Secret opposition from local management is a major reason for the failure of enterprise-wide systems such as enterprise resource management.
Speaking at the IT Directors' Forum, held at Cranfield University School of Management, independent consultant Alan Wright, formerly an IT manager, explained that large or global systems are loved by senior managers, but loathed by the organisation as a whole.
"They will only be successful if they change the basic business model, and you can only change this if you challenge local autonomy," he said.
Wright added that big systems also take a long time to deliver, with the biggest benefits at the back end, providing lots of opportunities for cynics to undermine them.
He listed a number of common covert regional and local management attitudes which need to be tackled:
- 'I can't argue with the vision so I'll go along with it but [covertly] hope to be he last to implement it; it will be dead by then anyway.'
- 'I'll show willing by allocating some resources to it but [covertly] not my best because I need them for my projects.'
- 'Until this global thing delivers I must keep investing in my local solutions to remain competitive; [covertly] hopefully I can keep ahead.'
- 'I really want to support the global initiative but [overtly or covertly] our requirements are different and, from a local perspective, I can't justify the required investment.'
One variant mentioned by delegates at the Forum was a manager making requirements so specific that he or she got a local project instead.
John Ward, Cranfield's professor of strategic information systems, said: "It's not the software itself but the business changes enabled by enterprise systems that will produce major and lasting benefits."
But he warned that, as business units often distrust corporate initiatives due to perceived threats to their autonomy, companies need to explicitly identify benefits for these units as well as others.
"Most organisations realise, after the event, that more resources and expertise should have been devoted to change management," he concluded.
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