While conducting complex projects in the IT field, such as implementing an integrated SAP system, issues concerning project organization are focused mainly on the formal aspects of the project. Stages of a project are set, milestones are named, deadlines are fixed, the division of obligations and responsibilities is determined in implementation teams. In contrast, soft aspects of the project, such as communication of business changes arising from implementation of the project are, in some companies, pushed into the background, or, even worse, are omitted completely.
It is a pity, as awareness of the essence of the project pays off. It facilitates all people involved in the project going through the SAP implementation stages and increases the advantages of its implementation.
SAP implementation and internal communication
In large-sized companies, the implementation of communication strategies involves the appointment of a team responsible for communication and the development of a plan of action and its consistent implementation at every stage of the project. Target groups are determined as well as channels of communication. Types of messages are specified and authorities for conveying them are given. Moreover, the idea of internal communication comes into a much more systematized form: there are benchmark documents, exemplary plans, and detailed communication strategies.
Medium-sized companies, given their limited resources, most frequently will not be in a position to appoint a separate team to oversee communication. Target groups to whom messages should be passed on will also be of relatively smaller size.
Step 1 – define the target groups
The first stage of efficient communication is identifying target groups to whom messages will be passed on. They differ in terms of role assumed in the organization and their degree of decision making.
The first group – operational – consists mostly of rank-and-file employees, often future users of the implemented system. Due to their limited ability to make decisions and their intense involvement in the completion of project work, messages conveyed to that group should be mostly fact-based: decisions taken and already planned actions, tasks to be completed and achieved goals. Such communication gives employees clarity: which stage of the project they are in, how much they have managed to achieve and what challenges they need to face. An appropriate amount of information increases the team’s morale, encourages action and gives meaning to the project, as employees themselves get to find out about the importance of their input in the whole project.
Executives and operational managers are the second target group to whom messages need to be passed on. This group is responsible for the results of the work completed by the operational group. This group is significantly smaller, yet they have greater decision making abilities and responsibility for the completion of the project. What is more, they delegate tasks to employees. Thus, the information passed on to them should concern work planned for the implementation. It is also recommended to inform this group about different scenarios of operation, depending on the course of project work as well as their involvement in constructing those scenarios.
Informal leaders are the next, often completely overlooked, target group, and yet they are very important, having a huge influence on the success of the whole undertaking. In most organizations, despite the division and formal structures of the organization – teams, positions, etc., there is a parallel informal structure – resulting from experience, knowledge, personality, achievements, etc. of individuals. Informal leaders are the people who do not assume formal positions within the implementation project but simultaneously, have great power in the very organization which may, with the proper attitude, be a great support at every stage of the implementation.
Owners and management and supervisory boards of the company is the last and the least numerous target group. This group is not directly involved in the project work, yet due to its huge decision making power and expertise should be aware of what kind of project is being implemented and, crucially, how important it is for the company. Messages conveyed to this group should concern both hard facts as well as future plans, stressing the project implications for the business and the division of responsibility within the project.
Though not directly participating in the implementation, top of the ladder decision makers are significant to its course. By increasing their awareness of the importance of the implemented system for the future of the company, not only will they understand the added value that will be a result of the implemented solutions, but they will also gain an understanding for the increased involvement in the implementation work.
Step 2- create a communication roadmap
After identifying the target groups and the people responsible for conveying messages to them, the people developing the communication strategy plan the communication, which creates a communication roadmap. The map and the plan of communication notably overlap with the project schedule. They have however, a completely different dimension: they plan the announcement of successful achievement of the next milestones and information about an upcoming stage requiring a deeper involvement. Messages may be passed on formally, via email or in meetings, as well as informally: on the in intranet or in a company newsletter. The so called Information Manager is appointed to be responsible for passing on pieces of information. In smaller organizations, this may be a person with other responsibilities in the project or someone, for instance from the marketing /PR department, who is not involved in the project.
Lofty plans or tough resolutions?
Regardless of whether we talk about a large or small company, the implementation of the internal communication strategy should be included in the company business strategy, particularly when it comes to projects of key importance to the business. Given the number of employees, departments, complexity of internal structures and number of groups of stakeholders, the biggest leading companies on the market cannot allow themselves to be under-informed, even if this this entails extending the time limits of a project. The situation presents itself quite differently in smaller companies. Despite a general awareness that project communication is important, 95% of the time it is not usually acted upon, due to a lack of time, resources and energy. Unfortunately, this can result in a decrease in understanding project tasks, the occurrence of information noise, de-motivation, and in effect, the delay or even failure of a project.