Change is hard. Change is good. Change is coming. Haven’t we all heard these words at some point during our careers, and then immediately started to worry about what it all means? We are creatures of habit, and we all like our routines. Work is no different than life when it comes to developing a routine for each day, each month, each year. Like life though, changes at work can come fast, and nothing changes faster than the technology we use every day in the business world.
I have managed and overseen several financial system implementations during my career. They all bring their own level of stress and anxiety, not to mention a huge investment of time and money. However, there is one area where a system implementation can really sink or swim: employee engagement.
In my experience, employee engagement is the most important, yet sometimes overlooked, aspect of a successful financial system implementation. Without it, you are surely doomed to fail in obtaining the results that you have spent months, if not years, preparing to realize.
Addressing Common Questions from Employees During a New System Implementation
The first question employees tend to ask when confronted with a new system implementation is “Why are we doing this?“
My answer is usually the same each time: We are changing to this new system because our old system can no longer do what we need it to do. We have outgrown our former functionality, and we need a software platform that can take the company where it needs to grow.
The second question employees tend to ask when confronted with a new system implementation is, “How difficult is this new software to use?”
Employees who use an ERP platform or software package tend to use the same functions and modules over and over again. They may only use a part of the software for a specific task, such as sales planning or accounts payable. In that case, employees can become very attached to an interface, a screen view, or a pull-down menu that they may have seen literally thousands of times in the course of their work. Understandably, it can be quite difficult to convince employees to change from something they have used a thousand times to something they have never used before.
The third and most common question that employees tend to ask when confronted with a new system is “Will this make my job easier or more difficult?“
This is the arena where the ability to engage an employee is key. A new system implementation is a complicated process of exploration, testing, deployment, and adoption. When the process is managed well and end-users are brought into the process at all stages, a new system can certainly make everyone’s job easier.
New System Implementation: Friend or Foe?
It is my opinion that a new software program or ERP solution is a friend to be embraced, not a foe to be addressed. During one of my recent financial system implementations, employees at an acquisition target were engaged too late in the process, and the system became a foe instead of a friend. A new system should be something truly transformative for your company. Unfortunately, this company transformed into a mess of failed applications, frustrated users, uninformed training sessions, and an all-around lack of engagement by the team to adopt the new system and to understand how it could have helped move the company forward. After a few years, the only solution was to ditch the system and start over again.
During this company’s second implementation, I started with an employee focus. I knew my team’s strengths and weaknesses, and I began by putting myself in their shoes when engaging with the ERP’s sales team in the initial exploration phase. I wanted to think like an end-user who was going to be seeing and using new interfaces and functions on a daily basis, and I wanted to use that knowledge to inform the decision-making process. I also made sure to engage daily with employees in their offices and on their computers to gauge their comfort level with how and why a new system was going to be successful.
After all, successful end-users mean a successful implementation.
By engaging with people in their space and often, I was able to manage expectations as well as ask questions about how something was performing or not. This level of daily engagement also allowed for an equal focus on the cheerleaders who loved the new system and the naysayers who hated it.
The human component is always a challenge, regardless of how well (or not) a system is implemented. I lost count of how many times I heard that a current system did not live up to its potential because it was poorly implemented. I cannot help but wonder how much of the poor implementation included a complete lack of resources and effort for employee engagement.
Employees can and should be the secret weapon of a successful implementation of any new system.
Ignore them at your own peril. Embrace them and watch your new system thrive.
Learn more about how 8020 Consulting can help with your next financial system implementation.
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Categorized in: Financial Systems