People and Culture are Common Points of Change Management Failure

People and culture are most often the points of failure for any IT implementation. Involving stakeholders in every step of the process is the key to any successful technology implementation. Understanding two of the most common underlying causes of these failure points will help you as you approach your new technology initiatives.

  1. By their nature, most people are creatures of habit and the prospect of change is almost always accompanied by fear. Oftentimes, this fear is focused on loss of their own livelihoods. A common question from users is: "If the technology, processes, culture changes, will I still be valued in the organization?"
  2. Users will not change themselves. If what they've been doing meets the understood requirement of their job, then they'll have no incentive to change.

As CIO, you may have to assume the role of a project management officer, soliciting feedback from users, allowing them to critique current processes and providing new options for how they can perform their tasks more efficiently and effectively than was previously possible.

Whenever possible, you want to make sure user participation is occurring closest to the source of responsibility. You want to grant ownership of information at the point of origin, because this is where you will get the most clarity about the value of the data involved. Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Robust User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and end-user training are necessary components of successful change management. Planning for these needs to take place at the outset of your project. These activities represent a chance to isolate defects prior to going live; they also provide a chance to uncover and overcome any cultural resistance to the change long before it can adversely affect business operations.

Here are three steps you can take along the way to lay the groundwork for effective UAT and user training:

  1. Identify key stakeholders at the outset that will become members of your project team.

  2. Throughout the project, invite these key stakeholders to corporate headquarters for open discussions, system prototyping, and design reviews in order to gather feedback and make corrections.

  3. Train the team. When it's time for training, don't try to cut corners with a train-the-trainer approach. Instead, have all key stakeholders from the project team go to each worldwide site as a group to train people on how to use the applications. This gives regional users the chance to ask questions that are relevant to their specific job requirements and to provide feedback on the new system and procedures. It also gives your project team a chance to make sure the new system worked globally and locally and would be accepted by the users outside of corporate line of sight.

This three-pronged approach to training and UAT can save your operation time and money in the long run. It gives your project team the opportunity to learn about and assess any problems that arise, to gauge whether they are local or company-wide problems, and address them accordingly. If questions raised during UAT delay your go-live date, you'll still have your old system to fall back on. Business can continue as normal while corrections to the new implementation are made. Without a UAT process, you're likely to discover deep problems only after going live, at which time the options available for solving the problems that arise may be very expensive or simply not viable, leaving you with a costly, failed project.

Effective change management is about giving people an inside view throughout the course of your project. This may require you to move outside of your own technology comfort zone in the interest of managing change from the diverse perspectives of your users. As difficult as it is at times to involve your users in the process, when you listen to and consider their concerns and solicit their feedback it will ultimately bring you the buy-in you need to make your project a success.

If what you are delivering does not resonate with your users, they will not adopt it, no matter how amazing the technology is. If you understand the user's perspective on how any change is going to impact their jobs, remove the focus from technology, and be mindful of the corporate culture, you'll find that your technology changes will be seen as welcome improvements to the organization. About the Author

Juan Porter is president of TopDown Consulting, specializing in Enterprise Performance Management and Business Intelligence implementations.

This article was originally published on 09-15-2011
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