System Implementation Case Study

In 1997 the EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa) region of a large US sportswear manufacturer underwent a large-scale change from being a collection of licensees to a combination of subsidiaries in Western Europe and licensees in the rest of the region.

·       There were different computer systems used in each European operation.

·       There was no overview of stocks across the region

·       Consolidation of financial accounts was difficult and time consuming.

·       There was no pan-European consolidated information available.

·       They saw no need to change from their legacy systems, which almost all of them felt had all of the functionality they needed.

·       The system was generally considered as being an imposition from EMEA.

·       They saw a unified system as being a way that Head Office could spy on them.

·       In some cases they considered that JBA could not handle their country specific requirements.

·       The potential disruption to their commercial operations created by a major systems implementation added a risk they considered excessive and unnecessary.

In order to combat these objections a the following actions were taken:

·       The benefits of the system were sold consistently at country meetings and via other means of communication by the Managing Director the Commercial Director (to whom the Country Managers reported) and myself.

·       The cultural differences, as well as differences in the individual characters, had to be taken into account and reflected when communicating with Country Managers and their staff.

·       I personally spent a lot of time in each operation identifying the reasons for their objections and ensuring that they were either only perceived problems or were appropriately dealt with.

·       The project schedule was set and agreed with the Country Managers, having regard to the particular timing and commercial issues in their operation.

·       Implementation support was designed to combat the anticipated level of resistance in each operation.

·       Local support from JBA’s European subsidiaries was enlisted where this was felt to be necessary either for language reasons, or because of country specific functionality.

·       A “system friendly” country was chosen for the first implementation.

·       Success in the first implementation was considered to be essential as all of the other Country Managers were watching progress closely. Additional external support was scheduled in order to ensure that this happened.

·       System friendly Country Managers were enlisted to sell the system to their more sceptical colleagues, e.g. Benelux Manager sold the system to the French Manager.

·       All issues and objections during implementation and post implementation were dealt with promptly through a help desk function.

·       Regular meetings were held in each country to review progress against the plan and ensure that outstanding issues were resolved promptly.

·       I used my integrity within the company by giving my personal assurance that the Country Managers would be listened to and then stuck to it.

The outcome was that JBA was successfully implemented across Europe, in seven offices and thirteen countries within eighteen months and was a major factor in the region’s improved financial performance.

Return to Consulting Summary