Introducing a new or updated software system can’t be done with the flip of a switch. We all understand that a successful technical implementation requires a process of design, development and testing.
What’s often overlooked is that people can’t be expected to do their jobs differently at a flip of a switch. For an organization to fully leverage its investment, people need a process to transition to a new way of working. After all, what value can a new software system provide if its intended users don’t fully adopt it—or worse, actively resist it?
Change management is a structured approach to guiding teams through transitions. While training is a critical component of change management, communications and support also play a vital role. So how do you start to plan for the people side of change? Here are four thought starters:
Reconsider roles and responsibilities
Take the time to document how the new system will impact your team. Involve other stakeholders in the organization (marketing, IT, etc.) early on if you also anticipate changes in their departments.
Will some manual tasks now be automated? Does the new solution provide functionality that expands the scope of your team’s work? Will hand-off points between departments change? Chart out the anticipated process in detail, mapping specific tasks to individual members of your team. This should identify gaps where additional training or staff may be needed.
Provide “open door” communications
The better your colleagues understand the objectives of the new system, desired outcomes and timeframe, the more they will feel in the loop. You will already be communicating the status of the project to your boss, why not share the same information with your team? Take this one step further and solicit their feedback one-on-one. “Open door” policies go a long way towards letting people know they are being heard and their thoughts are being considered.
Train senior stakeholders
Consider involving senior stakeholders in a high-level training session. The goal is not to make them expert users of the new system, obviously, but to help them to understand how it works and to begin to realize how their teams’ responsibilities are changing. Garnering their support will lend credibility to the new system and help address resistance.
If you anticipate far-reaching changes across the organization, it may be worth trying to convince an executive to also participate in the training. This investment of time will help them contextualize how the system will affect the organization and they will be better able to champion changes. Their participation also demonstrates organizational commitment to the new system.
Consider professional help
Experienced change management consultants draw on years of experience helping organizations solve similar problems. As a result, they can identify risks and opportunities you may not see. They will develop an actionable change management plan that is the right size for the project and the level of change anticipated.
Another important benefit is that they are outsiders. As an unbiased third party, they are often able to work very effectively across teams and departments, encouraging open dialogue. They may detect resistance that is being hidden from you.
If you foresee significant challenges ahead, you’ll get the most benefit by bringing them in at the very beginning of your project.
When you take steps to plan ahead for the people side of change—either on your own or with a change management expert—you will reduce risk and start benefiting from the new system as quickly as possible.