The manufacturing industry is known for being laggards when it comes to technology adoption, but as 2018 kicks off, many manufacturing leaders have digital transformation on the brain. Using new technologies and embracing new ways of operating is needed for business growth, but many organizations are held back by outdated business models and technology. Frustrated by legacy technology, manual processes, and inability to get visibility across the supply chain and plant operations, more organizations are evaluating the maturity of their ERP and preparing for change.
Major technology initiatives such as switching to a new ERP or upgrading after years of skipping patches and other improvements can create disruption to system users, business operations and increase risk associated with change. According to a survey of global business leaders, 78 percent of respondents said that IT outages and disruptions are not only deeply inconvenient, but cause loss of trust in the organization.
Maintaining trust, morale and productivity are required for successful change initiatives. Preparing the organization with good communication and ensuring the right activities happen at the right time is only part of good change management practices. Rigorous application change management handles another important aspect of change, providing the organization with visibility into modifications introduced by customizations, patches and functional set ups.
A Call for Change
With technology playing a greater role in business success, it’s more important than ever to understand the risks some IT changes could introduce and have an application change management strategy to address it. Once a change initiative is set, application change management can address everything the initiative touches, helping to improve performance, seize opportunities or address any issues. Being aware of what other changes may need to take place is vital to successful project execution.
Many times, organizations look at change management as a way to spot problems after they happen. An effective application change management plan is proactive, providing a strategic way to move from current state to future state. Proactive measures save organizations time, money and frustration in managing customizations, patch applications and other instances of change.
Business leaders must take the time to look at what business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plans are in place to protect critical business data from unforeseen natural or man-made disasters. These plan documents should be updated continuously and align with current business models and goals.
Timing is Everything
A stepped-up approach to change management can ensure that changes introduced do not have negative impact on productivity. For example, HR professionals knows that November is a crucial time of year due to open enrollment, with employees having a small window to make their benefits elections for the upcoming year. A system outage during this time would cause unnecessary added stress to not only the HR team, but also those employees trying to update their benefit elections. Scheduling changes and patches to not interfere with high use times such as open enrollment is vital for maintaining employee trust and morale.
Another important factor to consider along with time is resource availability. Will enough IT and leadership team members be available when you want to implement updates or patches? Have enough resources been allocated to the changes that deliver the greatest benefit? Having the answers beforehand will eliminate stressful scrambling for project help later and ensure resources remain focused on high value tasks.
Application change initiatives with poor planning directly affect your workforce and your customers. Spreadsheets fail to provide visibility into application changes, who requested it and why it was done. Whether it’s issue tracking, managing security or version control, it’s imperative to have control over change to minimize impact to users. For added transparency, sharing any planned changes along the supply chain keeps your staff, customers and partners engaged and in-the-know.
Effective IT application change management mitigates risk, lowers cost, and ensures resource availability for additional services. What are you doing to efficiently manage application changes in your organization?
Amar Kulkarni is vice president of Manufacturing at Avaap. He works with leading manufacturers and distributors to implement Infor M3, PLM, SCE and other Infor software solutions to make their technology and business strategies succeed.