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Change Management and the Taste of Vanilla

Bob Bellantine's excellent post on the perils of out-of-the-box ERP implementations,  "What does vanilla taste like?", resonates with my own recent experience on a non-ERP engagement.  In this case, we are helping the client migrate to a standardized document management system.  While not an ERP transformation, the program is complex and global in scope, involving a host of regional implementations.

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Bob Bellantine's excellent post on the perils of out-of-the-box ERP implementations,  "What does vanilla taste like?", resonates with my own recent experience on a non-ERP engagement.  In this case, we are helping the client migrate to a standardized document management system.  While not an ERP transformation, the program is complex and global in scope, involving a host of regional implementations.

Since standardization of systems is one of the prime business drivers of the program, the global governance team has dictated, for a number of good reasons, that "vanilla" will be the flavor of choice.   It is not simply a question of delivering on time and within budget; more to the point is the strategic decision to align regions to a common technology and process for managing and controlling critical documents.  As a result, regional customizations must be kept to a minimum.

Not surprisingly, the out-of-the-box implementation strategy presents many opportunities for stakeholder engagement, communication, and organizational change management.  High on the list is the need to carefully address the gaps between current system requirements and what is possible in the new environment.  Without getting into specifics, business users of the system must frequently hear the Infosys team say: "You won't be able to do X or Y any longer when the new system goes live."  In some cases, this doesn't cause great concern.  In other cases, the change will disrupt long-standing practices that are perceived as non-negotiable.  Left unaddressed, those disruptions will create an obstacle to user adoption of the new system.

What happens when the irresistible force, i.e., a historical way of working in the as-is environment that "cannot, must not change", meets the immovable object, i.e., a hard and fast limitation in the to-be environment (imposed by governance and / or the out-of-the-box technology itself)? When customization is, for whatever reason, simply out of the question, there must be a better way than simply to say: "You'll have your Vanilla, and you'll like it."  From a change management perspective, can we find ways to make Vanilla taste like Neapolitan?

The engagement is still underway, and in future posts I'll try to share some stories of how the Infosys team has addressed the challenge.  The situation is no doubt as common as ... vanilla.  Please leave a comment if you have experiences of your own to share.

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