Technically, there are a lot of factors that go into making a business process transformation of this scope, and we’ve addressed those in other articles in our S/4HANA series, particularly our latest, Right Size Your S/4HANA Migration: A Low-Stress Approach. However, outside of the technical aspects of the transition is the importance of a comprehensive change management strategy for all the stakeholders involved. Oftentimes, change management is seen as simply a way to train users on new systems. But, ideally, a good change management plan will cover every aspect of the transition – from planning through go-live, additional roll outs and on-going education and training.
Change management often takes a back seat to the technical aspects of business process transformations, and this can be a recipe for failure. It’s vital to realize how important organizational change management is to the ultimate and ongoing success of your S/4HANA project. Technical issues can be pretty straightforward, people are not.
In our six-part series Change Management for SAP Ariba Success, we wrote extensively about how important an integrated change management strategy is to ensure the long-term success of your SAP Ariba implementation.
In that series we discussed the following key components of a comprehensive change management strategy:
While these are general guidelines for deploying any large-scale transactional system (although we focus specifically on Ariba), they are a good foundation for the transition to S/4HANA and the impact that will have on users.
1. Leadership advocacy. The more buy in that users see from upper-level management, the more confidence they’ll have in the decision making that went into this upgrade. This will also impact the importance they’ll assign to their place in the system and its success. One of the best ways to demonstrate this leadership buy in is through the development and execution of a solid communication plan.
If leadership communicates the change early and often, that will show that the change is supported by them, and they are knowledgeable about the expectations and impact.
2. Communication. When building your communication plan, the communications should be focused on the benefits of this upgrade. No one likes to learn a new system, but if you can align the stakeholder needs with S/4HANA’s value-added benefits it will help to increase the end-user buy in.
These benefits may include speedier processes, better communication with other systems, more automated processes, and ease of future updates. You know your reasons, explain them to your team in a way that will resonate with them and then have periodic checks (in the form of surveys or town halls) to understand the impact of your communications on their engagement.
3. Alignment of roles and processes. This is typically the scariest part of change for people because there are often a lot of unknowns. How will my job change? Do I have the skills to adapt to that change? Will I still be necessary and relevant at the end of this process? One thing that helps to reduce the speculation associated with the unknown is creating a roadmap early on so everyone understands where the project is going and how it will affect them.
This can be part of the main procurement roadmap for the project. It can focus on role-based user stories to help people understand how their role is both affected and improved by the change. Involving the stakeholders in the implementation during the Explore Phase to contribute to the requirements as well as identifying change champions for each area of the business can help them to feel that their voices are heard and also drive excitement for the change from within.
4. Training. You don’t want to wait until the system is live and then start the training. Part of a comprehensive change management plan is a strategic training plan. Training to use the new system can start early through demo sites, the SAP Learning Hub, and other resources that are widely available online. Also, key project stakeholders should be involved in sprint cycle demos and UAT to allow them to validate that their requirements have been appropriately reflected in the system design. These key stakeholders can then be helpful in a train-the-trainer strategy to help with training for the larger user base.
However, nothing can backfire as quickly as having begrudging participants acting as change agents, so make sure that anyone involved with the project has agreed that they are willing to be a value-added participant. And don’t be afraid to remove negative energy from the engagement. You don’t want someone involved in the project to turn around and project negative feedback to their groups because they are unhappy about being ‘forced’ to participate in the project.
5. Transformation. Focusing on those four important pillars will pave the way for a smoother, more effective transition to the new system. Making this transition is a process that may take months or years depending on the scope and size of the implementation. Having a realistic expectation regarding the project timeline, a well-developed change strategy, strong leadership and good communication is key to transformational business change.
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