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ERP implementation nearly stalls amid rocky IT change management

LAS VEGAS -- When Chicago-based WhiteLight Group began its ERP implementation last year, it wasn't prepared for the cultural changes it would require to make technology change successful.

With many members of the staff long-tenured and accustomed to paper-based processes, moving to a centralized digital system was hardly a no-brainer. Despite the fact that some employees still printed out Excel spreadsheets to type in numerical values on a typewriter, these manual processes were not going to simply be replaced with digital ones overnight.

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At the Oracle Collaborate conference, Paul Demes of WhiteLight outlined how the project involved serious IT change management hurdles that his firm faced in implementing ERP at this company. Demes said that while leadership was on board, many long-tenured executives, like the CFO, weren't willing to simply move over to the ERP system. At the same time, younger employees were embracing the system.

So, Demes said, the consulting firm shifted to a bottom-up approach and worked to develop mobile applications that could digitize processes for shop-floor workers and field sales people. Working from the ground up has helped the company streamline processes and realize ROI from the project.

Still, Demes said, the main lesson learned was to better map out change from the start. Demes said in retrospect, retaining a separate firm just to handle IT change management may have made the difference during critical moments of resistance.

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast," Demes said.

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Has IT change management been a hurdle in your software implementation?
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After reading the article, our change management process sounds different from the one described. Ours involves a review of the testing and the planned implementation as well as the rollback plan for any changes to production environments. We don't encounter resistance due to technology or process changes during our change management process, because those issues would surface before-hand, more than likely during portfolio management activities, when new ideas are being vetted and planned.
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