Change Management: The CIO's Roadmap

By Juan Porter  |  Posted 09-15-2011

Change Management: The CIO's Roadmap

A successful, large-scale technology implementation, such as an Enterprise Performance Management or Business Intelligence rollout, has the potential to fundamentally alter the ways in which your organization conducts business, how decisions are made, and how people work. The success of any new implementation relies upon the right balance of business and technology. Effective change management is one of the critical -- and most often overlooked -- components of every new implementation.

Successful change management requires equal attention to these four components:

  • Process

  • Technology

  • People

  • Corporate culture

By including a careful consideration of process, technology, people and culture in every new implementation, you can ensure that all stakeholders -- from your C-level executives to your end-users -- are equipped to maximize your new solution.

Unfortunately, the mistake that many organizations make is that they approach such changes in the context of system upgrades and departmental solutions, with the idea that this is how to achieve their stated goals. Most organizations overlook the fact that any new technology implementation represents an opportunity to review, improve and/or streamline the underlying processes.

With every implementation, the criteria and goals are unique to each organization, but we can identify some very broad, basic commonalities for implementing any change. These usually involve finding ways to improve efficiency while reducing the effort required to complete certain tasks.

Sounds simple, right? Guess again.

The best approach to any technology implementation begins by evaluating how to improve current ways of doing business. You can't manage what you can't measure, so understanding which elements you want to manage, and how you want to manage them, is critical.

Let's use the finance world as an example. Stakeholders in this arena are keenly interested in the quality of budgets and forecasts, accurate reporting, and optimized costs. Technology improvements can offer tools to deliver quality, accuracy, and reduced costs, but technology can't govern the people responsible for the quality and accuracy of the data and reporting.

A successful change management initiative relies upon the right balance of business and technology. The desire for change is most often driven by business needs, and IT is involved in defining the goals to make sure the proposed solution is feasible, supportable and scalable. If business needs and supporting technology are not aligned, the organization ends up with siloed information and mismatched goals.

For example, let's say one of the goals of your change initiative is to reduce your company's order-close cycle from seven days to three days. Achieving this will probably require streamlining, upgrading and/or improving the technology being used. But that's only part of the equation. To determine the best way to achieve this goal, your organization will need to review the process, as well as the technology, to see how both can be improved simultaneously. In order to do this, the CFO and CIO need to work hand-in-hand to eliminate silos between the business units and IT.

In any change management initiative, the CIO must understand the "what," "why" and "how" of the information that the business units need. This requires stepping out of the safety zone of technology and asking these eight questions of your business users:

  1. Where do the data come from?

  2. What is the timeframe for information delivery?

  3. How does the information need to be delivered--e.g., via Web, static reports, or spreadsheets?

  4. What are people doing with the information?

  5. Who has access to what information when? For example, are there periods when data is available to a broader audience and other times, such as blackout periods, when it is restricted to a smaller group?

  6. Do the users need to be involved in the process?

  7. Are they adding value to the process?

  8. Can the process be streamlined by bypassing select people and delivering information directly to the individual who needs it?

By asking these questions, you can establish a roadmap to achieve the goals of the change initiative. The answers to the questions above will help you determine what investments are required, as well as what process changes are needed. You'll also understand how these factors redefine what people do and how they contribute to the process. Once you have a complete picture of the organization landscape, you can create a new vision for how technology, process, and people can work together to achieve project goals, and how your company's culture can adapt accordingly.

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.