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Change Management For SAP Projects

Change management for SAP projects is fundamental to their success in terms of timescale and return on investment, as well as the acceptance of change among the workforce.

SAP projects are equally technical and organizational in nature because technical changes have implications for the people and processes of the organization. Also, intended changes to the organization need to be implemented by technical means, so SAP project management requires strategies to manage both these types of change, and these strategies need to be co-dependent.

Technical and organizational change strategies should be formulated at the beginning of the scoping stage, with roles assigned to monitor changes, and work with the client’s workforce during the project, including training after completion of the implementation.

Without good change management many SAP projects could be delayed or even grind to a complete halt, so this week IgniteSAP will explore the importance of change management for SAP projects, focussing on organizational change management.

Types of Change

Organizational change management (OCM) and technical change strategies for SAP projects take into account the degree of change from the existing system and processes, as well as how the intended baseline of changes may change over time when new information and challenges are revealed as a project progresses. This is why it is important to allocate dedicated roles for change management support staff as well as a change management specialist.

Assigning Roles

Understanding the technical and business context, and assessing the need for change are the starting points for change management for SAP projects, and should be part of the scoping stage, prior to the creation of a project plan.

As well as a project manager, a project champion from the executive level of the organization should be assigned to the project in order to ensure support from the executive, and this person should be made aware of the importance of change management to the project and regularly updated on progress.

An expert change management officer and change support staff should be appointed to work closely with the project manager: to cover internal communication of the intended organizational changes, change monitoring, and to work with representatives from each area of the organization during the process.

These clear lines of communication will mean that the business reasons for change, the level of change, and how it will be carried out will be understood across the organization, and all members of the workforce will be aware of the pace of change, and any changes in scope as the project progresses.

Change Impact Assessment and Workshops

A change impact assessment can be carried out so project managers are aware of potential impacts of the SAP implementation. This should evaluate how expected changes will affect the workforce, business processes, the technological landscape, and the culture of the organization.

This will reveal any preparation that needs to be carried out, and areas for change monitoring in order to mitigate expected and unexpected challenges. It is also important to let partners, suppliers and other service providers know that changes will be taking place so organizational change does not put these relationships under unnecessary stress during the project.

Change workshops can be held early on to give the workforce a more detailed overview of the project, including the project aims and ambitions, and to provide a forum for members of each department to discuss how they expect these changes to affect them.

This information can be added to the change impact assessment.

Including employees in the initial planning stages of the project can also help to overcome resistance to change: encouraging them to see they are actively part of, not merely subject to these changes.

Engaging Stakeholders

The human aspect of change management is extremely important as resistance to change in the organization is one of the key reasons that some SAP implementation projects do not create the expected return on investment: even when the technical aspects have been carried out on time and under budget, with the full support of the executive levels of the organization.

Resistance to change is overcome more easily by anticipating the potential for resistance in the workforce, rather than reacting to resistance once it has built up. Internal surveys are an excellent way to gauge the mindset of the team so these can be beneficial if carried out before, and during the implementation.

Anonymous surveys can reveal concerns more easily as unattributed criticism is often more honest and forthright, so email is not necessarily the best platform. A simple suggestion box may be the best, but survey apps which preserve anonymity are available.

Holding further change workshops as the implementation progresses, as well as SAP user training during and after the implementation’s go-live stage, will encourage the workforce continue to identify and actively engage with the project.

It is important for the change management team to be patient and understanding of the concerns of the workforce. Many team members may take more time to understand the technical nature of the changes and their implications for required changes in their own working practices.

The Change Management Strategy

The change impact assessment and workshops inform the creation of a change management strategy which will also be closely integrated with the technological change strategy existing in the SAP implementation project plan.

This baseline, detailing the schedule of change, will serve as a means to assess the progression of the project, and any deviation from the plan and schedule when compared with change monitoring reports during the course of the project. Challenges facing the project will be made clear to the change management officer at an early stage in their development and can be addressed quickly to bring the project back on schedule.

Communication Strategy

The change management strategy will include a communication strategy which will outline duties for team members assigned to communication. Incoming communications from departments and employees should include reports from designated monitors and suggestions for improvements to the project.

Internal project notice boards and forums should be set up to encourage suggestions and ideas from team members. These are also a way to encourage collaboration between departments to resolve challenges as they occur. These are also an ideal place to post positive reinforcement like notices celebrating achievements like completion of key stages of the project, or congratulating individuals and departments who have excelled.

The change management officer, supported by a team, will receive incoming change reports from all affected areas of the business, and issue consolidated progress reports summarizing the progress of the project to be distributed to all departments: so all employees and management are made aware of the state of play, and any new changes which need to be made as a result of deviations from the initial change management plan.

The process of change and its impact should be documented so that it may be compiled into an archive of the project which may be referred when the business is engaged in later SAP projects.

Change management team members will also communicate regularly with business partners and suppliers so that daily business operations can be adjusted as necessary to compensate for disruption.

Training Is Crucial

Technology is most useful when it is useable to its fullest potential, so training of the end users of the SAP system should be considered fundamental to the success of the project. The change management plan, as part of the SAP project plan, must give due weight to this aspect of the project, and time and resources should be allocated accordingly.

Plan a training schedule for all staff members in concert with members of departments during the initial change management workshops. Make it clear that although the SAP system and daily user activities are currently unfamiliar, the workforce should know that training will be given.

SAP and other providers offer training for business users of SAP products and services and the budget for the project must include funds and time for each team member during each working week to be allocated for this.

Some members of staff may require SAP training to a much higher level even though they are not system administrators, so their need for investment in time and resources for training will be much greater. Allocate members of the workforce for SAP specialist training many months before the project start to allow them to become familiar with the complexities of the SAP environment, they will then be able to act as guides to their peers.

Alternatively, consider onboarding a dedicated internal SAP system administrator for the business prior to the start of the implementation project who will be part of the implementation team, but stay on after the project’s conclusion.

Ongoing Improvement

The change management team’s duties should continue for some weeks and month after the go-live stage of the implementation. This is necessary as new issues and changes to be made will become apparent when the system is used by the workforce in the real world. Technical and organizational challenges may become apparent as the volume of data and processes increases.

The change management team should also be the first port of call for employees who have further training requirements, and departments should communicate system teething troubles reported by suppliers and other business partners.

Part of the workload for the change management team at the stage is to compile the documentation of the project into a coherent archive for reference during later SAP projects carried out for the organization.

If you are looking for a new role in the SAP ecosystem as an SAP change management consultant or any other SAP specialism then our team can help you find your ideal employer and negotiate a salary which reflects your extremely desirable skills so join our exclusive community at IgniteSAP.

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