Blog 20.12.2023

Change management as a key factor in successful ERP projects

Intelligent Industry

Change management alone does not enable ERP projects, but inadequate change management can bring down the entire project. Many companies understand the need for it, but most often the change management as a part of ERP project is delayed or people think that change management is a part of e.g. project manager’s job. The organisation holds the keys to success if the change management is resourced with the right expertise as part of the project from the very beginning.

There are always two sides of a change; the technical side and the people side, both of them must be managed systematically and competently. The change execution in an ERP project can be divided into four parts: concretisation, planning, implementation and ensuring the change.

Concretise and ensure a shared view of top management and key personnel in ERP projects

It is important that the key personnel and top management have a common view of the content and scope of the ERP project. They act as advocates for the ERP project and decide, for example, on resources, so their participation in the project from the very beginning is crucial.

The most significant supporter of the project, the sponsor, plays a key role in executing the change. According to the Prosci Research Hub 2023 study, the more visible and active a project sponsor is, the more strongly it correlates with the achievement of project goals. The sponsor’s task is to set up a top management network to support the implementation of the change and to create two-way interaction with the project management.

Working with the network ensures that top managers understand the project’s benefits and can act as a voice for change at the top level. A mutual understanding of the project’s business case and joint articulation of benefits enables top management with project’s communication and implementation work. Assessing the management’s own readiness for change, i.e. observing the management’s commitment, and building the necessary support, are part of the concretisation work.

How to clarify what the ERP transformation is about amongst people impacted by the change?

Plan the change together with the project management

In the planning phase, the ERP project’s change management steps and action plan are created, which includes, e.g., communication plan and stakeholder analysis.

It is important to create the action plan together with the project management to ensure that the technical side and people side of the change are considered in the planning and to understand the project’s impacts on different stakeholders from a resource perspective. Cooperation also helps clarify roles and responsibilities in terms of communication.

During the planning phase, it is important to continue the dialogue with the top management and other key people of the project so that they also understand the upcoming phases of the project. Dialogue strengthens the transparency of planning and trust between the project and top management. They can also provide important insight into priorities.

Take people’s individual change journey into account in the implementation

In the implementation phase the organisation’s readiness for the change is built by actively working with various stakeholders. It is important to keep in mind that the people might be at different stages of the change journey. For one person, it may be completely clear what the ERP project is about and how the change will affect their work, while for another the word ERP alone may be unfamiliar. In global corporations, cultural differences can affect people’s attitudes towards change. The implementation phase can be thought of as progressing step by step, where people’s readiness for the change is increased phase by phase. It is important to communicate change impacts, the status of the project and upcoming events variously. Towards the end of the implementation phase, a detailed plan for deployment is made.

Well-planned and delivered trainings are key factors for a successful ERP implementation, as for many end users, the new system comes concrete through training. High-quality training reduces potential resistance to change and ensures that the system is used correctly. Training is a major investment for companies, and they tie up a considerable amount of resources, as the ERP system often has many end users.

Ensure that the business goals of the ERP project are achieved

ERP project is a major investment for the company and goals and expectations have been set for the project. After deployment, it must be ensured that the new ERP system is used optimally. This requires people to learn away from old habits, which can be very individual.

After deployment, a new ERP system often still needs further development. Although for many people in the project organisation the project may end soon after deployment, change management will be needed for a long time, as the change journey has only just begun for the end users. Change management ensures that the goals set for the project are genuinely achieved when the change journey continues by listening and supporting people.

Read more about successful renewal of ERP systems

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erp renewal

Tuula Anttola


During her career, Tuula has gained wide experience in system projects, process development and company acquisitions. Tuula has worked as a project manager and product owner, responsible for implementing changes both on an individual and team level. She leads changes with empathy and an analytical approach without avoiding difficult situations. In her free time, Tuula enjoys a wide range of sports. If she doesn't have time to go to the gym, she tries to stick to her goal of 10,000 steps a day.

Marja Saarentaus

Senior Consultant

Marja’s background is in business process and business development. She has been leading change management projects the past 15 years in publicly listed companies, in global organizations with global changes. According to the customer, her strengths are managing “the big picture”, structuring content, concepting and efficient execution. On her spare time she dances standard and latin dances.

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