Change management – what’s in it for me?

Research suggests that user resistance is a key factor in the implementation of systems. We often hear that people don’t like change. That’s not entirely true,…

Dr. Wolfram Gebauer profile picture
Dr. Wolfram Gebauer

December 11, 20186 minute read

Research suggests that user resistance is a key factor in the implementation of systems. We often hear that people don’t like change. That’s not entirely true, however – people will resist change they don’t fully understand or feel part of. If you can answer one simple question, then the entire EIM change program becomes more natural and less daunting for the people that will be using the software every day. That question is, “what’s in it for me?”

If someone stands up in a change management workshop or training session for new software and asks ‘what’s in it for me?’ you know that the change process is likely to go well. In that one question, they’re demonstrating willingness to change and giving you a large signpost to how you can make it happen. If you can show that the new software or system upgrade will make their life easier and better, there’s a great chance they’ll quickly adopt the change.

Actually, change is natural for all business people. Ask yourself how many job roles are the same as they were even five years ago. We all know that how we work and the tools we have available to us will continually evolve over time. We accept that and sometimes we’re happy about it. For example, the advent of video conferencing and services like Skype is saving many people from having to take long haul flights to meet in person.

So, change can be good and people don’t resist change if they view it as in their best interest. Yet, user resistance is still a huge challenge. Even with enterprise applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), where the company mandates that everyone must use the software, people find ways to introduce workarounds.

The truth is people will evaluate the benefits of change. They’ll consider whether that change is better for them or, if it makes things slightly worse, if the benefit to the business is worth the sacrifice. For example, most major software upgrades will add great new features but also remove some features and alter the user interface that people are used to. Resistance comes when the change and the need for change isn’t well communicated and the benefits aren’t clear for each user.

Five common user adoption mistakes

While people may not like change, they don’t have to be resistant to it if the change management program is effective. Here are some common mistakes that I see in change management programs:

  1. Concentrating on the technology, not the people
    When dealing with a large EIM change program, it’s easy to get caught up in the new features and functions in the software. You develop a change strategy and communications plan around showing everyone all the excellent things they now have at their fingertips. People aren’t interested in new features, but in how they can use them. For example, if someone spends the majority of their time researching on Document Management systems, they want to know about the new powerful search functions that will save them hours in their day. Listen to your users and create a program that concentrates on the features that will make their life better.
  2. Poor coordination between the IT and change teams
    Too often, the IT team and the change management team don’t work closely together. The IT team wants to make sure the software operates well and the system is secure and performs well but, past gathering initial user requirements, doesn’t consider people issues too closely. The change management team then takes over and is frustrated that the system isn’t as user-friendly as it could be. Closely aligning the change management team and IT team from the outset will overcome a great deal of this friction and deliver an EIM system that better addresses user requirements.
  3. Forgetting to involve the users
    I recently visited a large European company where they were going through their user acceptance testing process. Just one issue: there were no actual users! I’d like to say this was a rare occurrence, but I can’t. If you want change to be successful, your people come first. That really does mean you have to involve them as much as possible. Look at your change management process and identify where there is opportunity for more user involvement.
  4. Not understanding the learning culture within the organization
    There are many great new learning and training techniques available. Over the past few years, we’ve seen widespread adoption of virtual learning and eLearning. These technologies are flexible and cost-effective and allow users to learn at their own pace. They also require a specific learning culture where users are happy with the freedom these techniques provide and will take the time to use them. I spent time with a large manufacturer that had just invested in a sophisticated  new eLearning system. I asked them if they had used eLearning before and if they were educating their users about the new system. They hadn’t, and they weren’t going to because they were used to short classroom sessions. The ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy rarely works. Change should be driven in the context of the learning culture in your organization.
  5. Not giving the people what they need
    One of the most common mistakes that I come across revolves around the accuracy of documentation. This is a big issue in many areas for software management but it can be crippling in change management. The most common scenario is that new EIM software is delivered and all documentation is perfect. However, it then undergoes a process of patches and upgrades but the documentation is not kept up to date. When users come to adopt the new functionality from these changes, the documentation is now inaccurate.

I was recently shown a fantastic performance support system that provided everything including context-sensitive on-screen help. This was great because all the information within the help and tips section was automatically updated as part of a standard process. It’s important for companies to recognize the impact on change and quality readily-available instructions.

In the end, change management is never going to be ‘one size fits all’. It needs to be tailored to the individual needs of the user and the benefits they get from the new EIM software. There are now packaged change management solutions available that deliver customizable modules to take you through the preparation, deployment and post-implementation stages of your change management programs. In this way, you can create a change experience for users that helps make adoption smooth and natural.

Adopting EIM technology? OpenText Learning services can help advise how to get the most from your change management program. To find out more, please contact us.

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Dr. Wolfram Gebauer

Wolfram is Director for Learning Services helping customers with all aspects of enablement. He has spent over 20 years in the training and education space within software companies. Wolfram views change management and user adoption as keys to the success of employee education.

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