5 Golden Rules for a Large Transformational Systems Implementation

At a recent CIO leadership summit held in Toronto on May 30, 2013, I had the good fortune to hear a presentation by Maple Leaf Foods about their implementation of SAP and their business transformation.  Like many large organizations, they realized that software was an enabler to standardizing business process, harmonizing those standards and ‘leapfrogging’ the way the business would operate in a future state.  Code named ‘Leapfrog’, their program was conducted over three years, from 2009-2013, with over 65 deployments and approximately 90 projects within the portfolio.

This was a tricky systems implementation.

Even the best program managers, project managers, consultants, IT managers and business leaders will struggle with a systems implementation at some point in their career. Despite careful consideration and planning, it’s more than an “install.” And it often comes down to three core drivers:

  • Speed of proficiency
  • Adoption rate
  • Sustained improvements

Maple Leaf Food stuck to 5 golden rules which they credit as core to the success they achieved:

  1. Don’t make changes to the software
  2. Adapt processes to meet SAP best practices
  3. SAP is real time integrated so only put in clean data:  ‘Do it NOW and do it RIGHT’
  4. Governance is critical
  5. Don’t underestimate culture and the change effort

These golden rules really resonated with me and the team at SPM Group.  The challenges we often face when working with clients on transformational change come down to keeping it simple, recognizing the importance of the data (it really won’t work otherwise), and getting the right shift in culture and adoption rates.

Focusing on their adoption and sustainment strategy (aka change management) Maple Leaf’s approach and lessons shared with the audience are the ones that echo our own approach.  While they may seem a bit motherhood and ‘common sense’ to maintain discipline and execute using a common set of processes is always challenging.

Here are the five top lessons I took away as important factors to apply in any organization:

  1. A disciplined process integrated with program/project management, change management and governance is essential.  They don’t work well in isolation.
  2. Strong, proactive engagement of key stakeholders with active champions will make a huge difference in adoption and sustaining the new way of doing things around here.
  3. Ensure you are managing the change impact internally and externally – don’t forget your customers they have adjustments to make too.
  4. Blended learning solutions based on role, environment and situation will accelerate the ramping up the knowledge and skills and ensure the right rate of speed to proficiency.  This is vital to making the shift.
  5. Endless communications – did you hear me?  Endless communications!

Common sense? You bet, but the real test is actually how to implement them with panache, grace and assurance they will be consistently applied.   This is where both high engagement from leadership and well-honed change management expertise comes into the frame.

By consciously considering the three core results you are trying to make:  speed of proficiency, adoption and sustaining the new way of doing things, the right fit application will naturally follow.  Taking a ‘leapfrog’ approach to implementing business transformation is bold, fresh and as demonstrated by the Maple Leaf Foods experience can work.

If you are ready for this kind of experience, talk with us about how you can develop and implement a comprehensive change management strategy.


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