By Marye Colleen Larme, Research Associate, and Danielle Yardy, Senior Analyst
As replacing aging mainframe enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems grows critical, higher education executives are increasingly considering cloud-based solutions. Cloud-based ERPs promise to free time for IT staff by moving hardware, software, updates, and systems support management to third-party vendors. For institutions that have built customized modules and environments for their business units, cloud-based ERPs seem long overdue.
But carefully managing the transition to a cloud-based ERP is key to ensuring successful implementation and investment. IT staff must be prepared to implement and support the product while mitigating concerns from skeptics—yet organizational change management often goes beyond their historical expertise.
To assist our members in implementation preparation, IT leaders at five institutions shared five common challenges in change management and staffing they encountered during their cloud-based ERP implementation.
1. Generating buy-in for ongoing support
Successful ERP implementations require campus stakeholders to acknowledge and facilitate the transition. Leaders must proactively communicate the implementation's purpose, length, and anticipated effects to people who aren't versed in IT project engagement.
Unlike many IT projects with effects users can't see, ERP implementations disrupt university business operations and alter staff workflow. Without understanding the project, staff may not take the time to attend trainings, users may become frustrated with service disruptions, and donors may question the institution's ERP investment. Post-implementation job insecurity may even cause some IT or administrative staff to leave the institution.
Clear articulation of IT and unit staff's responsibilities and how the ERP transition will affect their job is paramount to maintain morale through implementation and beyond.
Identifying a project lead
ERP implementation requires coordinating processes that are typically managed by separate units on an extended timeline. Decentralized leadership and over-populated management teams can cause gridlock and ultimately delay implementation, but a designated implementation leader acts as a central point of contact to make decisions and move the project forward.
When hiring external consultants, they must work closely with an internal staff member to ensure self-sufficiency after project completion. Otherwise, current staff will be unable to maintain operations once the consultant "completes" the implementation.
Institutions that cannot hire an external implementation leader should consider internal candidates with transferable technical project management skills.
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