Change, a.k.a Acute Distress
To fear the unknown is human. But who says that the unknown is necessarily bad? Leaving one’s comfort zone is never pleasant, but once started, it can be rewarding.
Any IT project requires change from the organization involved and its staff, users and enthusiastic reps. But change has to be carefully managed to convince those affected by it that the projected gain will be worth the short-term pain.
Change management activities extend the lead-up to implementation, but make no assumptions: suppliers are not a big bad wolf with profits on the brain, but rather a young attentive goldilocks who knows that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Indeed, absent any form of change management, IT projects can end in user dissatisfaction, lack of uptake and, ultimately, rejection of the solution. Obviously, any new IT solution requires a considerable investment in time and money; all the more reason to not let it go to waste due to poor change management. Though no easy task, change management can mean the difference between a solution that unites users through its adoption, or one that fails to replace the old system and represents a net loss for the company.
Involving the entire organization is key to an IT project’s success. The same goes for change management: the organization must “carry” the change. It must set an example for all its users. The best way to achieve this is by assigning the project to leaders within the organization who will optimize its impact on the main stakeholders, i.e. the end-users.
Project managers within an organization have an overall vision of the project, but not necessarily the influence to generate a buzz among end-users. Cue in the designated “champions” within the end-user community: they are intimately acquainted with their team’s workflows and have the necessary influence to carry the change.
Another key to successful change management is communication. To foster personal involvement, the entire organization as well as end-users should be kept abreast of all new developments and milestones reached. Communication goes a long way to reassuring the organization and end-users. A communications strategy should be developed, including a schedule of the times when the project will be given high visibility. The ideal frequency and number of these periods is not set in stone, but the more there are, the more comfortable and confident everyone will be with the project.
Internal communication, channelled through the selected champions, makes end-users feel more involved in the project. They’ll eagerly take ownership of the new solution, becoming actors for change. Uninformed of a project, end-users have no interest in it and stymie it by being hostile to change. No product sells without some sort of marketing. Your product can be the highest-tech and the most innovative, but users won’t adopt it without a communications strategy.
Change management must be included from the very outset of a project, right through to completion. At each new implementation milestone, save some time for change management activities at every level: stakeholders, organization and supplier. In fact, we recommend dedicating a full-time resource to change management.
Change management is a long-term process every bit as important to success as project management.
Change management is key to optimal project implementation and to wholehearted adoption by end-users. End-users must be constantly reminded of the new system’s added value and kept abreast of its progress.
Change is now! /Yes We Can!