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      ‘In too many companies, organizational and cultural change is underestimated!’


      Companies that successfully organize all areas of change management in their SAP projects perform many times better in terms of project success. This has been shown in a new study by bbh consulting in cooperation with the DSAG (German-speaking SAP user group).

      Business administration expert Dr Marion Schreier explains the influence of change management and the experiences of various companies. She has been a management consultant at bbh consulting since 2010 and completed her doctorate in 2018 at the Chair of Human Resources and Organization at the University of Bamberg. Her thesis was titled ‘The influence of social and emotional factors on performance in sales units’.


      Natuvion: Marion, harmonization, standardization and automation are often the main reasons for the transformation of technology and processes in SAP projects. You say that those who accompany the transformation right from the start with professional change management perform significantly better in terms of project success. How did you arrive at this conclusion?

      Marion Schreier: At the beginning of this year, we once again conducted a joint study with DSAG, the German SAP User Group. We pursued 3 key objectives with the study. Firstly, to identify the relevance of specific change management activities to transformation success. In other words, to establish what needs to be done to minimize project risks. Secondly, to find out what the typical shortcomings are in change management and where valuable potential is being wasted. And thirdly, to define the lessons learnt and recommendations from SAP application companies that have already completed an SAP project. We spoke to representatives from over 140 companies and asked them about 37 aspects across 9 change categories. The study showed that companies that consciously and successfully organize all 9 categories perform many times better in terms of project success than companies that neglect one or more categories. This was of course to be expected, but the clarity of the results surprised us.

      Interesting! What influence does change management generally have on success factors such as time, budget, and quality or, as you also asked about, the issue of user acceptance? Is there a clear correlation?

      I can clearly answer the last question with a ‘yes’! As far as the correlation is concerned, all 9 categories of change management have a very high, significant correlation with the overall assessment of the project, user acceptance and adherence to the budget and schedule. I could only have dreamed of such correlations in my study as part of my doctoral thesis. Our conclusion: all 9 categories must be consciously taken into account in order to minimize project risks.

      You led the study. Which aspects or change categories stood out?

      The best-rated aspects, i.e. those that are successfully organized in the vast majority of projects, are the more or less ‘technical’ basics of change management. These include change strategy, monitoring and project management. The aspects with the lowest ratings are organizational and people-related changes, for which there are few technical methods and patent remedies. These were in particular the categories Change Realization (implementation of new structures, roles and responsibilities), Change Mindset and Change Leadership. These three areas offer the greatest potential for improvement in the course of ERP transformations.

      Can you briefly explain what these three categories cover?

      In our context, the topic of change mindset is often about positioning the SAP project not as a purely technical project, but as a positive project for the future. It may also be positioned as a business transformation in which far more can and should be achieved in terms of corporate development than just the switch to a new SAP release. Too often, this mindset change (especially in comparison to previous SAP transformations) does not take place throughout the organization. IT systems are often still seen as a necessary tool. Today, however, they are one, if not THE, change driver for organizational development.
      When we talk about change realization, we mean the timely and structured implementation of organizational adjustments. These are topics such as establishing a clear business process owner logic, regulating responsibilities for master data governance and management, or other organizational topics that need to be addressed in the course of SAP projects. Incidentally, this also involves a mindset change that is not always easy. Global business owners change the sovereignty over processes, i.e. power structures, and this also changes the role of managers.
      And then there is the category of change leadership, which has already been mentioned: managers at different levels and in different departments play a decisive role in all changes in companies and must consistently support reorganizations and actively shape them in their area. To name just one example: shifting roles and tasks from one department to another.
      And in general: with the enormous complexity of an SAP transformation, change management cannot only take place in the project team, but must be applied at all levels and in all areas.

      Based on the study, can you now tell application companies what exactly they need to do when it comes to change management in order for their project to be successful?

      Yes and no. We have developed a basic best practice approach in recent years and its usefulness has been confirmed by the study. Typical elements at the start of a transformation should include a change readiness analysis, the development of a change strategy and a convincing, inspiring storyline. This should be followed a little later by a change impact analysis and continuous change monitoring, stakeholder management and management discussions.
      However, the right path for the individual company in each step depends on the company-specific situation. What I mean by that is that companies need to answer three questions. What is the general willingness to change in a community? What is the organizational maturity, e.g. in the interaction between IT and the specialist departments? What stakeholder situation needs to be taken into consideration? The keyword here: the centralized-decentralized interaction between central functions and strong regional or international managers. Above all, this requires analytical and conceptual strength paired with creativity and a strong understanding and feel for people and organizations.

      How do you go about incorporating these different requirements?

      We always start our work by analyzing the situation. Similar to an assessment of the technical and procedural conditions, we look at the company's organizational change readiness. Often only the hard facts are analyzed at this stage, i.e. structures, processes, current degree of harmonization, standardization and automation. We also focus on the emotional or cultural issues, such as the collective willingness to change in the company. We also try to answer the following questions. How trusting is the cooperation between IT and the specialist departments? What standing do the regions have and how are decisions made? What is the general mood? What are the typical patterns of thinking, feeling and behavior that can become a real challenge in change or should be consciously addressed in communication? Or more specifically: what fears and resistance are associated with the project and need to be overcome? Based on the answers, we then create a specific roadmap with concrete activities and milestones for the transformation support of our customers in their SAP projects.

      Thank you very much, Marion! One final question: if I want to find out more about the study, what do I need to do?

      Simply use the contact form on our website, www.bbh-consulting.de, to request the study results or send an email directly to info@bbh-consulting.de. And if you have any questions, we are always happy to help!


      About bbh consulting

      bbh consulting stands for successful transformations with impact and enthusiasm - for companies, sectors and people. They are experts in the design of change processes and support their clients with a wide range of challenges. These range from strategic or organizational realignment, cultural change and optimization of collaboration to change support in SAP projects. bbh consulting combines project-related tasks with their comprehensive understanding of people and human communities in both the conception and implementation phases. They create commitment, cohesion and enthusiasm. Especially when far-reaching changes are to be implemented.

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