What Matters Most as You Transition Your Manufacturing Business to Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP

Without early, organization-wide communications and a comprehensive change management strategy, the deployment project of a new ERP system in your manufacturing business might not be as successful as you want it to be. Not always top-of-mind and sometimes entirely overlooked, one of our best-practice recommendations for effective risk mitigation is to create a formal change management plan. In this article, we highlight some features of effective change management and describe how we help clients deliver it.

The high risks of restricting ERP projects to technology

For some manufacturers, getting ready to deploy one of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP solutions—either Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain or Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Centralis largely a sequence of technical decisions and activities. They plan a technically focused software rollout, often managed by the IT team. 

With all the activities that surround such fundamental change, organizations can quite unintentionally give a very light treatment to communications, expectation setting, and the involvement of people working in the wider organization. Even with the best laid plans, projects can sometimes end up with scheduled application training as the only tangible change management activity. 

Treating ERP deployment primarily as a technical task is a high-risk endeavor. At Sikich, we help clients address the roadblocks and challenges that plague such projects, which easily run over budgets and schedules, find poor user adoption, and may take a very long time to deliver hoped-for benefits. Some companies take multiple attempts to implement, switching their professional services firms, or even switching to alternative ERP solutions, all at great expense. When systems are poorly embedded into the fabric of the organization, users often find their own workarounds and get by without touching the ERP software much or at all. Negating the value of a centralized “source of truth.”

Change management starts with communication

ERP projects can be stressful and challenging because they require people to review what they do and think hard about why they perform their jobs in a certain way. Questioning established routines can meet with resistance, especially if it’s difficult for employees and teams to understand how exactly the new ERP system will impact them or if they don’t have a way to voice their ideas and concerns.

An ERP project needs the entire manufacturing organization to be aligned and moving in the same direction. To bring that about, everybody needs to understand why the company plans on changing its systems. And, to foster that understanding requires a unified, broad, inclusive communications strategy. You need to help all employees see and get behind the reasons and goals of the ERP undertaking. They have to know how ERP is likely to benefit the organization and themselves, and what they can do to make the project a success. From the shop floor and the shipping desk to the executive suite, it helps when everybody is informed and involved.

A spectacular ERP success

One Sikich client, Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics, mastered this approach and achieved a successful, results-driven ERP deployment that will fully deliver the transformative benefits of  Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain. As Cindy Highbarger, MCIA’s Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations, describes in a panel discussion of ERP experts, the company’s business culture emphasizes treating employees fairly, respectfully, and inclusively. Within an organization wide outreach program, the executive and project teams invited every employee to contribute to the ERP deployment and offer their input. Employees in many roles were able to try out proof-of-concept capabilities and early versions of the ERP system, so they could understand what it was designed to help them accomplish and could share their feedback. Widespread testing continued as MCIA together with Sikich refined and finalized the solution. The final rollout continued on the same trajectory with fast, organization wide user adoption.

Focusing on goals and outcomes, not the status quo

Sikich often delivers ERP by means of our HEADSTART methodology for efficient, low friction deployments. HEADSTART includes blueprints for organization wide communications and all-inclusive change management. Enabling future ERP users to interact with models of the solution as early as possible is part of the HEADSTART approach. The toolset  comes with a large collection of pre-built processes that are common across most organizations. These workflows are standardized based on industry-proven best practices in use by the most successful and innovative businesses.

With HEADSTART for manufacturing, ERP projects are not just faster and easier, they’re also a graceful departure from past practices. Because we can proceed based on the current state-of-the-art of the industry, our clients and consultants don’t need to spend as much time as was previously expected delving into current processes to understand why they are being performed as they are. That knowledge could be interesting, but it might not be helpful for moving a company into the future. In fact, it can expose companies to the risk of inadvertently re-creating the very process flows that are no longer in their best interest.

What’s crucial, of course, is that we learn how employees, teams, and client stakeholders want their activities to take place and what outcomes they want to see from their new ERP. We find out and help define important transformations a company wants to achieve and how it envisions its next few years in business. As much as possible, we try to build future resilience into ERP solutions. We also help clients define the metrics that allow them to validate the success of their deployment.

Delivering data to empower ERP users

Change management and communications are important activities Sikich consultants recommend and collaborate on with manufacturing clients aiming for a successful ERP deployment.

Next steps

Sikich has a track record of many successful ERP projects for manufacturing and other businesses. We’re here to help you choose your ERP solution wisely and perform a successful, efficient implementation project that can deliver to your goals and transformational ambition. To get started, you can:

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

About the Author