ERP Trend: Use of Social Media for Change Management

The introduction and much increased popularity of social media in last few years has started opening multiple doors in different areas like just sharing your views on anything or using them for product promotion or other publicity or to garner support on a social cause etc. Another trend that has started picking up recently on the back of social media is the use of social media as real time collaborating tool for hardcore business purposes.

I intend to discuss one such use of social media specially twitter in this post that as per my view, has huge potential to handle change management while implementing ERP. Though I will be taking it up for change management during an ERP project but please note that this use can be extended to multiple business interactions for useful feedback, ideas and thoughts.

Typically, what all we want to do as part of change management? We want to:
  • Make the users ready for the coming change in the way they do their daily business
  • Take their feedback on the new add ons they expect from the new system
  • Extract their concerns regarding the new system as well as any short sizing that might happen as a result
  • Set their expectations
  • Ensure that the transition is smooth
  • Ensure that they are excited about the change
  • Reduce the resistance to change
  • Ensure their adequate training before the change takes place
  • Highlight the real benefits of the new system for the organization and for the business users more importantly so that act as catalysts to change and not roadblocks to change
  • Sharing tips on utilizing the new system in the best ways
  • Share best practices on how they can benefit from the new system and improve their process efficiency or reduce manual work
  • Ensure that customers and suppliers are in sync and they are ready for it
  • Communicate to all stakeholders including business leaders, IT, super users and users, customers, suppliers, service provider, 3rd party system owners and others about the milestones of new system introduction
I understand that above list is not an exhaustive list but still includes a sizeable chunk of objectives that we want to achieve as part of our change management task as part of the ERP deployment. Almost all of the above points hover around effective communication and if we can get communication right, then more than half the job is done, in my opinion. Of-course, the content of the communication will play an important role but this post will focus on the other important part which is “mode of communication”.

One of the ideas that stuck my mind few months back, is that why not utilize twitter for the all important communication as part of the change management task during an ERP project and I bounced this off my regular professional group members during one of club parties. While most of them thought that twitter is yet to be evolved to that level before we use it that way and shared multiple concerns that they might face in using it – like their organizations might not allow using twitter in office, since we can not restrict users using twitter for non business purposes – we might lose on productivity and efficiency, the messages that can be sent using twitter are too short and conveying clear information is a challenge – the list is long. I was glad that 2 of the group members who incidentally were part of the same company somewhat showed tendency to buy this idea and requested me share the whole concept that is brewing in my mind. We met over drinks next time and came out with a strategy to use it in their organization that was going LIVE with their ERP in few months after one failed attempt due to multiple issues (change management being one as per them).

They kept working on the strategy and between more important issues, all of us moved to other topics in our further meetings – infact I could not attend the last couple of meetings due to health issues. To my surprise, I got a call from one of them yesterday that they went Live successfully with the new system and the twitter strategy was the shot in the arm for both of them as they introduced this to the organization and effectively utilized it for change management communication.

I was ecstatic (with the feeling…I told you so :-)) and could not wait for our next fortnightly meeting to get a complete download on the success story so we discussed the prelim part on phone. To summarize, their strategy was like this:
  • Introduce twitter in the organization after requisite approvals
  • Create a community dedicated to ERP project – They called it Pragati Communiqué, where Pragati means Progress
  • Ensure that all stakeholders join this community as followers
  • Restrict this community on web so that people can join by invitation only
  • Create the communication capsules and the calendar
  • Start sending short and crisp messages on the progress, benefits, changes etc. on the project
  • Created polls, hosted them on their intranet and shared the URLs with the user population through twitter
  • Sought ideas and other thoughts from users to create a feeling that everybody is taking part in implementing the new system and it is their system so a feeling of belongingness started creeping in among all users
  • Also started pinging customers and suppliers with the milestones of project – though this part was not successful as these organizations did not allow twitter to be used in office
  • Used it as real time chat window for sharing ideas, brainstorming and answering concerns

There were some other points that were mentioned to me but I am not able to recall now. I will surely post the complete strategy and the case study one I get the chance to meet them ion person in our next meeting.

The major factor of success for this strategy for them is that Twitter allows you to change your user name so if you do not want to be recognized after joining the community, while raising your concern – this is the best way to communicate but still remain anonymous. They encouraged users to remain anonymous while asking tricking questions so that nobody feels that there can be any sort of victimization after they go live.

Yes, they had their share of challenges too. It was not a cake walk for them to take approvals to introduce twitter for official use. Also, once they introduced it, they found people spending good amount of time in tweeting non business tweets but soon these died down and regular business took over – Yes, you are right, there are still some people who secretly use twitter for non business purpose.

Another challenge they had to conquer is that the management asked them to use email instead of twitter and it offers the same functionality with much more control on data security. The point made sense but as we know that most mails that come for “All employees” often are deleted without reading whereas twitter being a new thing in the organization made sure that everybody is glued to this waited for the updates to come or to respond to a query from a fellow user.

Overall, they were happy with the outcome. To me, this mark the beginning of a new era in communicating to a group of people with similar interests with social media and this surely will become a new trend to reckon with in coming years or shall I say months?

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