Time to play peacekeeper: Navigating conflicts in ERP implementation

A businesswoman mediating a dispute between 2 other businesswoman sitting at a desk | ERP Implementation Sysdoc

The best businesses run like a well-oiled machine; so what happens if one of the components of that machine isn’t working as intended? The whole operation falls out of step and the overall effectiveness of the machine is compromized. ERP implementation is much the same, once a piece falls out of place, the entire project can be delayed or compromized.

ERP systems form the foundation of contemporary businesses, optimizing processes, bolstering operational efficiency and elevating decision-making capabilities. Nonetheless, the implementation of ERP systems frequently presents a series of formidable hurdles. Among these challenges, finding the balance between IT and business leadership is pivotal, just as ensuring project teams do not operate in isolation, which otherwise can be a potent source of conflict by focusing exclusively on their respective spheres of influence.

So, how do we address the conflicts that can surface during ERP implementation? Not to mention the consequences stemming from isolated teamwork.

IT vs. business lead implementations

Being the IT lead in an ERP implementation can bring about a myriad of challenges and dangers when compared to a business-led approach. While IT expertise is undoubtedly crucial in ensuring the technical aspects of the ERP systems run smoothly, the danger lies in losing sight of the overarching business objectives. The IT lead may inadvertently prioritize system functionality and technical requirements over the actual needs of the business. This can lead to misalignment between the ERP solution and the organization’s strategic goals, potentially resulting in costly customization, delays or even a system that fails to meet the intended business objectives.

Moreover, IT-focused leadership might not fully grasp the intricacies of different business processes, leading to suboptimal implementations that can hinder efficiency and productivity. Through striking the right balance between IT and business leadership you can ensure that technology serves as an enabler rather than a hindrance to an organization’s growth and sustainability.

The ERP implementation jigsaw

ERP implementation is like assembling a complex jigsaw puzzle. Various project teams, each presenting a specific landscape of roles and responsibilities, need to collaborate to form a cohesive system. These teams typically include IT professionals, business analysts, data specialists and end-users. While each team plays a critical role, conflicts can arise when they become overly focused on their areas of responsibility, neglecting the broader project goals.

Clearly defined roles

The cornerstone of success in an ERP project is in clear role definition. Without a well-defined roadmap specifying individual responsibilities, chaos can quickly take hold. To avoid these pitfalls, it’s important to establish roles and responsibilities from the project’s outset. Business leaders and project managers need to actively collaborate in defining these roles to ensure they align with the organization’s overarching goals. This alignment not only fosters accountability but also enhances overall efficiency.

ERP implementations inherently span across multiple departments and their success hinges on seamless cross-functional collaboration, which serves the entire organization rather than individual departments. Isolated team members represent a significant issue to the ERP puzzle. When individuals work in isolation, they can lose sight of the project’s broader objectives and have the potential to disengage from the overall mission.

Tunnel Vision

In some instances, process owners and subject matter experts (SMEs) can become so engrossed in their specific domains they may inadvertently overlook the importance of alignment with the broader project and the necessity for cross-collaboration. This tunnel vision can lead to a fragmented approach within an organization’s initiatives, where individual processes are optimized without considering how they fit into the larger puzzle.

The consequence of compartmentalizing is a lack of synergy and missed opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness. To achieve the full potential of any project, it is imperative for process owners and SMEs to recognize the significance of aligning their efforts with the overarching goals. SMEs need to actively engage in cross-collaboration to ensure that all components harmonize to drive success.

The implications of isolation

Isolation within ERP project teams poses significant risks to both the project’s success and the organization. Isolation can lead to a reduction in system integration, as teams may develop individual solutions that fail to integrate into the overall ERP system. This fragmentation can create data silos, operational inefficiencies and a disjointed user experience. Conflicts and a lack of collaboration within isolated teams can result in increased project costs and delays, as revisions and reworkings become necessary.

As a result of this, when end-users perceive that their needs are not adequately considered due to team isolation, they are more likely to resist the new ERP system, leading to decreased productivity, frustration and a reluctance to embrace the changes. Ultimately, the isolation of teams can lead to a misalignment of the ERP implementation with the organization’s strategic goals, resulting in a system that falls short of delivering the expected business benefits.

Mitigating conflict and isolation It’s not all arguing in an empty room. Organizations can implement a range of strategies to mitigate conflicts stemming from isolation within ERP project teams. Firstly, clear communication channels should be established among teams, promoting a comprehensive understanding of each other’s roles and objectives. Regular meetings and status updates are pivotal in sustaining alignment.

Next, encouraging team members to partake in cross-functional training encourages empathy and a more holistic perspective. The adoption of collaborative tools and software facilitates seamless information sharing and teamwork.

Finally, strong project governance plays a pivotal role in ensuring that project managers effectively coordinate and facilitate collaboration among various teams.

Successful implementation requires the orchestration of various project teams with specific roles and responsibilities. To ensure a smooth ERP implementation and achieve the intended business benefits, organizations must prioritize collaboration, clear communication and a shared understanding of project goals among all teams involved. By doing so, they can transform the potential for conflict into a catalyst for success in their ERP journey. Remember, an ERP system implementation is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, you just need to make sure you’re putting the pieces in the right places.