Don't be fooled by the quiet Change protestors, they’re out there in droves.
If your business is looking to change phone systems, CRM systems, staff, locations or the way you do business, it can be a frightening time for many. Even for an advanced country like Canada, we are modest at best with our Change Management practices. We fear the unknown, and for good reason. Many have been burned before when they were NOT READY TO CHANGE.
Many organizations are hesitant to change the way they do business for a multitude of reasons. Some include: Acceptance, Risk, Adoption, Controversy and Failure. These can all be mitigated if approached in the right way. Something we see everyday at BrantTel, is the fear of changing your Communication platform.
When we do a project at BrantTel, replacing a communications platform may seem like a high-risk, low-reward task. In fact, it's an opportunity for your business to move the dial forward and enhance the way you do business both internally and externally. Let's walk through the steps to ensure a successful project.
Define the "why" - Why are we doing this? Because the phones we have now are yellow? Are we looking to digitally transform? We have some extra budget after a good year? This definition step is critical to all the following steps. “We are implementing a new communications platform so we can be more responsive to our internal staff and our customers”. Ok, that's a good start.
Build a cross-functional Business Team (notice I didn't say IT Team) - Involve the business right from the start. Bring project leads in from every department who will be affected by this change, help them understand that it is their responsibility to communicate to, and take feedback from, their stakeholders. Everyone is involved, everyone is accountable.
Take a look in the mirror - So you have built a strong cross-functional team with representation from every group that needs to be involved (did you leave the maintenance staff out?). Take a look at the experience you have in that team, "has anyone gone through this process before, and if so, what did you learn from that experience”? Assess your depth of skill in regards to this project, give yourself a rating like (10 - Tremendous experience with this type of project) or (0 - No experience with this type of project). This will give you some insight into how much help you will need to ensure success, be transparent with the team and the executive leadership. Knowing what you are really helps you know what you're not.
Planning - OK, you've picked a vendor and are praying that they stay in budget. You have a lot more control over this than you may know. The Planning stage is the time to vet all subsequent stages. The vendor you have selected is your Sherpa for this journey, but you'll be climbing as well. Don't assume that they will take care of everything, they don't work at your company, your cross-functional team does. Assess the risks associated with what you are trying to achieve, and work through them one by one, an example:
I'm worried that no one will use the new system, they will hate it and revert back to their old ways.
Sell it to them. Set up an Intranet or company facing web site that explains the 'why' and documents what processes are going to happen and what the benefits are. "With this new system you can almost eliminate email back and forth and get answers to your questions in a fraction of the time", then explain how this will be done. Document the benefits, send information to people, set timelines and update those timelines. People gravitate to positive team energy, if you position your project as something that can help everyone in the business (not the select few), you will have more adoption and more success.
User Adoption - Since we're on the topic. User Adoption is the #1 reason why a project fails. It's not the technology's fault that no one wants to use it, it's that no one has taken the time to show them how, and more importantly the benefits of using it.
Training is one critical piece of the puzzle that we see many businesses backing away from. It's costly, it's time consuming, it's tough to organize. It's the most critical step in the journey to adoption. Don't try and cut corners with training. Train the trainer, train the trainers staff, train the office dog…twice. Explain to your vendor that this will be critical for the success of the project, hover over them and ensure it's done right.
If the masses are getting it, they will drag the dis-believers along, don't worry about the stray protestors, when people act as a group, it's the most powerful social influence there is.
Then the change isn't so much of a change at all, because everyone is changing at the same time.