Have you ever thought about how you got to where you are today? It is amazing how one decision or action leads to another and so on—all to usher you to your destiny. I remember my first ERP implementation project, which was in 2014. I was brought in as the Training Lead on a global SAP implementation project for a large manufacturer of bakery products. The project was in its second year and apparently there were major signs of trouble. But, being new and a little naive, I had high hopes that I could make a difference. I had extensive experience building and managing training programs so, piece of cake, right? Well, not exactly. After assessing the situation and talking to plant managers in the U.S. I flew out to the U.K. to introduce myself to the project team who was closing out the first phase of the implementation and I laid out my plan to revamp the training program. After my meeting, the program director pulled me aside to inform me that since this was the second year of the project, the training budget had been spent and anything I planned had to be cost-free. After a big gulp in my throat, armed with pure naïveté and full of can-do-ism, I proceeded with my master plan.
If I could say so myself, it was a great plan, but the company sorely underestimated the power and importance of change management to influence users and therefore, training. Based on past projects in process improvement and stakeholder involvement, I knew that engaging with leadership and employees was important, but I took it for granted that all communications with these groups had been established in the beginning of the project. Sadly, there were leaders who did not fully support the project. I was stunned to learn that this project kicked off without Change Management Plan or a Communications Plan. As time went on I realized I was in deep cow dung, but it was too late to turn back. By that time, the people on the project team had grown on me and I had an eager desire for success at any level.
I remember at the end of the training sessions for Phase II, the Program Director asked me how will I know when the users are ready. He said that he needed to provide an answer to the Steering Committee. I was responsible for executing the Train-the-Trainer program, so I proceeded to answer from a training perspective and gave him the results of a training assessment tool I created. The assessment was designed as a quick self-reported tool to measure engagement with the system and ability to train other users. My intention was to move beyond “can you,” but rather assess “will you.” I was interested in motivation and self-efficacy because, in the current situation, the assessment provided valuable information to help identify additional training needs. With my results in hand, I was able to tell the program manager which departments were ready and which ones were not. I was also able to identify individual users and transactions that posed a challenge. Impressive, but that was not what he was looking for. As a Project Manager, he wanted more hard-core facts and statistics based on the user’s performance in the system, which were not available. The company did not invest in the proper tools and resources that would have provided this information nor was there money or time to do so then.
This was my first encounter with a project that did not have change management and I must say that this was the pivotal experience that set the course to my current career. Before this project, I knew that the acquisition of new knowledge and skills do not change behavior, but the reality of it came alive. While on the project, I was also working on my Doctoral degree in Education, specializing in global training and development. Through my encounter with this project I shifted my dissertation topic to user readiness and adoption. I also began a quest to understand critical success factors and key performance indicators in ERP implementation projects. What practical metrics should be used to measure user readiness and adoption? How can Training Managers, Change Managers and Project Managers work together? Should all ERP projects have a Change Manager?
So, in a nutshell this is how and why I am a Change Management and Training Consultant today. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I had to work on the global SAP implementation project in 2014 and to all the wonderful project team members I met from all over the world. They know who they are, and I love all of them. Yes, there is life after a SAP implementation project!