Let's face it, if you are implementing a new ERP system, things will be different than they were before, but it's important to distinguish between change and business transformation. Start by asking you one question: Will the corporate strategic vision for the future be achieved by the ERP implementation alone?

What's the difference between transformation and change?

I've been asked this question many times all through my career. Numerous white papers, articles and business cases have been written to exemplify the distinction. In my opinion, the simplest way to explain the difference is: Change improves the present; Transformation creates the future. Another important distinction that can be drawn is Change is reversible; Transformation is permanent.

However, that's not to say change is small, insignificant or uneventful. You can have change that is large scale and very complex that touches many aspects of an organization including people, processes and technology. It becomes transformational when you methodically execute efforts, thereby aligning aspects of the organization to a new paradigm. A paradigm aimed at achieving a corporate vision and a path forward. Transformation affects culture, values and standards, as well as structure and roles, while change is a reconditioned or improved version of the past.

Is your new ERP implementation actually a business transformation?

As a quick rule of thumb, take a look at what's triggering the implementation. If the objective is to address ready inefficiencies, to homogenize, modernize or achieve basic improvement - then it's change or optimization.

If it's part of a top-down corporate initiative aimed at achieving a long term strategic vision designed to alter the company and/or how it is perceived in the market place then it is a transformation.

Another way to distinguish is to remember that transformation is an enterprise-level change and may result in the following:

  •          ­new or significantly different business models/technology
  •          ­new products
  •          ­new marketing channels and strategies
  •          ­new client base and/or customer interactions   

How do I approach an ERP transformation project differently than a change project?

In the case of revolution, it's all about aligning the project to the strategic vision. Tribridge works with customers to clearly articulate their vision and create a prioritized roadmap for their journey. Once the path forward has been approved, the organization's readiness to embark on the journey is established. Success criteria, benefits, risks and challenges are identified; teams are assembled; governance is instituted; a change enablement approach is defined and project plans are created.

From that point on, the main difference is in maintaining the perspective and awareness that the ERP implementation is a piece of the puzzle. Understanding the role that piece plays in the success of the overall scheme remains key throughout the implementation lifecycle.

Technology, as critical as it is, is by no account the sole ingredient in transformation. Organizations often underestimate just how much change is needed in the operating model to achieve success - these modifications are often significant and reach across people, process, customers, technology, data management and risk management. Transformation doesn't describe the future by referencing the past (better, faster, or cheaper); it births a future that is entirely new. After all, a butterfly is a transformed creature, not just a better caterpillar.