Saturday, August 30, 2008

New Technologies Change Things

By Mark Holmgren

New technology and software solutions, especially large-scale solutions, generally mean changes to operations, business processes, employee learning, reporting, and even how a business engages its client-base.

If your organization is faced with significant change, you might want to consider undertaking a change facilitation process to help ensure that everyone affected can play a role in making change happen effectively and efficiently.

Effective change facilitation requires optimal involvement of users, especially regarding how their particular roles and responsibilities will be affected by a new application or business process. Our facilitation of change begins with ensuring the right people are at the table reviewing business requirements and working together to determine appropriate user Interfaces, reporting requirements, help screen requirements, and learning needs.

We believe as well that line users require appropriate involvement in adjusting business processes, where required, to best utilize the new system.

Executive leadership is paramount Employees look to executive management for leadership and inspiration when faced with major change in the business environment. While the CEO and other key management staff do not necessarily have to be leading the facilitated change process, they should be clear with their employees and other stakeholders about the objectives and intended benefits of the changes. The role of executive leadership should include articulating the vision, leading group meetings at key milestones, ensuring that ongoing communication channels are in place, and providing clear guidance to those who carry responsibilities for the design of change.

Identify concerns and aspirations up front When we engage a client in this work, we stress the importance of working with all stakeholders up front to identify the worries, concerns, resistances, as well as aspirations they have with respect to the many changes coming at them. Such an analysis helps to create an appropriate change strategy.

The stages of a change project A change project occurs over stages, from the identification of business needs all the way through project implementation. For those affected by the change, they need to be "helped" along the change path, first by increasing their awareness of the need to change, which is typically best accomplished by involving them appropriately in the initial stages of the project or initiative.

This involvement builds their desire to find solutions to their needs and challenges. As the project moves through its conceptual stage, their knowledge grows in terms of needs and solutions. They begin learning about what new abilities they will have, which require regular reinforcement well past implementation. An appropriate change process will address these stages effectively and in a timely manner.

The change team Given that the software applications are often implemented in concert with business model changes, we recommend striking a change team that involves key vendors/suppliers and relevant representation from the organization's staff. This central team is responsible for working with all affected employees and often key customers in order to ensure optimal issues management and to solicit important feedback throughout the project.

For large-scale initiatives, it can be helpful to contract with an external consultant to coordinate, if not lead change management activities.

Communication is key Part and parcel of a stellar change process is regular, informative, and clear communication throughout all phases of the initiative. If a technology initiative is affecting many employees in various locations, it might be prudent to create a website exclusively devoted to the project, where staff and other stakeholders can go to glean the latest news about progress, provide input as required, download pertinent materials as they are developed, and communicate with one another in functional groupings.

Mark Holmgren is the President of 24 reasons consulting. He specializes in helping non profits and businesses in strategy development, the development and measurement of organizational metrics, and in technology innovation. Visit the 24 reasons website at and/or the company's blog at

No comments: