Change management includes your people, too
By Andy Huynh, CTO, BTM Global
Organizations rightfully spend a lot of time, money and resources figuring out which technology systems and applications will best help them meet their business objectives and customer service goals. That's never an easy or simple process, but the work doesn't end once the technology is determined. Next come the timelines, setting the budgets, identifying technology vendors and a system integrator, and building out the teams to execute the plan.
Core to your implementation is the people within your organization. But sometimes, let's admit, they're an afterthought. While technology changes are often mission-critical to your business, they are unavoidably disruptive to your people — at least to some extent. There may be questions, confusion or even fear among employees.
Change management is a core part of your implementation plan, but it means more than just dictating the steps of a project. Rather, it's facilitating the journey from which you'll emerge better and stronger.
What should you anticipate and how do you manage the change so it doesn't overwhelm your teams?
Communicate, communicate, communicate
The best technology strategy won't be successful unless your team is prepared to adapt. And to adapt, they need to have clear communication about what is going on (relevant to their work) and what to expect. Your system integrator (SI) what's happening and be better prepared after the go-live
You should feel like the SI is truly listening to you and understanding your challenges. On the retailer's end, you should have an acute understanding of who in your organization will be impacted by the change and how they will be impacted: Will their day-to-day roles change? How will they benefit? What downsides may they face? What exactly do you expect of them and when?
Start the clear, relevant and consistent communication early on so your team feels like they are involved and have a voice at the beginning of the process. It's hard to overstate the importance of communication and keeping an open line with employees, but a project can fail if there isn't early buy-in and support – which only comes through understanding.
Change management is also about managing your business processes and maintaining them into the future. This requires clear communication between your SI and internal teams. This collaboration goes beyond your internal IT team that may be responsible for the day-to-day system or application management after the go-live: The partnership involves all of the stakeholders and ensuring you are communicating with them, including giving them time to review and provide input on the project.
Find a champion and dedicate a team
Find an owner for your technology project — perhaps someone who already owns IT, security or finance — to oversee the huge amount of coordination that will need to happen. Without a champion, you risk confusion and inefficiencies that could lead to more disruption for your teams and sluggish productivity after the go-live.
The expectations of your internal champion depend on how much change is involved with the project: A small project may simply require pauses to review and gather feedback. Other projects that will have a huge impact across an organization may need a specific change management team to bring stakeholders into the fold and give them a hands-on review during the phases of testing, training, and writing guides.
Dedicating a team to the project can make a huge difference when it comes to managing the change. It's certainly not easy, but the more people you can dedicate to the work, the fewer surprises and more successes you'll have. And be sure to be realistic with your expectations — don't sign up for a 12-month project and say you can do it in six months. Stay mindful of your realities and how the project will impact your team.
Managing people through the change
It's hard to manage what you don't know, and that's essentially what you're faced with during a technology implementation. After the hard work of choosing the right technology for your business comes the hard work of managing the implementation along with your people. With realistic expectations, clear communication, internal champions and a strong system integrator to help guide you, you can help the key teams in your organization feel valued throughout the process.