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Companies work with the same system for many years or even decades. Changes are only made selectively: an update here, an intervention there - but the big picture with its functionality and interface remains the same. But at some point, the time comes when a system has to be replaced - be it because the manufacturer no longer offers maintenance or because it simply no longer meets today's requirements. This is often the case with transformation projects of SAP systems. Then it means: new workflows, different interfaces, many new products. This is not only a technical challenge, but above all a human one. Because if the people who operate these new systems are not properly involved, even the best SAP solution will hardly be accepted by the employees. Change management is the key to ensuring that this does not happen.

The contracts are signed, the transformation project starts. A company wants to switch from SAP R3 to S/4Hana. Support and maintenance for SAP's legacy systems will continue until 2027, by which time the transformation should be complete. But there is much more behind the term "transformation" than just a technical changeover. Employees have worked with the old system for years, perhaps even developed it themselves or at least helped to get it off the ground. Understandably, some find it difficult to part with it. This is exactly where change management must come in and get employees on board.

Involve change management: The earlier, the better

As soon as a project moves into the design phase, change management comes into play. A change impact analysis is the first step to get a picture of the client's organisation: Who will be affected by the change? In which areas do we expect significant changes? What impact will the changeover have on those affected? We clarify these questions with those responsible on the client side and in discussions with the employees. So first of all there is an intensive dialogue with all those involved. By means of a change readiness analysis, we examine how ready the organisation is for the planned change. We conduct interviews, organise workshops, analyse past change processes of the company if necessary and derive recommendations and measures from this. The constant exchange with the internal project management is essential. This is because it is here that change managers receive the quickest information that affects everyone involved. A weekly jour fix is recommended. Change management is not always integrated into the project from the beginning. The earlier, the better should be the motto in order to accompany change successfully.

Measures for Successful Transformations

At adesso we divide our measures into two areas: Communication and Empowerment. On the level of communication, we want to inform and sensitise. For example, the question is how the customer's employees are informed about the status of the transformation: Is there a newsletter? Do all employees have regular access to laptops? Who can they contact with specific questions? These are aspects that we clarify in the context of communication.

Empowerment is about the way we implement something. How do I take other people with me? If there is a need for training: How do we want to train something? With these measures, we want to ensure that everyone involved is optimally prepared for the go-live. The go-live has a special significance anyway. The preparation time is over, now it is decided how well we have worked on the technical level in advance. Mentally, too, it's now a matter of being prepared: Everyone has to be prepared for the innovation and know what to expect. We often do a kind of sneak preview shortly before the go-live, in which we show those involved what their new system environment can and will look like. And most importantly: a go-live must be celebrated - with everyone involved!

Presence with the customer is indispensable

Change management does a lot of work on an interpersonal level. It can add a lot of value by bringing people together and breaking down silo thinking. Often change management can also be a bridge between managers and employees. In discussions with stakeholders, it is always about being transparent and demonstrating the purpose of the change. Personal incentives are also important - why should employees work with SAP in the future instead of Excel spreadsheets that have always served their purpose so far? Sustainable change only works if there are incentives and people see the sense of transformation.

There are two points that change managers should not lose sight of in their daily work with the customer. Firstly, it is very important to be on site with the client. Change managers must always be present on the client's premises and talk to the employees. Secondly, be honest. Change managers have little influence on how the new systems ultimately work. But they can influence how employees learn about them. They can also pick up on concerns and wishes and pass them on. In doing so, they should always be honest and not raise expectations that they cannot fulfil. "I'll be happy to pass on your comments to our development team" is, after all, different from "I'm sure our developers will implement your requirements in the same way."

Like a visit to the dentist - not sexy, but effective

First and foremost, change management means prevention and sounds unsexy at first. It's like going to the dentist: if you go regularly, you have good teeth. If you skip going to the dentist, it can have bad consequences, cause pain and possibly cost a lot of money. It is no different in IT. This means that if change management is thought through from the beginning and integrated sensibly, there will be few problems with expectations and preparation for a new SAP system at go-live and beyond. And let's be honest: This is the best way to celebrate a go-live.

You can find more exciting topics from the adesso world in our blog articles published so far.

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Picture Stephan Thies

Author Stephan Thies

Stephan Thies is Head of the Line of Business Manufacturing at adesso orange.

Picture Marty   Kostmann

Author Marty Kostmann

Marty Kostmann is a Senior Consultant and Team Leader at adesso in the Retail division and brings several years of professional experience in change and project management. She has also set up the Change Management Community at adesso, where she actively exchanges information with colleagues on the latest developments in the field of change management.

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