ERP and the underestimated human factor

Insights» ERP and the underestimated human factor

The introduction or replacement of an Enterprise Resource Planing System (ERP for short) is normally a project that lasts for a longer period (usually several months or years) and is affected by many stakeholders and has a major impact on the company. is correspondingly extensive. Too often, these projects do not go according to plan or with major problems. In this article we want to take a closer look at the often underestimated human factor in such projects.

Success factor human

ERP projects are usually characterized by a high complexity, high effort and high impact on the processes and culture of the company.

Unfortunately, some people too often focus on the project itself, the framework conditions (costs, time, etc.), the selection of the right program and the right implementation partner. The participants and Stake-Holder are sometimes considered too rudimentary and the effects on the employees and the associated emotions are usually completely ignored.

However, it is precisely the people who implement this project or who are affected by this project who have an essential influence on the success of the project or the subsequent operation.

It starts at the top

An ERP project is not an IT project, but a transformation project for the entire company. This circumstance must be observed from the outset and clearly communicated. As a result, it is essential for the success of the project that the importance and scope of the project is recognized by the management and that the necessary support is given to the project manager and the project team. In addition, major and possibly not uncontroversial decisions will have to be taken during the course of the project in order to be able to pursue the defined strategy. The company management should always be involved.

An ERP project without the support of the management has to prepare for greater headwinds and regular discussions.

The extended project team

The parts of a standard project team are usually aware and more or less staffed to the best possible level. Big mistakes here are often the hasty selection of project employees. Often people are not selected on the basis of their profile, but because they can be made available by the individual departments. The quality of the persons acting contributes significantly to the compliance with the project planning and thus to the success of the project. Especially in project organizations without dedicated employees (e.g. matrix organization, staff office organization, etc.) special attention must be paid to the availability of employees. Critical employee resources should be blocked in advance for the critical phases in order to avoid possible absences or double burdens. In addition, attention must be paid to interpersonal relationships, as there is nothing for bigger problems than annoyance in the team and demotivated employees.

These points appear so clear and are also aware of most. However, the framework is often somewhat more unclear among the other parties involved. Not only should the project team be brought into focus, but also the other Stake-Holders should have their place in the project. In addition to the process owners and key users of the departments, the affected employees should also be taken into account. It should always be kept in mind that an ERP introduction changes the way the employees concerned work. Some of the activities that employees have been accustomed to for several years or even decades may change as a result of the project. In order to counteract the resistance and negative emotions in the best possible way, these affected employee types should be taken into account as soon as possible in the project. Several measures are available for this purpose. However, strong change management is essential. Therefore, as an extended project team, you should include all Stake-Holders – i.e. all persons who could have an influence on or resistance to the project or are affected by the project.

Only an ERP project with qualified project employees can meet the usually ambitious requirements of corporate management. In addition, in order to keep the involvement of all affected persons as high as possible and thus to minimize resistance, all affected persons should first be fully identified and then appropriate change management measures taken.

The many important things

Even if the project is going well and all requirements have been met as far as possible, the introduction is a decisive step for every ERP project. If the system is new or new functions, the affected employees must be trained and prepared before the Go-Live. It is not uncommon for this step to create an unexpectedly high hurdle. If the affected employees or their needs have not been sufficiently taken into account during the project and strong change management measures have been taken, the resistance to the new processes and the new software will be great. Often even the leading language or instruction of the company management helps only to a limited extent, because the persons are rather sceptical and hostile to the change in their way of working – especially if it seems forced. Depending on the power of the employees in the company, this can lead to a delay to a revision of the implementation. Even if employees can be forced to use the new solution, the formation of so-called “shadow processes” is often to be expected, i.e. their own defined processes outside the process specifications.

Although the goal is already in mind after successful implementation, future users can still become a major obstacle. It is therefore necessary to act early and take action.


As you can see, the human factor plays a decisive role at every level and at every stage of the project. This must be taken into account from the outset. Clear communication is essential and the expectations of all parties involved must also be aligned with the project. Only with a high-performance team and a positive attitude of the Stake-Holder can large points of friction be avoided.

With the ERP Software Excellence Methodology (ERP-SEM) from ReqPOOL, you have the human factor in your sights right from the start and can lay the foundation for a successful introduction through appropriate change management methods.

Insights» ERP and the underestimated human factor

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Christian Buchegger

Christian Buchegger

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