When you announce the impending implementation, do so in a way that invites participation and input. Don't take the approach of telling your employees how it's going to be. Instead, create an atmosphere of change that is driven by their needs and ideas.
How do you achieve this? One approach is to assign a liaison in each department. Let that person be a repository for all the fresh ideas and concepts for process change that the local brain trust can muster.
Work through each wish-list, pointing out the benefits that could be realized if an efficient, successful ERP implementation were made to happen. Point out that the enthusiastic cooperation and efficient assistance of each department will create new resources and realize long-term improvements in cycle times.
The idea is simple: trade a piece of the pie created by ERP process improvements for "local" improvements that will make your employees' lives better.
Are you compromising your authority by negotiating in this manner? Not at all. While senior management may best know where to apply effort to broaden the scope and effectiveness of company operations at the market level, it's at the hands-on level that you ultimately want to see real trickle-down benefit from the ERP implementation anyway.
By giving away some authority to the people on the spot, you not only get the fine-tuning you are after in the long run, but you've created the goodwill needed to get enthusiasm where you might otherwise have reluctance.
ERP is like nuclear power: it has potential to do great good or great harm depending on how it's handled, and everyone in the neighborhood will be affected by it. By giving everyone in your company a stake in the implementation's success, you'll get the extra effort that accompanies personal investment. By urging creative and pragmatic participation in the change process, you'll get valuable insight you wouldn't otherwise have.
ERP is ultimately a community endeavor. Handle it that way, and everybody wins.
Scott Robinson is an enterprise software and systems consultant with Quantumetrics, Inc., a consultant's collaborative. Robinson has worked with such well-known organizations as the Dept. of Defense (DOD), Dept. of Energy (DOE), Wal-Mart, and Roche Pharmaceuticals. As well as CIO Update, he is also a regular contributor to TechRepublic and can be reached by email at email@example.com.