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8 change management questions every IT leader must answer

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Kunal Purohit, chief digital services officer at Tech Mahindra, sees effective change management as a means for minimizing disruption, satisfying users and customers, and empowering data-driven decisions. But central to all that is a continual emphasis on fostering adoption.

“Above all, there should be a mechanism for continuous feedback and adjustment during the change process,” he says.

Is the planned change even viable?

All sorts of digital initiatives make perfect sense on paper, but too many end up being ill-suited to the organization undertaking them. That’s because many IT organizations skip a key step.

“Before you look for your change agents, you need your viability agents,” says De Vries, noting that he spends a lot of time at Axia Women’s Health building a network of front-line employees who can validate potential change initiatives.

“You have to have relationships with salespeople, for example, who can tell you whether they can sell your change to their customers, and front-line staff who can tell you whether a process can be executed efficiently,” De Vries says. “After you implement the change, they will become your promotors.”

De Vries sometimes even recruits these viability and change agents into IT, where they can bring their business process and customer knowledge to bear in the digital and technology organization.

Have we future-proofed our change plan?

Any digital initiative should consider the emerging technologies that may need to find their way into the program over time, say West Monroe’s Freshour and other IT leaders and advisors.

“It is important to design IT and digital solutions with an eye toward the future,” Freshour says. “While you might not deliver the most mature functionality or solutions in phase one of an initiative, it is important to consider how a digital product, platform, and system will evolve over time, in terms of both IT and business requirements.”

Tech Mahindra’s Purohit agrees, underscoring the importance of understanding and articulating how the change may evolve with future technological advancement even at the early stages of a change initiative.

Do we have the necessary change management resources to succeed?

As a general rule of thumb, IT leaders should be investing at least 10% to 20% of their project budget on change management. “You can’t cut corners when allocating the proper resources to carry out change management in relation to digital efforts,” says Freshour. IT leaders should run the numbers to ensure they’re focusing the necessary time, money, and resources to change management and adoption.

It’s important not only to have the right budgeting in place, but also the right change management expertise. “CIOs should inspect whether the organization is prepared to adapt to unforeseen changes during the transformation and whether they have the necessary resources, both financial and human, to support the change,” Purohit says.

For IDEXX’s Grady that has meant staffing IT’s new change management function with nontechnology professionals.

“To build this capability, we didn’t try and fit IT folks into the leadership of change management,” Grady says. “That’s not to say there aren’t people that grew up in IT that have natural skills in this space. But rather, we thought differently about the skills required.”

That meant recruiting folks with marketing experience who could think about change in terms of personas; segment user needs and impacts; plan messaging channels, frequency, and methods; and determine the right change metrics.

“We needed to think as much like marketers as we do technologists, and staffed the function accordingly,” Grady says. “This function has been absolutely invaluable in running large enterprise programs and the success of behavior change to unlock the digital transformation of a number of key processes.”

Do users have direct line of sight to the change?

Effective communication is critical to change readiness and adoption. “It trumps all,” says SPR’s Mead, “especially when dealing with a remote-first workforce.”

But how IT leaders communicate the details of changes is as important as what is said. In fact, it’s much better if the message doesn’t come from IT at all.

“Change communication should be designed to provide employees with a direct line of sight to the change,” Mead says. “Studies show, and our experience at SPR backs this research, that employees prefer to get information about how a change will affect them from their immediate manager. So, make sure you arm managers with timely information and try to implement follow-up meetings where necessary.”

Everyone who will be impacted by the change should have a clear understanding of the personal benefits of the change to them — what’s in it for them in this new normal.

“You need change agents at every level,” says de Vries. “Your divisional CFOs can agree with a change, but if your FPA [financial planning and analysis] teams don’t accept the new revenue recognition solution, they will create workarounds.”

The time de Vries spends with various business functions at Axia Women’s Health helps him understand the different value levers available as well as how performance is measured and incentivized in each part of the organization. “This allows me to align incentives for the change, increasing the chance of success,” De Vries says.

Are we investing enough in continuous training and development?

Training is a key aspect of any new IT initiative. But in organizations where digital initiatives are coming at the organization concurrently and successively, a more comprehensive approach to training is warranted.

At S&P Global, in addition to specific training surrounding new initiatives, the company has an EssentialTech Foundations program to help employees build foundational technical knowledge in six core focus areas: agile mindset, cloud essentials, developing an innovative mindset, automation/machine learning/AI, data science, and DevOps.

“We put our people first and invest in upskilling our workforce to thrive in this new digital paradigm,” says Kocherlakota. “Team members across all of S&P Global have access to trainings, webinars, and a plethora of resources to learn new skills.”

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