Good change management is about more than putting the right technology in place. How you deal with the people using it can be the difference between success and failure.
The IT market is constantly evolving, and change is always one of the most challenging aspects of the job for any IT manager. Not only will they have to cope with the technical issues this creates, such as migrating from old to new technologies and concerns about integration and compatibility, but there will also be a range of other factors to consider.
One of the most pressing will be the human element. Ensuring that end-users - whether these are employees or customers - will accept the changes and be prepared to move to the new systems is vital. Yet many companies may overlook this if they are focusing solely on the technology.
The results of this can be significant. An IT system that users feel unprepared for, or one they do not believe is necessary, will never be able to reach its full potential as employees will be unwilling or unable to engage with it. Therefore, a strong focus on human factors is an essential part of any change management strategy.
But what does this mean in practice? Here are a few things to be aware of.
Understanding the personalities involved
It's inevitable that there will be differences in opinion among your staff when it comes to change. Some people will be highly enthusiastic about the project, and will jump at any chance to get involved. Others will be more skeptical about the prospect of having to learn new technologies and abandon established ways of doing things.
There will also be a percentage of workers who remain indifferent about the whole process. By some estimates, a typical company can expect about a quarter of employees to be 'enthusiasts' and another quarter to be 'skeptics', leaving around half the user base as indifferent.
It can be tempting to focus attention on the enthusiasts, who will be eager to offer their input into the process, as well as look to answer any objections the doubters will have, and assume the rest of the company will just go with the flow. But this would be a mistake, as employees who are disengaged will be less likely to embrace the change, even if they have no specific objections to it.
Building confidence in the new solutions
Therefore, a key activity is to build user confidence and excitement in the new systems, explain why the change is taking place, and demonstrate clearly how the tools will benefit them. How businesses go about deploying solutions and training workers on them will have a big role to play in this.
Firms must avoid creating the impression that new technology is being pushed onto employees with no regard for their opinions. Therefore, creating working groups that bring together employees from every area of the business will be important. Ensuring that everyone's voices are taken into account - not just those who are positive about the change - is essential.
Confidence also comes from the top. If high-level and C-suite executives take the lead and act as evangelists for the change, this will greatly help other employees feel positive about the process and reassure them that it is being treated as a priority at the board level.
Training is another area that must be given close consideration. It won't be enough to simply lecture staff on how new features work. Instead, they must emphasize how the tools will make work easier and more productive.
For example, if there is an automation capability in the new system that can remove the need for tedious, manual data entry activities, make sure to clearly show how this works. If people can see for themselves how the new tools will improve their everyday work, this is much more likely to get people on board with the system than boring them with statistics or claims of cost savings that won't be personally relevant to end users.
Keeping stress to a minimum
Transitioning to a new system can be a hugely stressful time for everyone in the business. Naturally, IT departments will be worried about ensuring it performs as expected, but end users may also be apprehensive about what it will mean for their work. Will it cause disruption at the changeover? Will they be able to find all the information they need? How much time will they have to spend getting to grips with the new system before they can be productive?
How the rollout takes place can have a big impact on people's stress levels, especially for more major projects. Strong change management practices should therefore try to avoid any sudden, irreversible transitions wherever possible. Sometimes, this may be unavoidable if you're switching to a new system that will be a core part of how you work, but there are steps you can take to mitigate this.
Trying to work in stages wherever possible, trialing new solutions with specific team members to identify any potential problems, and ensuring all users are fully trained before day one can go a long way to making the process as smooth as possible and keeping stress to a minimum.
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