The desire to deploy a new technology sets in motion a chain of events in the business: analysts, managers, developers and other interested parties are pulled together. They need to understand what’s changed, what’s the same, and when and how the technology can be implemented.
On the sidelines, many others can do little more than wait anxiously even though it’s their daily routines that may be upended by the new and improved solution. There is often little visibility or input from them since “it’s an IT project.” This way of thinking is counterproductive on many levels.
The ultimate goal of any IT project is to deliver benefit to the business. If there’s no overlap between planners and users there’s little chance to maximize that benefit. To boost adoption and buy-in, a critical but often overlooked activity is proactive Business Change Management (BCM).
BCM is a way to transition individuals, teams, and organizations from a current way of doing things to a better way of doing things. BCM is a process, not an event: it needs to happen over the entire course of the project and it is much more than just a communications plan. There’s no room for spectators here, everyone needs to be engaged early and often. Only when people are involved in the process will they be ready and willing to accept the changes when live.
Here are some effective steps when introducing IT changes at any organization:
Name your manager. The Business Change Manager will have an active role throughout delivering the entire project—not just during the final stages of preparing for go-live. This person must be introduced early to all affected groups. Make them the go-to person for questions on what is about to happen and why.
Share the vision. Project stakeholders need to be evangelists. They are responsible for communicating the big picture and its importance to the organization. Support needs to come from the top and the project vision must be communicated clearly.
Be prepared. Great Business Change Managers don’t wait for the questions and concerns, they actively workshop with stakeholders and others to anticipate and identify issues and have answers ready. The plan should also address what type of communication, training, and other engagement are necessary at each stage of the project.
Target the message. Different groups have different concerns. While there will be corporate-wide announcements, there is never a one-size-fits-all communication that makes business change happen. Messages need to be targeted to different roles, departments, and functions. The important thing to focus on is the answer to “How will this affect me?” for every possible asker. Tell them early how their activities will change, why it is important and better, and why it’s imperative for the organization to change at all. You need their support and they need to hear how they can best support you. Get them engaged and excited!
Get them ready. All too often the first glimpse an end user has of the system is when it goes live. This can lead to frustration and longings for “the old way”—not to mention reluctance to adopt. Making sure users are well prepared in advance is a key success factor. If core processes will be changing, say so loudly, clearly, and early. Provide hands-on training prior to going live and use a “train the trainer” approach where possible.
Change is almost always difficult. Respect this fact and respect your users and you’ll be well on your way to success. Business Change Management, when done with care, will position your organization to fully reap the benefits of any new solution. Change is essential, but it doesn’t have to be unpleasant.