Though Pennsylvania hasn't finished its ERP implementation, the state appears to be on its way to getting not only a good grade, but maybe even a gold star.

Imagine PA began in 1999, when the state started drafting RFP's for the ERP software and a systems integrator to assist with implementation. SAP was selected as the vendor in June 2000.

Unlike Arkansas, Pennsylvania decided at the beginning to take its ERP implementation a bit more slowly -- the state gave itself three years to complete the implementation starting in March 2001, and Imagine PA will roll out to agencies in six "waves."

Perspective Check

Pennsylvania realized what it would be doing was not necessarily a technology project, so both project management staff and the administration focused early on identifying nontechnical issues that could hamper the ERP implementation.

"That's the absolute key to this project," said Fritz Bittenbender, former secretary of administration and former director of the state's Office of Administration. "People who think of it as a technology project are going to fail."

The emphasis was placed on reforming business processes in the agencies, Bittenbender said, and agency employees were repeatedly told the reason for the ERP implementation was to save money for Pennsylvania, make certain parts of employees' jobs easier and eliminate parts of people's jobs that didn't make sense.

The state knew from the beginning that Imagine PA was going to be a business transformation project, said Don Edmiston, project director of Imagine PA.

"We really focused on business transformation, with change management being part of that -- getting the buy-in of the agencies; getting the buy-in of the employees; helping them understand that we were going to move forward with the project and that we wanted to adopt these new business processes," Edmiston said, adding that the state was also working under another type of cloud -- a change of leadership in the Office of Administration.

"We knew a group that could really turn on us at the change of administration was our senior managers and our middle managers; so we knew, at the beginning, that we really had to focus on that change management for that group," he said.

To that end, more than 7,000 managers were trained extensively on the SAP software so they could return to their respective agencies and serve as evangelists for the new software.

Though tempting to stereotype training as just another cost, Edmiston said Pennsylvania took great pains to avoid that mentality.

"So many times, training is looked at as a cost, and it has been looked at as a cost in Pennsylvania in some years," he said. "What this project brought about is the fact that training is an investment -- that what we're doing is investing in our employees."

Role Playing Isn't Just for Gamers

When the time came for managers to meet with agency employees about the new software, those meetings were often one-to-one, Edmiston said, which was a first for the state.

"We did a role mapping that took it from what the employees did in the 'as-is' environment to what they would do when they went live with the new software," he said. "The managers really helped sell Imagine PA to the state employees."

During those one-to-one sessions, managers were asked to focus on several issues: the role the SAP software would play in the employees' jobs and the training the employees would receive to perform, and be successful in, those roles.

The one-to-one sessions accomplished several crucial goals: Employees saw immediately that their managers believed in what Imagine PA could do, which made it easier for the employees themselves to believe in the new software. Employees also recognized

Shane Peterson  |  Associate Editor