Marja Saarentaus: Leaders and Line Managers as the key enablers of change – also in ERP transformations

To ensure a successful ERP transformation, there is a long list of things to consider. This blog post is about one of the key enablers: The leaders and line managers.

Leaders and Line Manager in the Frontline

According to the Prosci report, sponsorship correlates with project success. Better sponsorship equals better results. Active and visible sponsors increase significantly the success rate of the project. They set the vision, own the change, provide direction and guideline, and build commitment with their personal example.

Taking a new ERP into use is a big change for many people in the company. Leaders’ responsibility during this journey is to highlight WHY it is important for the company business and HOW individuals must contribute to this effort. And never underestimate the need and importance to constantly remind about this during the years of planning, design and implementation. Show the direction, talk about benefits and follow them up regularly over the years.

Line manager’s responsibility is to bring the local understanding of WHAT does the ERP mean to the team and individuals. Line manager’s duty is therefore to contribute to the work itself, understand the changing processes and workflows underneath, new and updated roles, hand-over points to other functions, new colleagues and interfaces in the new set-up. Often work and teams need to be reorganized to be able to adapt to new way of working to be able to reach the targets and benefits behind. And none of this is exact science but work with people. And all this work is on top of daily work routines and other projects .

Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

With the new ERP, the new ways of working will change processes, roles, and related responsibilities, and how these processes are governed by the line managers: Which process to use in which case, by whom, what kind of decision making is required and who are the decision makers.

The following elements are present at all phases of the change both on sponsor’s and line manager’s agenda:

  1. To understand the change between the current state and target state, and the ability to articulate it.
  2. To own the change and benefit realization that the change is targeting to.
  3. To be ready to make decisions about the changes that the line organization needs to prepare for. The line manager is in the center of this.

1. Understand the change between the current state and target state


  • Define why we are doing this, the company reasoning.
  • Define how you expect individuals to contribute to the change.
  • Participate in the meetings to show your commitment.
  • Repeat and show consistency and stamina.

Line manager:

  • Based on benefits expected, build your story about how your team or organization is involved.
  • Follow up the progress and ask for support to understand the change in more detail.
  • Ensure understanding of target state ways of working, participate in definition work when business knowledge is needed.
  • Specify the difference between current state and target state, talk about it with your team.
  • Understand that your organization as an ERP user will be stronger when there is adequate time to prepare and learn the new ways of working.

There is the rational reasoning our brains require to be able to understand, the emotional side of things that may block our entire thinking if we see the change as a threat and not as a possibility to improve, and the practical steps how we change our daily patterns to new ones and stick to the new.

2. Own the change and benefit realization


  • Repeat the why and how, and show consistency and stamina.
  • Participate in to show your commitment.

Line manager:

  • Get more into the details of benefits as the project moves on, link it to the changed ways of working.
  • Some benefits are company level or relevant to other businesses, understand your role in the future set-up.
  • Lead your organisation/team to take the planned actions to change, allow adequate time to prepare and learn the new ways of working.
  • Ensure/participate in the work to define how roles and responsibilities will change, from the beginning of the ERP project until the details are available.

3. Be ready to make decisions


  • Ensure the decision makers are involved in ERP related decision making, the decisions are about your organisation’s ways of working.
  • Share information about decisions to come and those that have been decided. This demonstrates commitment and priority.
  • Participate in meetings to show your commitment.

Line manager:

  • Be ready to make decisions and negotiate: Ensure smooth future operations and remember at the same time this is a company level project.
  • Be ready to compare options through measuring, calculating and analysing different options.
  • Discuss and share results with your organisation/team.
  • When taking new ways of working into use, follow carefully how they have taken into use in every day lives.

How to secure a successful implementation?

A lot of materials are available, but what is the success formula for leaders and line managers:

  • Get and stay involved, understand the content to be able to discuss it with your organization.
  • Be ready to challenge yourself, colleagues and the entire organization, be ready to make compromises to the benefit of the company.
  • Understand the people capacity you have available; it determines how fast you can proceed.
  • Keep an updated plan on how to proceed and share it with the troops.
  • Accept uncertainty, and encourage people to work and make decisions despite the uncertainty.
  • Do not get paralyzed, if you do not know or have the time then ask for help. It is easier and cheaper to fix before than after go-live.
  • The ERP project is about continuous learning, and to use the learning to improve the end result.