Change.

That one word has the ability to strike fear and terror in the hearts of users everywhere.

But change, in all its varied glory, is a necessary and integral part of technology. So how does one manage change in an organization to ensure success?

Change should not be something forced, unwanted, unexplained and as a surprise to users. Heavy-handedly telling users “Do it this way now, no objections” is a sure-fire way to get resistance and resentment from your user base – the very people who you relay upon to implement and adopt to changes in policy, procedure and technology.

Fortunately, change doesn’t have to be something dreaded and resented. If Change Management is handled correctly, your project will be a success.

So what is the best way to approach Change Management?

Step 1: Explain the Why

This seems like it should go without saying, but so many organizations and system administrators totally fail this crucial step. The key here is not to roll out the change with no warning, but instead to calmly and clearly explain why you are making the change well in advance.

For example, if you are upgrading your organization’s laptop operating systems to a new version, explain the reasoning behind the process – better security, ease of use, compatibility, cost savings – whatever your reasons are, explain them, in clear and simple terms, and do so far enough in advance of the implementation for users to get used to the idea.

The key is to make sure that your explanation is not full of technical terms and acronyms. You want this to be an easily understandable explanation worded using layman’s terms.

Step 2: Communication

This ties closely with Step 1. Make sure that both the reasoning behind the change, and the status of the change, is communicated early and often during the process, but be wary of information overload.

Oftentimes, a brief email with a link to a detailed explanation is the best route; this allows those who wish to know the reasoning to dive deeper, while allowing those who aren’t interested in the why to be aware of the change without having to read a detailed explanation. For example:

We would like to make users aware that over the next 30 days, you will be prompted to change your computer password in order to comply with updated security policies. If you would like more details on this change, please see the company SharePoint page by clicking here.

Step 3: Make sure the change is backed by company leaders

If people see the CEO, the President, or managers ignore the change – or worse yet, resist it – the likelihood of adoption and success of your project just nosedived. Employees take their cue from company leaders, and it is crucial that key individuals are accepting and “sell” the change.

Often, the best way to do this is have them be early adopters of the new technology – if you are implementing a new document management software, make sure that the company leaders are the first ones using the system, preferably before it is rolled out to the end users. This allows team members to see that their leaders are confident and comfortable with the new system, and increases adoption rate significantly.

Step 4: Remove barriers to change

Document, document, document. Create user manuals of the new systems and/or policies you are implementing. Provide users with the tools they need to succeed – whether that be printed user manuals, classroom-style training, a demo or sandbox version of the new system for people to play in and gain familiarity, or all of the above.

Also, if you are implementing a new computer system or drastically changing processes and workflows of information, provide ‘cheat sheets’ of the new system or process flow – simple one or two page documents that can be hung up at someone’s desk that visually illustrate the new process. Don’t underestimate the impact of someone who might be struggling with the change being able to see at a glance what they need to do.

One thing to consider – if you are implementing a whole new system and replacing an old one, consider limited or discontinuing access to the old system at the time of formal go-live to the new one. For example, if you are upgrading from a server file share to SharePoint 2013, make all the documents on the file share Read Only and prevent creation of new documents. If you are changing from CRM 2011 to CRM 2013, revoke access to CRM 2011 for everyone but administrators when CRM 2013 goes live. This ensures that users cannot continue to use the old system and that they must learn to use the new one.

The key to success with this approach is that you provide sufficient training and documentation ahead of time (and most importantly, the time during the day to study it!) so they are used to, and comfortable with, the new system before changing.

Step 5: Provide assistance, publish successes, and keep at it!

Make sure you provide a hotline or point of contact for people to reach out to if they have issues or questions with the new system or processes. If employees can’t figure out how to do something or don’t understand the training, they need to know how to find an answer, both initially and moving forward – otherwise dissatisfaction will grow, and it is likely that the next change will have more resistance because of it.

Also, people need to see that their efforts make a difference. If the new system decreases time to process sales orders by 50% – publish that! Send an email to all employees 30 and 60 days in to let everyone, not just the IT department and management, know that the new system has made a difference. Mention the success in the monthly newsletter, publish it on the intranet portal – whatever methods you have to disseminate information to employees, utilize them to let people know that the new change has been effective.

Change takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight, and adoption is an ongoing process. Keep reminding people of the benefits of the “new” ways, or they’ll revert to their previous systems or find ways around the new system.

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Good luck, and here’s to successful Change Management!

 

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