CHW Takes Creative Approach to Resistance

To help garner enthusiasm for its effort to implement new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software in its 40 healthcare facilities, Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) officials are hosting "go live" celebrations for users.

The celebrations follow CHW's strategy of customizing its change management effort by tailoring the galas to the culture of the individual facility. For example, the company held a conservative celebration in an upscale Phoenix hotel for one group but took another unit to a lively Las Vegas show.

The deep dive into each hospital's "personality" has been key to the success of the $54 million project to install Lawson Software ERP applications in all CHW facilities by the end of next year, said Carol Tyler, director of change management communication and education at the healthcare provider.

Tyler, whose position was created in 2003 to help shepherd the project through inevitable "people" issues, has found the most user resistance at the seven CHW hospitals where an earlier SAP ERP installation had failed, she said. The SAP effort was halted after five years, in 2001, in favor of a move to Lawson software.

"They had a very, very strong distaste for a new IT project. They had been through [the SAP] project, and they didn't care for it," Tyler said. "We found ourselves facing demons from the past."

To combat the lingering problems, Tyler held meetings with top management at each of those hospitals and worked with key users in their finance, supply chain, and human resources operations to understand their concerns, she said.

Then she tailored the communications plan to explain how the Lawson software could address their worries.

In addition, Tyler and the CHW ERP team have been attending monthly manager meetings at all 40 hospitals during the conversion to monitor progress.

She also created "change champion" positions at each hospital to promote the software, and she visits often with users who might have encountered problems. "There were different [job] levels in the facilities, [and] those levels weren't necessarily being heard as to what their requirements were," she said.

When Tyler learned that users at some hospitals preferred hearing about the project from on-site management rather than from headquarters officials, she enlisted local managers to take the lead during meetings.

In addition, CHW focused on designing a consistent "Lawson brand" in all of its communications about the project to ensure that users knew it was a new IT project. "One of the scary things about change is it keeps changing. One way for me to anchor some support in Lawson is to provide familiarity," Tyler said.

Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting, notes that in large ERP projects, change management is often more important than the software itself.

"Without a well-mannered change management process, everything else will roll up on you," he said.

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