Even the pandemic-driven work-from-home arrangements provide the ability for employees to stay connected at any hour of the day. This environment also increases the need for team members to step away from their constant screen time and manage blurred work/life boundaries.
Many organizations rely on their own internal communication teams, training programs, and business users to drive change within their organizations. This often leads to reinventing the wheel with every change effort rather than leveraging a consistent methodology for change. When a standardized change methodology is embedded into the DNA of an organization, teams become more agile and changes are adopted faster. Simply put, organizations can adapt to the next inevitable change when it comes.
Through a “people” lens, we have supported countless large-scale digital technology implementations over the years and recognize the need for the rigor behind the technical design and systems development activities. Unfortunately, the energy and focus to deliver a new system often takes priority over the “human element”. We’ve seen outstanding technologies fail to get the desired outcomes because a “people problem” got in the way! At a time when change fatigue and digital saturation are at all-time highs, organizations must commit to the principles of change management as a strategic imperative for their near-term stability and future growth.
When a technology aims to make an organization more efficient, innovative or engaged, project leaders must plan for the people side of these change efforts with the same level of rigor as they do their technical solutions. The following examples illustrate the tremendous impact of human behavior and critical need for a user adoption focus to the success of these initiatives.
- Cloud-based digital transformations can invoke concerns from both leaders and employees about data privacy and should be surfaced and addressed in non-technical terms.
- As accountability shifts from the organization to individuals through self-service technologies, successful outcomes depend on a higher level of ownership by the individual user, and these new expectations should be thoughtfully communicated to everyone.
- The primary success of digital transformations is often measured by meeting a set “go-live” date (usually in response to an aggressive technical timeline!) rather than successful adoption rates or the achievement of specific quality outcomes.
- When automation is introduced to a business, some may equate this with the potential for job losses or layoffs. Clearly managing expectations about what’s changing and what’s not changing is paramount.
- Even the pandemic-driven work-from-home arrangements provide the ability for employees to stay connected at any hour of the day. This environment also increases the need for team members to step away from their constant screen time and manage blurred work/life boundaries.
As many of us approach the next change that will come our way in today’s digital era, the examples noted above may be potential risks, but they can also serve as areas of great opportunity. The more we discuss and make use of tools to manage change effectively, the more we develop agile, adaptive work environments, the more we engage healthy, high performing teams, the more we enable organizations to achieve their strategic objectives.
Embedding a change management discipline into how we plan for and deploy technology solutions allows employees, teams, and leaders alike to leverage a shared framework to drive even higher levels of adoption and success. To that end, we recommend that every digital transformation effort embed a true change management and user adoption approach into the overall lifecycle of the project. The following five key areas of focus, then, can enhance every new deployment and deliver a more positive change experience.
- Define Success – Ensure that the delivery of any technology solution includes not only technical, financial, and time-based measures of success (e.g., on time, on budget, and on target) but also clear indicators around stakeholder engagement and user adoption.
- Prepare Leadership – Engage senior leadership as true change champions. Be explicit about any project risks that impact the human element, address them head on (e.g., change scope or delay go-live dates), and have leadership communicate any decisions from their own inbox.
- Increase Readiness – Measure the organization’s readiness to change early in the process and develop targeted change strategies to address any gaps. Provide substantive training and repeat it as needed to ensure everyone can in fact perform their jobs after the transition occurs.
- Manage the Message – Communicate early and often, developing a comprehensive communication plan to distribute information throughout the project. Establish a consistent pattern (e.g., weekly newsletters, monthly Town Halls, etc.) to share relevant project updates.
- Make it Stick – Don’t stop once the technology solution is in place. Digital transformation is an ongoing transition that requires continuous communication and training to reinforce new business processes and use of the digital solution, especially with any new release or upgrade.
These change management and people-focused activities, however, do not exist in isolation, and they aren’t just the job of your Change Management advisors. To be effective, these critical areas of concentration require the concerted effort of all team members, representatives from all stakeholder groups, and especially your executive sponsors. That’s why we regularly talk about an integrated implementation approach, blending more traditional project management methodologies with this more targeted change management methodology.
Are you planning a new digital transformation project? Need some help managing the people side of your technology changes? Give us a call at 310.589.4600 or email us to learn more about how to embed deliberate action steps like these into your digital transformation efforts and discuss how best to engage your key stakeholders and impacted work groups in the process. We’re committed to making your technology change a positive change experience!
Author’s Note: Special thanks to Jennifer Manuel for her continued support in championing our strategic change efforts and especially for her generous contribution in co-authoring this article