If you ask any IT leader in a service-centric organization what the biggest difference is between their first major technology rollout and their second one, they’ll usually bring up change management. The seasoned professionals know that the biggest challenge to new technology or process adoption with a large workforce is not the technology itself, but rather how it’s introduced to the end users. If you don’t consider how to manage the change before you embark on a project, you’re ignoring your largest potential obstacle.
There’s good news. Even if you haven’t tackled an organization-wide rollout or large-scale implementation of new tech, plenty of others have, and they have learned a thing or two. If you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s best to ask the experts. Our Professional Services team has delivered hundreds of projects. We asked them to share some of the wisdom they have developed over the years to share with our readers and help inspire more painless projects.
1. Practice Pragmatism
As one seasoned project manager told us “if you think you’re ready, you’re in trouble.” While leading a major technology transformation means cultivating enthusiasm and optimism among your team, hoping for the best is not enough. Talk through worst case scenarios, likely and unlikely obstacles, and potential risks to develop a plan that can accommodate some disruptions and help prevent a disaster.
2. Start with Why
Your new solution is likely addressing myriad problems, but they’re not all equally pressing for all stakeholders. Your CEO wants to increase customer satisfaction without driving up service costs. Your IT support staff want to spend less time troubleshooting your new solution. Your mobile workers want less time behind the wheel and more time helping customers. Develop a compelling “why” narrative for each group when advocating for change.
3. Think Change Leadership
“Change Management” suggests wrangling the complexities of a change that’s already underway. Maintain a change leadership mindset, and take stock of who needs to be included in the planning stages, how and when best to work with groups within the organization, and model good change management behavior before the project “officially” begins.
4. Include End Users in the Beginning
It’s not unusual for end users to be excluded from evaluating potential solutions. It’s also not unusual for IT leaders to include end users in the process after learning how much more readily they adopt a new solution when their needs and concerns are included in the selection and planning process. Communicate proactively at every stage to allow your team time to get used to the idea, solicit their input, and make the process inclusive and open.
5. Establish Clear Expectations
Whether working with a vendor, implementer, or an internal team building a home-grown solution, scope creep is always a risk that can derail the project. Begin with a very clear statement of work, define roles and responsibilities, and, most importantly, define ownership for various stages of the project. Ensure everyone is committed to the same vision and deliverables to minimize last-minute additions with the full support of your team.
6. Prioritize Training
When possible, training on new systems should begin well ahead of going live. This is critical for getting your employees more comfortable with the technology and making the final switch feel less like a cliff and more like a speed bump.
7. Then Plan for More Training
Your team will need it not just post launch, but periodically as new processes or policies are added, when you hire new employees or contractors, and to make sure everyone is using the system in the manner intended. Wide-scale adoption and usage also often uncovers opportunities for improvement and behaviors or usage patterns not captured in the original plans.
8. Define Success Metrics
If you’ve articulated the “why” for the project for each relevant stakeholder, be prepared to identify the expected ROI for each of their goals, and to prioritize them appropriately when implementing your solution. What does a successful implementation look like? How will you prove you’ve addressed business concerns successfully? Find meaningful metrics for your goals and ensure you will be able to capture and report them easily.
9. Get Ready to Manage Feelings
Organizational development expert Peter Senge said “people don’t resist change, they resist being changed.” The most reason for resistance fear. New technology, especially when it involves automation, makes employees nervous. They worry that increased efficiency will mean decreased workforce. For some older employees, they might have additional anxiety about their experience becoming less relevant and their ability to learn new technology and skills. Find a way to acknowledge and address these fears in the most transparent way possible for your organization. Showing your employees honesty and empathy engenders trust and will make them less resistant to large changes.
10. Provide Support Tools
Even though you have trained your team, and trained them again, remember they are learning an entirely new way of doing things. Even with all the time and resources invested in training, employees are still likely to fall back on old habits and will need ongoing support to change how they operate. Documentation, cheat sheets, videos, user groups, and regular check ins are some of the tools you can provide.
11. Run Pilot Programs
Start small to identify and address problems at a more manageable scale before committing your entire business to a new solution and process. This can be done with a small test group, or starting with one line of business, product, or region. This will make additional implementations far easier.
12. Celebrate Meaningful Milestones
Progress will look different for teams in your organization, so set milestones that will resonate not just with the CEO or end user, but every stakeholder in between. Celebrate wins as milestones are reached, and after implementing the solution organization-wide. Positive reinforcement encourages desired behavior, and the effect is magnified when people see their peers praised—they want the same kind of recognition.
13. Remain Agile
Plan for modular/staged delivery of project milestones that allows for unplanned work to be accommodated. This enables you to maintain schedule flexibility – or to change order of priority if necessary without having to start the process from the beginning.
14. Rethink Your Processes
Ford Motors founder Henry Ford is credited with saying “If I had asked the people what they wanted, they would have told me faster horses.” Don’t use new tools to do things the old way. It sends mixed messages to your company about the value of the change and expectations for adoption. Take the opportunity to rethink your operations so you can get the most value out of a sophisticated solution rather than using it to replicate problematic processes.
15. Look Past the Finish Line
Change management is a long-term effort. Following up 3, 6, 12 months after with key stakeholders sends the message that you’re still following through on their plan and vision, and that their input will continue shaping and improving how your company uses new technologies.
Whether you resist or thrive on change, you know it gets complicated when more people are involved. Prioritizing and planning for change management early on will give you the tools to tackle problems as they arise, and anticipate and neutralize them ahead of time.
For more on change management best practices, head to the ClickSoftware blog.