IT system changes are always also social processes

Alliance Automotive Group Germany (AAGG) sharpens change management processes for the introduction of a company-wide ERP system

// Agility, Corporate Culture, Digital Transformation

Alliance Automotive Germany GmbH (AAGG) is part of the Alliance Automotive Group, the second largest car parts dealer and full-service workshop provider in Europe. It is working on the introduction of a uniform ERP system for the entire company. After the technical start of the project in 2019, those responsible prepared themselves in intensive change management workshops in the summer and autumn of 2021 to take the project into the company. noventum change management consultants Jan Helmchen and Rabea Wolters moderated the workshops.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP project "Unity" is the most extensive project in the company's history

After the merger of the companies Coler, Busch and Hennig under the umbrella of Alliance Automotive Germany GmbH (AAGG), the company set itself the task of establishing an ERP platform for all subsidiaries involved. The technical basis is the Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution and the overall project name "Project Unity" documented from the beginning that for AAGG it is about more than just technical standardisation Christina Middelberg, HR Manager and Marius Fronholt, IT Manager Germany, reported on the workshop and the communicative aspects of the important project in an nc360° interview.

Alliance Automotive Group Germany GmbH (AAGG)

Alliance Automotive Group is the second largest automotive parts distributor and full-service workshop provider in Europe and is part of Genuine Parts Company (GPC), the largest automotive parts distributor in the world.

In Germany, it is represented by Alliance Automotive Germany GmbH (AAGG); thanks to the sales companies gathered under its umbrella, Alliance Automotive Germany GmbH is represented in large parts of the country and the most important conurbations.

Technology change as the key to cultural identity formation

Uniform IT systems are supposed to generate cost savings and synergies in mergers or strategic cooperations. However, there are not only economic advantages in uniform systems, but also a growing human cohesion is expressed in common tools.

Those responsible at Alliance Automotive Group Germany (AAGG) wanted to ensure that future users would actively support their ongoing project of merging various ERP systems (including Sage and Navision) in the Microsoft 365 Cloud through the new project component "Change Management". The future users - that is all 1,650 employees in Germany who will use a common tool in the future. Other AAG national companies are already on the same path, so the standardisation effects are cross-border.

Communication as the key: Preparing change management

The noventum change management workshop format provided the framework for the 14 participating AAGG managers. On the one hand, this intensive format enables them to penetrate the scope and necessity of change management using their own project as an example and, on the other hand, to develop a common concept of change management as a team.

The overarching goal of the intensive workshop work was to

  • the empowerment of all participants to design change projects
  • the concrete generation of ideas with the entire team
  • Focusing on the most effective steps in the change process
  • the coalescence of the project team and the commitment to successful project work.

In concrete terms, the first 3 points of the process model were implemented in two workshop days. Scoping, analysis and action planning of the change design and communication around the upcoming software system change were the successful result of the cooperation. The project management team is currently implementing the subsequent points "implementation of measures" and "structural safeguarding". Christina Middelberg emphasises: "It was important to work out the dimension and significance of the project for our company with neutral moderation, detached from everyday issues, and then to carry this message out to the team."

"If two workshop days are designed really well and suit the target group, it can really ignite a well-founded change turbo for project success".

Jan Patrick Helmchen

Project Manager / Culture Change Management

noventum consulting GmbH

Implementation with „Dr.WaWiKS“

For the planning of the implementation of measures, the participants of the AAGG change management workshop took with them the "Dr.WaWiKS" model, a comprehensible and comprehensive method for getting teams in the mood for major changes. Psychological reaction patterns and the questions of communication of people involved in a change are the focus of this model. Common behavioural patterns range from resistance to an urgent desire for change, and change managers must be able to deal with this range of attitudes.

The Dr.WaWiKS model is an adaptation of the 5-phase model ADKAR of the US Prosci® Institute.

"The Dr.WaWiKS model is a theoretical guide that is good to follow," says Christina Middelberg and Marius Fronholt adds: "It has been incorporated into our communication strategy and into the thinking of the people who were involved in our workshop. I found the point "Create a sense of urgency" and the "What's in for me" the most impactful."

Insights for successful change

With the basic workshop ("boot camp") Change Management, the AAGG managers gained a common view of the basic structure, analysis procedures and action planning in change management from IT to Sales. Marius Fronholt: "A very important insight of this workshop was that not only the ERP core team, but many other employees who have nothing to do with the operational implementation in the actual sense worked on it. Through the work in the workshop, very interesting groups emerged that help shape such a project and the communication about it from different dimensions."

Change processes generally follow a similar dramaturgy and with best practice examples from the IT environment, a comparison with the circumstances of one's own company was quickly found. The most urgent action steps could be designed in a first draft.

The exact design of the change measures then took place on the in-depth day a few weeks later. In one-hour "theme workshops", the cross-sectionally composed small groups sharpened the ideas from Day 1, presented the results to the entire group and documented them with everyone's suggestions in the prioritised change backlog. Thus, at the end of the second day, everything was ready for implementation. Christina Middelberg: "Today, there is a small project group with the "Unity" project manager and the marketing manager, in which we keep in touch about the progress of communication around the project. For example, the management first addressed the employees with an email and then with a video. We organised a barbecue evening and there was a small gift for everyone involved. On a "container tour" we gave our employees a concrete experience of how the future system will work. A brochure is coming soon."

At Whitsun 2022, the AAGG will go live with the system at the first six locations. The corresponding colleagues will start training sessions to get to know the system. IT manager Fronholt notes with satisfaction: "The timing of the workshop was well chosen. We were able to give much more concrete information about the timing of the project and the functions of the software than we would have been able to do 1-2 years earlier. The change management toolbox has to be filled and now we can do it with concrete measures."

noventum consulting

Dr. Matthias Rensing


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