How to Manage Change in a Large Transformational Program like SAP

4 Mins read

Organizations today have no option but to become more responsive to market and customer demands. To do this, they usually ramp up the technology solution-set. That raises some important questions about how to deal with the aftermath though.

Large transformational programs like those from SAP are designed to meet the varied needs of the enterprise of today. SAP implementations promise access to an advanced, flexible IT landscape. This helps organizations adapt quickly to dynamic market requirements and improve efficiency, digitalization, and drive cost optimizations while driving competitiveness.

That said, these implementations are not simply technical implementations and need focused efforts to fully reap the benefits that the technology brings. As such managing change adeptly and adroitly is essential.

Change management in such large implementations involve addressing the following:

Developing the business case

People are emotional beings and hence are naturally resistant to change. However, when we introduce context, managing change becomes easier as the user can now see the value associated with it. Developing the business case for the implementation is the first step to secure user buy-in.

A business case builds an understanding of the current situation of the organization, how work happens, and the existing gaps that help people see why change is needed. By defining the scope it becomes easier to build understanding and as such this emerges as the most important step towards adoption and acceptance.

In large implementations such as SAP, creating a business case with end-to-end information about the change, the benefits of the solution, and the value it brings eases change management. This clarity also helps in driving adoption and advocacy.

Identify transformational leadership

Large transformational implementations like SAP need transformational leadership. To capably manage change, it is essential to identify the key stakeholders who will lead the implementation to success. This may include, but need not be restricted to the top management. The need here is to lead the change. The top management has a crucial role too, but more on that later.

Those tasked with this work will need to have:

  • Vision – to understand and capably convey the different aspects of the transformation narrative to all invested and the stakeholders in the company
  • Inspirational communication – to inspire and motivate and to build understanding by providing context and relevance
  • Deliver intellectual stimulation – by helping employees become more aware of existing challenges and issues while encouraging them to think of problems in new ways.
  • Personal recognition – acknowledgment, and praise to increase motivation and interest while augmenting engagement by keeping employees inspired to pursue a vision

Leadership buy-in and stakeholder alignment

To simplify change management, large projects like SAP need top leadership buy-in and stakeholder alignment. This helps the organization recognize and understand the need for change. Getting buy-in from the leadership across functions and regions becomes fundamental when implementing such large transformational programs.

Leaders and all stakeholders should know what success looks like upon transformation. They should have complete clarity on the benefits that the solution brings to them and their function as well as how these projects drive sustainable success for the organization. To ensure clear alignment, it thus becomes essential to have clear processes that provide regular updates and statistics on the project progress.

Securing buy-in and ensuring alignment also helps in forming and maintaining constructive relationships with different stakeholders. This makes sure that all concerns and resistances are mapped and addressed proactively for elevated and expected outcomes. Establishing clear communication (regular and bidirectional) channels and timely delivery of important and necessary information also become important elements aiding SAP change management.

Importance of unlearning

Organizations need to identify the best way to effect change when implementing transformational and large implementations like SAP. It makes sense to move away from the traditional ways of doing things and effecting change and identifying new, more relevant, and transparent methodologies.

Traditional approaches often end up neglecting many dimensions of change that employees need to move through this transition. Addressing organizational change management needs at the most granular level also becomes an essential element for effective and impactful implementations.

It is best to adopt more transparent processes rather than echo the past.

Evaluate business readiness

Assessing where the organization stands currently on business readiness is also an important aspect of change management for large projects. This is the starting point and shows the extent of the gap to get where the organization needs to. Evaluating the business and transformation readiness involves identifying the readiness levels of users and managers. 

Developing the right processes and parameters to navigate this aspect proves to be greatly beneficial for adoption and advocacy. These processes and parameters that need to be repeated at the end of the implementation are essential consideration points to determine all objectives that have been met, identify the adoption levels and the challenges in adoption. 

SAP training also becomes an essential and critical part of the change management plan as only when people become familiar with the product will they actively engage with it. 

Communication and training 

A good change management program is all about clear and transparent communication. Clear communication assuages all concerns and keeps ambiguity and the pursuant anxiety at bay. As such developing the mechanisms to convey the right message, to the right audience, using the right communication channels, at the right time become key elements to consider. 

Clear and frequent communication keeps the audience engaged and committed towards change and helps educate stakeholder groups about the new process, their roles, responsibilities, and the system. 

Understanding and identifying training needs, using an effective training strategy, and training the users on relevant modules, enhances the user’s readiness to adopt the change and make change management simpler and more seamless. 

Leverage the right partnerships

Most organizations need to take the help of SAP consultants to manage change. The quality and experience of the consultants can play a huge role in defining the success of transformational programs like SAP. 

To make sure that the consultant is the right one, it is critical to look at their breadth and depth of experience with technologies such as SAP. Beware of SAP integrators who don’t have complete lifecycle experience since they can often be blindsided because of the hidden complexities.

SAP partners with deep knowledge of the technology, understanding of the nature and impact of the change, and robust implementation experience and domain expertise can prove to be valuable partners and make change management in these large projects a breeze. 

Since SAP implementations impact existing business processes and necessitate a change in business operations, processes, and workflows, how change management is handled determines the path of adoption and transformational success. Connect with us to evaluate how to drive transformational success using SAP.

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About author
Amitabh has decades of experience in Retail Solutions, especially in the Retail and Fashion Segment, He manages Enterprise level Global projects as Project Lead and Program Manager. As a founder & CTO at Groupsoft, Amitabh helps businesses in agile and waterfall project management through SAP implementations and advising on industry best practices.
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