I was once on site doing an initial tour of one of our prospective information technology (IT) implementations. We had just signed the contract and so decided to do a walk-through to have a more complete view of what to expect once we got started. Our initial walk-through had been done a little over a year before, so we wanted to know whether there had been any changes to what we saw then.
As we were going through, we were introduced to staff, and there was some discussion surrounding what we would be doing with the technology. I could see the anxiety in the faces of staff members who were unsure of where they would stand once the technology was implemented – it was the first time they were being made aware that the technology would be introduced.
In fact, the lead from the company seemed unsure himself, and instead of assuring staff of their role, made it seem like the IT solution would make them obsolete. Suffice to say, we had some very uncomfortable moments during that walk-through.
This was not new to me because it was not the first time that we were approaching an implementation without any briefing or thought for the importance of change management to the process. While this aspect of things is somewhat outside of our purview, I had to stress to the lead implementers at the company that they must go through this process to assuage the fear of staff and make them not just understand what was happening, but also their importance in the process before, during, and after implementation. Simply put, the staff needed to know that they would still play a role in the organisation after the technology was introduced, as well as what their role would shape up to be. Importantly, one has to ensure that the change is implemented without affecting the normal day-to-day processes of the business.
As simple as the concept of change management may sound, without it, all efforts of transformation through technology could come tumbling down. I have faced such a difficulty before and believe me, no matter the great intent and the wonder of the technology, if the staff is not on board, it will not be successful.
Resistance to change is one of the biggest risk factors for a successful IT implementation. In fact, one can implement the technology solution and then find that it is not used at all, or effectively, if the staff was not convinced of its importance and their role in making it a success.
Change management describes the process and techniques required to ensure that people are given the knowledge they need, understand the objectives and their part in implementation – and after – to ensure that you achieve the business outcomes envisioned, with their help.
There are some basics that need to be covered even before we get to the first stages of implementation. For one, the entire organisation needs to be informed of plans to introduce new technology. Nothing and no one should be taken for granted. This means that staff at all levels should be involved and not just the management core.
COMMUNICATION IS VITAL
I cannot overestimate the importance of communication to this process. At every step of the way, staff needs to be updated. Change management has to be a continuous process, and so there should always be various fora for staff to get information and provide feedback. While it is good to introduce information-sharing mechanisms like newsletters, providing a stage for staff to have face-to-face contact with team leaders, ask questions, and provide feedback and ideas, is just as important, or even more so. When people feel fully involved in the process and understand what is happening, chances are, they will feel more useful and be more helpful.
I have now asked my team to provide assistance and be a part of initial staff sensitisation sessions, because when the companies do not manage change effectively and the IT solution is not used as intended, the feedback can be against the solution itself and not the process failure.
Published: Sunday | July 28, 2019 | 12:16 AM Doug Halsall