Project Management, Strategy

How to Succeed in Change Management

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Successful implementation of new technology is as much about the change management process as it is about the quality of the software. If you don't manage your team through change, it doesn't matter how good the technology is - it will never reach its potential.

Change management is the discipline which helps companies improve their end user adoption of a software, resulting in companywide success that takes full advantage of new technologies. In the services-based business, people are the greatest asset, so it makes sense to keep your employees (your greatest assets) supported and informed during a time of change so that they can in turn support and inform their clients.

The following change management tips and tricks can help you succeed with both your people and deliverables.

Change Management for People

Using the following roles in the process of change management can ensure a smooth transition supported by your entire team. The roles outlined below can be for one or more individuals, and it is not necessarily a one to one mapping.

Change Lead: The overall driver of change activities throughout the organization and responsible to create and execute off of the change management plan. The change lead will utilize the people, processes, and technologies at their disposal to educate and support end users throughout the implementation and beyond.

Communications Lead: Responsible for providing the content for any communications sent out to members of your organization and for orchestrating the messaging. The communication lead owns the communication plan.

Leadership Team: The executive stakeholders/sponsors that participate actively (and visibly) throughout the project. They make decisions, communicate effectively with employees, managers, and peers alike to set the stage for a successful implementation. Their buy-in for your solution encourages the operational changes necessary for success.

Project Team Members: The implementation team members including (but not limited to) your project manager, your SMEs, your technical leads, your trainers, and your administrators.

Change Agents: Influence the transformation happening at an organization, ideally in a positive manner, with a focus on each individual or group of individuals they are responsible for. They can be incredibly useful when rolling out training, as they can provide peer-to-peer insight that a change lead may not have. Change agents can come from any level of the organization, from an individual contributor to a member of the leadership team.

Change Management for Deliverables

Change management requires several plans to be acted out. Each of these will serve a specific purpose in ensuring a smooth transition.

Change Management Plan: This plan provides a blueprint of the specific activities, content, due dates, and ownership of the activities throughout the lifecycle of the project, which the change team will use for executing change throughout the organization. This plan identifies all of the ancillary activities which encompass the change initiatives at large, always making sure to answer the question of “What’s in it for me?” to the audience of any change activity taking place. The change management plan combines your overall vision for the change, change activities, and the personnel responsible for providing or receiving the activities, as outlined in the People section.

Communication Plan: This plan articulates key messages that need to go to those affected by change. It also accounts for who will send the messages and when they will be sent. The communication plan and change plan are used in parallel throughout the duration of the change. Having clear-cut communication to your end users allows you to set expectations with them, mitigate their fears, and control the messaging behind the change so you can better inform them of what is to come. If you do not properly communicate the coming changes, employees will draw their own conclusions, and those false conclusions can spread; the purpose of the communication plan is to map out the communications which are being received by end users to ensure consistency and to streamline communication.

Training Plan: This plan identifies who will need what training, the curriculum and form of training, any deliverables required for training, and when that training will be delivered. Training is a key component to end user adoption, and the purpose of the Training Plan is to formalize your training process and specifics. The training plan is typically owned by the trainers and the change lead.

By combining your strategy for people and deliverables, you’re able to plan, map out, and execute your change management initiatives throughout your organization.

Phased vs Big Bang Approach

When rolling out a software solution for the first time, there is always a conundrum: should we roll it out to everyone, with all features all at once, or take a phased approach with our deployment?

The Phased Approach has multiple go-lives where modules and/or users are deployed throughout the company in different phases. This is done to slowly introduce the solution to your organization and gain knowledge and excitement along the way. Legacy systems are still up and running and the risk of going live is reduced.

The Big Bang Approach has a single go-live date where all modules and integrations for all users are implemented throughout the company at once. This is typically done to reduce costs and enable all functional areas of the company to utilize the new software. Legacy systems are decommissioned and integrations are configured to ensure your company has a single source of truth for its data. In doing so, your company will be able to see the benefits of the system almost instantly.

There are merits to both cases and the following factors help determine which is right for your company:

  • Systems: Are you currently using a system/systems to be replaced by the new solution with a defined sunset date?
  • Locations: Are you rolling out across many locations, with many different time zones and/or ways of working?
  • Resources: Are your team members on a multitude of other projects? Do you have some key resources which will only be available during a certain time frame? Do you have the resources to support the testing, adoption, training, and ongoing adoption necessary to be successful with your deployment?
  • Aptitude to Change: Is there a high risk of “failure” with your implementation? Do your users take a lot of time and hand-holding to adapt to new processes? Is it easier to communicate a change to a subset of users with a roadmap for the future, or is it easier to explain the finished design to all users?
  • Return on Investment: How quickly would you like to begin reaping the benefits of your investment in the software? What are your budget constraints?
  • Goals: What does success look like to your company? What are your priorities to achieve with your implementation?

The phased approach works well with companies spread over multiple locations with conflicting time zones. If you’re trying to have weekly calls with team members across the globe, it is difficult to set a meeting time which works well for everyone, so having a phased approach can work well for collaboration alone. This approach also works well if you would like to phase by function and functionality to slowly build on the complexities of your processes. Pioneering users can aid in being champions and leaders for the subsequent rollouts of the solution.

The Big Bang Approach works well with a clear-set vision as to what you are looking to accomplish with your implementation, as long as you have the resources and drive to complete this change all at once. Companies achieve a return on their investment quicker and due to the fact that the changes occur all at once, this approach is (generally speaking) more economical from a services perspective.

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