Michael O’Malley argues “it isn’t the technology itself that IT projects trip over.” Research from the Project Management Institute confirms that change management challenges account for most project failures. Harvard Business School defines organizational change management (OCM) as the process of guiding organizational change to a successful resolution and notes that it typically includes three phases: preparation, implementation, and follow-through.
When it comes to introducing new technologies, OCM is particularly important. If a new technology is underutilized, it is not worth the organization’s investment, regardless of how well it addresses the use case. While a new application’s technical benefits may be clear to the buying team, employees may see the new software as disruptive if it requires changing existing processes. Ultimately, if employees don’t embrace the change, it won’t be a success. With technological change now a business imperative, how can organizations ensure successful change management? Here are six best practices:
1. Define success
First and foremost, the goals of any change that will significantly impact workflows must be clearly defined. Goals provide a reference to measure progress against. It is helpful to establish goals in 3 key areas:
- People: Consider all stakeholders impacted by the planned change (including decision-makers, the implementation team, and users), and define how they will be informed and enabled on the new technology to maximize its value. Identify change champions who will help lead the way by becoming early adopters and advocates.
- Process: Outline the change management process, including required approvals. The simpler the process, the easier it will be to implement.
- Governance: Governance is a framework that defines how decisions are made and who has the authority to make them. Outline who has the authority to make decisions about buying and implementing new technology, as well as about communicating change.
2. Plan for success
It will pay big dividends to plan not only the implementation, but how stakeholders will be informed and engaged, and how decisions will be made. There is also clear evidence that neglecting change management can mean failing to achieve desired business outcomes or ROI. Working with a Customer Success Manager can help customers achieve stronger adoption and better overall results by helping develop a success plan that addresses both technology changes and change management strategy.
3. Emphasize Communication
To be supported across the organization, change must be communicated to all stakeholders, not only those directly impacted. Both process changes and desired business impacts should be shared to ensure that employees see their value. Communicating well in advance of significant changes creates opportunities to raise concerns and may flag challenges well before they derail progress. For OCM to succeed, it is important to foster a two-way dialogue. Listen to feedback, gauge employee response, and allow employees to suggest ideas for improvement. Finally, having an executive sponsor communicate the benefits also has several positive impacts. Transparency fosters trust, and communication from leadership encourages employee buy-in.
4. Engage employees
When it comes to communicating change, both the medium and the message matter. That is, both the information shared and the platform used can impact how the message is received. Delivering information in a format that invites sharing and discussion, such as social media, may increase engagement and boost buy-in. Some employees will adapt to change faster than others. Encouraging knowledge sharing will speed the learning process across the organization.
Effective communication and employee engagement will not only ensure a more successful change management process, but they are also essential to success. Employees who are not engaged or unsupportive of the change pose risks to overall success. Their resistance may inspire other employees to lose support for the project.
5. Train and reassure your teams
Beyond planning and communication, training is an important aspect of successful OCM. A training plan should be built into your change management plan. This can help ensure that you “hit the ground running” post-implementation rather than waiting for employees to adapt to new practices.
6. Celebrate successes
Celebrating wins and milestones can further support the transformation process. One way to do this is by recognizing change champions, employees who demonstrate leadership by adapting to change and sharing the positive results with co-workers. Simply recognizing employees who adopt new behaviours can be a great motivator to support change.
The phrase “begin with the end in mind” is fitting advice when it comes to change management. Before initiating change, all organizations will benefit from defining both desired outcomes and the path to achieving them.
Technology vendors are increasingly aware that technical support alone is not enough to help customers maximize the value of their technology investments. OpenText Customer Success Services supports customers in defining their goals, developing change management strategies, and implementing a governance framework. OpenText customers can find out more about success best practices resources in our Customer Success portal.