other regulatory activities, the increased work (initially) puts them off.

Well, what is change management? A common definition used for change management is a set of processes that is employed to ensure that significant changes are implemented in an orderly, controlled and systematic fashion to effect organizational change. One of the goals of change management is with regards to the human aspects of overcoming resistance to change in order for organizational members to buy into change and achieve the organization's goal of an orderly and effective transformation.

Change management has been developed over a period of time and one of the models that have played an influence in change management is the ADKAR model. ADKAR was a model developed by Prosci. In this model, there are five specific stages that must be realized in order for an organization or an individual to successfully change. They include:

  • Awareness - An individual or organization must know why a specific change or series of changes are needed.
  • Desire - Either the individual or organizational members must have the motivation and desire to participate in the called for change or changes.
  • Knowledge - Knowing why one must change is not enough; an individual or organization must know how to change.
  • Ability - Every individual and organization that truly wants to change must implement new skills and behaviors to make the necessary changes happen.
  • Reinforcement - Individuals and organizations must be reinforced to sustain any changes making them the new behavior, if not; an individual or organization will probably revert back to their old behavior shortly and whole exercise will be a failure

It is not that we need to know and implement the above framework partly only to achieve the desired results; every point is very important and needs to be implemented with utmost sincerety. Having said this, we need to make sure that we do not sell change to people as a way of accelerating 'agreement' and implementation. 'Selling' change to people is not a sustainable strategy for success, unless your aim is to be bitten on the bum at some time in the future when you least expect it. When people listen to a management high-up 'selling' them a change, decent diligent folk will generally smile and appear to accede, but quietly to themselves, they're thinking, "No bloody chance mate, if you think I'm standing for that load of old bollocks you've another think coming…" (And that's just the amenable types - the other more recalcitrant types will be well on the way to making their own particular transition from gamekeepers to poachers.) Instead, change needs to be understood and managed in a way that people can cope effectively with it. Change can be unsettling, so the manager logically needs to be a settling influence.

In case we are able to manage change effectively, it acts as a major facilitator towards deployment of ERPs.


  1. Well said mate. I am witness to a couple of ERP deployments which failed just because there was a lack of vision in the management to manage the change. In fact, in come cases, ERP brings in cultural change also and that is waht is most painful for the people.

  2. A few practical insights:
    The higher the average age of the user group and their average years of use of the legacy, the harder the change.
    I am myself experiencing vehement opposition to a clean erp implementation even 18 months after go live. Because the average user experience on legacy was 8-10 years and the average age of the user group is 50.
    The buzz words dont work too much with them even if you try to reason out intelligently with them. Even though management fully supported the change, troops at the field level face opposition daily from the users.


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