Change Management for SAP Ariba Success: Communication

In part one of our change management blog series, we discussed the importance of Leadership Advocacy. Buy in from the top of the food chain from the very beginning is key to both short- and long-term success. However, you must also communicate that mission and vision to potential users. Here's a successful strategy.

Communicate the Mission and Vision

In part one of our change management blog series, we discussed the importance of Leadership Advocacy. Buy in from the top of the food chain from the very beginning, we argued, is a key to both short- and long-term success.

A key part of that strategy includes developing a vision and a mission for this big change. Then, you need to communicate the mission and vision so everyone is one board.

Three Factors in Effective Communication

1. Early, Often and Clear

As soon as the company decides to adopt a new procurement system, potential users should hear from the advocate pushing for the project. Whether it’s the project champion or the project manager, depending upon the type of organization, that person needs to be the liaison.

That liaison needs to say, once the deal with SAP Ariba is done, something along the lines of, “We have been looking to automate our procurement system for quite a while, have researched it extensively and have made a decision. Executive leadership has signed off and we’ve just engaged with Ariba.”

That way people know what’s coming well before it gets to them.

However, one big mistake I see when I go into an organization to help a client revive their failing Ariba solution is that there was early communication, but then it was crickets. Then, months or maybe even years later, the potential users are told, “Here’s Ariba, here’s the link to training, go use it.”

A more effective approach is to keep those potential users updated on how the process is going as it goes along. That helps with guiding change across the organization.

Let them know how the process is going, what milestones have been reached, and what the timeline is for integration. Not just the pre-deployment phase of integration, but also what it will look like post-integration.

2. Targeted, Impactful

An even better approach is to make those updates specific to the users and to how this change affects them and their jobs.

There are a lot of people and several departments that are needed to help run and facilitate the system. That includes the subject matter experts, and Procurement and AP people who are going to be a crucial part of making this big change a success.

To target that communication and make it impactful you want to tell them: this is happening, and we need your engagement here, we need your testing here, we need your support there.

You don’t want to send the same message to the user that you’d send to AP, and you’re not going to send the same message to procurement that you would send to receiving.

The idea is to clearly and specifically communicate how the system will affect those particular people or departments, especially focusing on how it will benefit them.

Ask for input from them too – and listen to it. Encourage them to express their immediate care-abouts as well as what their goals and visions are for their own department. It’s great to think about having a email box inviting people to send questions, hold user forums, or conduct town halls.

This allows the project advocates to make sure the people impacted by the change understand exactly what they need to expect. For example, if receiving is currently working in an ERP, now they need to understand that they’ll be making that switch to Ariba. There may be other factors as well, such as adding a technical person into the mix to fix any errors or glitches, which may be something they’ve not had to deal with before. Every department will have unique changes they should be prepared for.

The idea is to minimize the noise. The only way to do that is to show your hand and be as open and transparent as possible.

3. Share Wins and Lessons Learned

Ariba is not a take it out of the box, integrate it, walk away, and everything is wonderful solution. It’s an ever-changing, improving system that often comes with a learning curve. That means there are things that will go right from the very beginning, and things that need improvement.

It’s important to emphasize those successes, while not ignoring improvements that need to be made. Again, my experience with salvaging Ariba solutions where, for example, there was dismal user adoption, often is a result of the project sponsors turning a blind eye to things that aren’t working. This often makes users think: well, they said it would do this, it does not do that, it’s complex and confusing, I’ll just go back to my spread sheets and processing orders or invoices as I always have.

Once everything is deployed, share those wins. Point out the ways in which the system is working and making their jobs easier or more efficient, as had been communicated to them as the project went along.

Be Flexible and Candid

But also, be candid about the things that are NOT working the way they were supposed to. Make sure the users understand that this fell short, but that it’s going to be fixed and that this is a work in progress.

Being transparent maintains the buy in that you worked so hard to achieve by communicating early and often, in a targeted and impactful way. They know it’s still important, still being watched, and continuously improved.

This is, in essence, a carrot approach. Communicating early, often and clearly in that targeted, impactful manner, and being honest about ongoing improvements, ensures that you’re reaching most people.

And that’s the goal, as we discussed in the previous blog, to have the most people on board from the outset. That results in the smallest percentage you must deal with for compliance reporting, or pushing back, or having any accountability issues.

Change is Hard

We can help.

Read more in our series’ created to help your company get the most out of its SAP or Ariba solutions: Pre-Deployment ReadinessPost-Deployment SuccessSpend Management, and Ariba Managed Support.

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