The series so far:
Change Management can be defined as the strategy used to prepare, implement, and continue change within an organization. Change management is often regarded as a tool utilized for organizational transformation initiatives such as mergers and acquisitions, leadership transitions, cultural shifts, or in times of crisis. Perhaps the most overlooked change management use case is its application in technological implementations.
Some organizations implementing new technology engage in change management in the form of communication, spreading awareness about change through an executive mandate. Organizations also offer training to prepare for upcoming changes, usually through classroom or virtual seminars. Although both of these are effective strategies, neither of them by themselves is enough. Change management should be looked at as a process instead of a single activity. Both communication and training are integral parts of this process, but effective change management is driven through a series of activities executed by a team of change management specialists.
After reading this, one question that may come to mind is: “How do I build a change management team?” Change Management specialists can be either internal employees or external consultants. However, the best change management teams consist of a blend of both internal and external change management resources. While internal resources have a deep understanding of internal teams and processes, external resources are more seasoned in change management processes and domain expertise. It is often easier for organizations that do not have a dedicated group responsible for this to hire outside consultants. Still, organizations willing to invest in their workforce, HR, Business Process Management, or Onboarding teams are good places to start. Once a team is established, the next step involves doing justice to the change management process within your implementation.
For a successful change management strategy to be implemented, an organization must understand the nuances of the change management process, what the different pieces are, and how each piece fits into the puzzle. To better understand this, it is important to first identify the process. The change management process can be broken down into five key areas.
Leadership Alignment is the process by which stakeholders are identified and engaged. Stakeholder identification involves the comingling of individuals and ideas from various groups across an organization, whether business leaders at the C-level or entry-level employees. The leaders identified at this stage can play various roles in the change management process; the right team sets the framework for a successful implementation.
With representation from across the organization, the next step in the leadership alignment process then helps identify pain points and objectives regarding the technology being implemented. This process helps prioritize a set of change management goals for the implementation. Once a group of leaders and a set of goals are identified, a change management plan begins to come to fruition.
Communication is the part of a change management plan that can make or break a successful implementation. Some best practices with communication include the idea that a good communication plan engages the target audience early and often. It is also said that communication plans should include various forms of communication, whether through email, newsletters, conferences, luncheons, or advertisements.
While these best practices are essential, one of the most commonly forgotten aspects of communication is that communication is a two-way street. Communication plans often disseminate information to an audience, but they forget the importance of feedback and the need for an open forum to discuss upcoming changes. In large tech implementations, it is crucial to give users a voice. This is where leadership alignment ties in, as the stakeholders identified early on in the process can help with communication and giving a voice to the greater audience.
Change impact assessments
Before committing to a change strategy, it is important to ask the simple question: “What is Changing?”
Gathering leaders and communicating the advent of change to a user base are both necessary steps. Still, it is also essential to understand the difference between the current vs. future state of affairs within those steps.
Change Impact Assessments help engage the user base to understand their current workflow, and, then working with the appropriate members of the project team, understand the future state and what would be changing by introducing the new technology. These changes can involve specific user or customer groups, specific business processes, or technologies, as in the case of a refresh or displacement of an existing system.
Change Impact Assessments help map out the specifics of what is changing, who is impacted, and how to mitigate the changes. Change Impact Assessments usually outline a list of stakeholders impacted by a change and provide a rating of the severity of the impact of a specific change.
Change mitigation is usually done through either communication and/or training initiatives, providing yet another example of how the different parts of the change management process work together. At the end of the day, once the changes, their impacts, and the mitigation strategies are identified, it will be a leadership decision as to what approach to implement to manage the change, whether that is a communication strategy, a training strategy, a combination of both, or something entirely different.
Training is often seen as the meat and potatoes of a change management strategy in technological implementations. To boost the usage and adoption of a new system, users need to know how the system works. An organization can employ a wide array of training methodologies, be it classroom training, self-guided exercises, videos, questionnaires, or textbook learning.
One of the most popular methods is a train-the-trainer approach, which identifies trainers from within an organization, and has them first learn the technology and then teach it to the larger group of end-users. This approach is popular because it cuts out the need for ongoing outside assistance and empowers the organization to learn and maintain its knowledge base. All of the resources, be it the people or the training materials, stay within the organization and allow them to retain, modify and re-use this information in the future.
Training is yet another example of how the change management process comes together, as leadership can help identify trainers and help communicate and organize training activities within an organization. Change Impact Assessments also come into play when designing an effective training program because most of the training goals and content can be taken directly from the Change Impact Assessments.
Adoption is the final and most crucial part of change management in technology. The main reason that a technology is being implemented is that the employees of an organization can use it. Every aspect of the change management process is built around gaining and maintaining a high rate of user adoption. Adoption is most important in the initial days following the go-live of a new technology because the first impression a user has with the new technology will often determine its success.
Timing is also a key consideration when executing a change management plan. Change management should not be an afterthought that comes into play after a technology has gone live; change management programs should run simultaneously alongside development. A good change management plan identifies a strategy early on and begins engaging stakeholders as requirements are gathered. A change team then runs through the entire change management process and come go-live, they are ready with end-user training.
With this foundation of change management in mind, it is important to understand that a specific set of activities take place in every part of the change management process. While it may seem like just a series of 5 easy steps, here is a quick look at what exactly goes into each part of the aforementioned process.
- Understanding the org structure and who is impacted by the change
- Identifying Stakeholders from the top-down
- Identifying pain points at each level
- Establishing a network of volunteers who are willing to help drive the change
- Getting buy-in on the change strategy
- Identifying the appropriate mediums for communication
- Who should be sending the communication?
- Should communication be generic, or team/job function specific?
- How often should communication occur?
- What are some avenues for feedback?
Change Impact Assessments
- Who are the stakeholders impacted?
- How to measure impact?
- What is the sentiment of the teams being impacted? Are they excited or worried about the change?
- What are the pros/cons of the change(s) in question?
- What are the downstream effects of the change(s) in question?
- What does the end-user group look like? (Number of people? Geography? Job Role?)
- What is the mode of training?
- Who is delivering the training? (Train the trainer?)
- How long should training last?
- How should training be assessed?
- How to measure adoption?
- How to grow adoption rates?
- What are the long-term goals for the technology being implemented?
- Will there be future releases?
- How can the user base stay engaged?
There is a lot to think about when developing a change management plan. To that end, this series of articles will take another look at each of the five areas of change management in their own respective articles and provide a deep dive into how the different activities for each area should be executed.