Five Steps for Successful Technology Change Management
By Contributing Author
Keeping up with technology is challenging. Technology is advancing rapidly, lowering barriers to entry. It’s also becoming more pervasive in our lives and jobs.
However, the more you put off technological change, the more difficult (and longer) your adjustment period will have to be.
As people, we really don’t like change. We don’t want to change how we do things, we fear the unknown, we feel inconvenienced. We may even question the credibility of those asking for change. Change creates anxiety and resistance, even if change is beneficial, saving us time and money.
Since a company is a collection of individuals, these challenges are magnified. Doing something new means making investments in technology, people, and processes. It also requires approaching change management in a structured fashion.
First, you’ll need to identify who to involve in the change process, lay out your goals, and select the most suitable change methodologies. That’s not all – after rolling out the change, you’ll have to provide training, reinforce the benefits, and combat resistance.
What is technological change management?
Even though individuals, organizations, and technologies are all unique, the good news is that it’s possible to follow a set of guidelines to ensure a successful transition from an older to a future state.
Change management refers to research and methods surrounding helping individuals and companies manage transitions. By establishing and following a technological change management process, brands can better control new technology adoption and minimize surprises along the way. Besides, without a solid strategy to follow, even the best plans can backfire and fail.
Let’s look at a few critical steps and tactics for successful technology change management.
Step 1. Recognize and understand why you need to change.
The first step in any change process is understanding why change is needed. While it’s tempting to select something that needs fixing and come up with a solution, take the time to truly understand your situation. For example, many companies want to change to improve the experience for their customers, to streamline back-office process, or to prepare their business for the future.
Laying out these drivers enables you to visualize how external factors affect your organization. It also helps get stakeholders on the same page and brainstorm how to respond to these changes. Once your goals in place, you’ll better be able to craft a strategy and approach and assign resources to reach them.
Step 2. Select the right methodology to reach your goals.
Organizations change all the time, and many change management models have been developed to help guide companies through this process. There are two main approaches to this: individual change management and organizational change management.
Both camps recognize that change happens at an individual level. Individual change management focuses on understanding how people experience change. It identifies the emotional and psychological reaction to changes, and strategies that make changes stick. Organizational change management helps manage groups of people and recommends leadership, coaching, and training practices for successful transformations.
Step 3. Communicate the need for change.
Once you’ve laid out the groundwork for your plan, it’s time to inform stakeholders about upcoming changes, how they will affect them, and what they should expect. It is a time-consuming process as you’ll have to set up change management teams, establish communication channels, and measure results to ensure your efforts have the desired effect.
If you rush this stage, you can leave out important players, erode the quality of your message, and most importantly, fail to get everyone behind the change. Once this commitment weakens, it’s much more difficult to build it back again, especially if others have had poor change management experiences.
Step 4. Perform the change.
When the time comes to perform the change, ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands their role in the project. Examine the overall reaction to change and continue with feedback collection. You may discover that other elements in your organization need to change, such as the addition of new roles, infrastructure, or systems. Stay attentive to any internal or client feedback – this can also change the trajectory of your project.
Agility is key here. Not just during the planning stage but also when building and implementing your technology. A popular strategy is a minimum viable product (MVP) approach. This approach prioritizes learning, feedback collection, and iterative approaches to product development and implementation. While striking a balance between “minimum” and “viable” introduces its challenges, an MVP is a sure way to ensure adoption and minimize resistance.
Step 5. Reinforce the change.
Resistance is a natural response to change. Leaders can resist change over time as they lose sight of company objectives. Departments and individuals tend to resent lost functionality, having to readjust, or fear the unknown.
Thus, a structured approach to resistance management is a key aspect of ensuring adoption after making the change. As always, communication plays a big part here, as you’ll need to constantly relay the right message, collect feedback, and measure your progress. You may need to create separate plans for departments, teams, or customers.
Take the uncertainty out of change.
As mentioned before, change is hard. The vast majority of change management projects don’t deliver the desired results or fail outright.
And no one is immune to failure – just think of Blockbuster or Kodak. Most change management failures are a result of a failed strategy rather than a failed process or methodology.
There are many reasons for this. Some point to poor preparation, poor goal-setting or planning, or inadequate communication. A poor handle on resistance and adoption management is also a common element of failure.
Thus, it’s important to focus on guiding people through your technology change project and providing the training, communication, and the right reward mechanism to realize the change. Listen to customer feedback and craft promotions, discounts, or other perks to encourage adoption. All this involves leadership, perseverance, and foresight to engage, support, and upskill everyone impacted by the change.