Businesses change all the time; if they don't, they grow stagnant and die. It's the nature of existence. But with each newly adopted innovation, individual employees must change the way they work.
And if that change isn't done well, it puts your goals at risk.
That's why change management is so critical to a successful, thriving organization. But what can we learn from the fundamental principles of change management when applied to technology?
Today's businesses are increasingly tech-focused, and change is happening all the time. Every time you introduce new technology to your business processes, it invites risk—which is why it's imperative to adopt the right mindset about change and how to manage it smoothly.
What Is Change Management?
It's often said that organizations don't fail; people do. It's human nature to resist change and overcome obstacles in our individual—and often incongruent—ways. That's why managing an organized transition is so crucial if businesses wish to ensure that they don't lose momentum or resources along the way.
That's where change management, or the structured process of leading a team through a change, comes in. It's an approach to supporting your staff through evolutionary growth towards a specific goal.
Change management is based on various theories—such as behavioural science, systems thinking, and psychology—with the central idea that change never happens in a vacuum. No matter the size or scale of the intended change, it affects the entire organization and everyone involved. So for successful transformation, you need a comprehensive strategy that accounts for the human aspect of any organizational effort.
The Four Key Principles of Change Management
While the change management process varies depending on the model you use, all change management is based on four core stages:
- Understand Change. For change to be effective, you need to understand all the "ins and outs." You need to know what it is, how it will be achieved, and why it needs to happen.
- Plan Change. This stage includes achieving high-level sponsorship of the change project and identifying wider involvement and buy-in opportunities across the organization.
- Communicate Change. This stage is arguably the most important. Everyone involved needs to know why the change is happening, feel optimistic about it, and understand how to achieve success. Without frequent and transparent communication, your new project probably won't get far.
- Implement Change. When it comes to carrying out your plan, you'll need to ensure that everyone involved knows what they're doing. This may encompass addressing training needs, appointing "change agents," providing support for people across the organization, and setting specific success criteria.
Now that you have a basic understanding of change management principles let's look at these principles through a tech-focused lens.
How Does Change Management Relate to Technology?
Technology change management involves following change management processes to choose and implement new technology while:
- Reducing resistance to change in your company culture,
- Improving communication, and
- Increasing the efficiency of the organization.
While tech change management can apply to projects as complex as designing completely new technology—like custom web applications, for example—technology change management can be applied to something as simple as integrating new software into your organization's standard workflow. In this article, we'll use a simple situation for illustration purposes.
Let's say you're the office manager of a law firm, and you're considering upgrading to a new case management software. You know you should think about making this tech change because your current Excel spreadsheet solution is clunky and prone to letting deadlines and client information fall through the cracks.
Below, we'll break down the steps of implementing change management in your technology using the four fundamental principles outlined above.
Step 1: Understand Change
The first step is to understand the change from all angles. If you're thinking about implementing tech change management in your organization, you probably know why you need to change. Ask yourself what it would look like if and when you make the transition.
In our law firm example, the office manager might write down:
- Our main goals are to improve staff efficiency and increase security for confidential client data.
The new tech will improve the firm's output by:
- Reducing time spent with repetitive manual data entry
- Sending automatic notifications of upcoming deadlines
- Storing all relevant client information in one secure place
The new tech will improve the team's day-to-day by freeing staff to spend more time on critical tasks than data entry and checking for upcoming deadlines.
The steps the team needs to take to get there include:
- Installing the software on everyone's computer
- Transferring data from spreadsheets and digital files into the software
- Watching training videos on using the new platform
Don't be afraid to consider the opportunity cost of remaining the way you are, either. What are you risking by maintaining the status quo?
Step 2: Plan Change
Next, it's time to create a plan.
Start by getting approval from the top. As the law firm's office manager, this is the point where you would approach the senior partner with your proposal. You'd explain your plan and the reasons why you think this software change is necessary. Walk her through your transition plan and proposed budget, and get her approval.
Then, plan the change down to the smallest detail possible. You'll also need to begin involving others in your plan and finding ways to make the transition sound appealing to everyone.
For instance, you might:
- Point out to the paralegals that the new software will make their jobs easier by cutting down on their manual data entry and tracking deadlines automatically
- Demonstrate to the receptionists that the new software will let them record call messages and notes directly in a client's digital file
- Show the attorneys that the software will store critical client data in the cloud, which is easily accessible from anywhere—including the courtroom—using a secure sign-in
Discuss the transition with team members and seek out others who may help you make the plan a reality.
Step 3: Communicate Change
Next, spread the news of the improving technology to come. This stage is arguably the most crucial to successful change management; without effective and open communication, even the most well-intentioned change project is at risk of failure.
At your law firm, you might:
- Hold a staff meeting to present the upcoming changes. Demonstrate, on a large scale, how the new software will make everyone's jobs easier.
- Announce the transition plans organization-wide. Be clear about what date the transition period will begin and what duties everyone will be responsible for.
Everyone in the organization needs to know why the change is happening, feel optimistic about it, and understand how they can succeed with the new technology.
Step 4: Implement Change
This is the point at which change officially takes place. You'll put your transition plan into action and ensure that everyone involved has a complete understanding of how to fill their roles. In our law firm example, this is the stage where you would:
- Oversee training in the new system. Hold staff meetings to introduce the latest software, watch video tutorials, and visually present new workflows using the latest software.
- Appoint "change agents" to manage the transition at a micro-level. Maybe a few of your younger or more tech-savvy staff members have a better handle on the new software. Invite these employees to help their peers adjust to the changes as seamlessly as possible.
- Set benchmarks for success. Appropriate goals might be to transfer data from the old spreadsheets into the new system within two weeks or have every staff member complete a select number of training videos on the latest software.
How to Implement Change Management in Your Business
Resistance to change (from the executive level down to the frontline staff) can impede technology as much as budget constraints or IT limitations. The role of change management is to foresee and prepare for these kinds of obstacles in your team's transition.
Of course, even with the best plans in place, it's impossible to avoid all growing pains related to change. It can be challenging to avoid a steep learning curve or a lack of internal cohesion.
The best strategies for success when implementing new technology in your organization stem from the change management framework. Ensure you get approval and sponsorship from the top and create a visible, clear transition plan that keeps every stakeholder on the same page. Keep communication both frequent and transparent. And do as much as you can to demonstrate to every team member the value the new technology can bring to their work experience and how each employee can achieve success.
If you're in the process of developing your technology innovation, we can help! Reach out to one of Ridgebase's advisors today for help creating an actionable, custom plan that makes improving your technology not only achievable but straightforward.