An increasingly connected world, new digital habits, and changing customer expectations are pushing even the most technophobic organizations to change. Legacy and manual processes are on the way out, making room for automated, digital operations. But the change is not always well-received. In fact, many employees remain wary. McKinsey and Company reported that 70% of all transformations fail, citing lack of employee engagement and inadequate management support as the top reasons. If companies don’t consider how to manage the change before embarking on a project, they’re ignoring what may prove their largest obstacle.
It’s not just about technology
As new technologies like artificial intelligence transform organizations across industries, the potential business benefits are a powerful argument for change, but don’t resonate with everyone. Seasoned leaders know that the biggest challenge to new technology or process adoption with a large workforce is not the technology itself, but rather how it’s introduced to end-users.
Overcoming these obstacles is possible with the proper planning and prioritization early on. By providing leaders with the tools to tackle problems as they arise, they can better anticipate and neutralize them ahead of time.
Facilitating change management
Worldwide spending on digital transformation technologies hit $1.1 trillion in 2017 according to IDC. And it’s poised to grow 16.8% to $1.3 trillion in 2018. Significant investments are going toward hardware, software, and services, and the investment in managing the process must complement the dollars spent. There are dozens of ways to strategically implement a change management process, and there are dozens of ways it can go wrong. Below are a few means for addressing change and successfully driving implementations:
Develop a “why” narrative. Your new solution is likely addressing myriad problems, but those problems hold different significance for different stakeholders. Your CEO wants to increase customer satisfaction without driving up service costs. Your IT support staff wants to spend less time troubleshooting your new solution. Your mobile workers want less time behind the wheel and more time helping customers. Develop a compelling “why” narrative for each group when advocating for change.
Engage end users from the start. It’s not unusual for end users to be excluded from evaluating potential solutions. However, it is very common for experienced IT leaders to include end users in the process after learning from a prior less-than-successful implementation. Communicate proactively at every stage to allow your team time to get used to the idea, solicit their input, and make the process inclusive and open.
Think “change leadership”. “Change management” implies wrangling the complexities of a change that’s already underway. Maintain a change leadership mindset, and take stock of who needs to be included in the planning stages. Understand how and when is best to work with groups within the organization and model good change management behavior before the project officially begins.
Prioritize training, and more training. When possible, training on new systems should begin well ahead of going live to make the final switch feel less like a cliff and more like a speed bump. Equally as important are periodic post-launch trainings to make sure everyone is using the system in the manner intended. There should also be training as new processes or policies are added and when new employees or contractors join. Wide-scale adoption often uncovers opportunities for improvement and behaviors or usage patterns not captured in the original plans.
Celebrate meaningful milestones. Progress will look different for the various teams in your organization, so set milestones that will resonate not just with the CEO or end user, but with every stakeholder in between. Celebrate wins as milestones are reached after implementing the solution, organization-wide. Positive reinforcement encourages desired behavior, and the effect is magnified when people see their peers praised. They want the same kind of recognition.
Reassess yesterday’s processes. Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford is credited with saying, “If I had asked the people what they wanted, they would have told me faster horses.” Don’t use new tools to do things the old way. It sends mixed messages to your company about the value of the change and expectations for adoption. Rethink your operations to get the most value out of a sophisticated solution rather than using it to replicate problematic processes.
Change management is a long-term effort. Following up at regular intervals with key stakeholders and end users sends the message that their input remains relevant and will continue shaping how the company uses new technologies. Getting ahead of the issues that are common during a time of change ensures superior execution and more expedient value to the bottom line.
Paul Whitelam is Senior Vice President, Global Marketing, for ClickSoftware.