No company would ever realise its long-term goals without a systematic plan in place to get there. This detailed planning process is termed ‘change management’ and is essential for successful growth. Change management is not just useful for a major shake up, such as a management change or a change in location; even small things such as minor process and software changes need to be managed effectively. We shall look at the latter and consider how and why change management in software implementation is so essential. If new ideas are going be implemented appropriately, successfully and painlessly with minimal disruption to the business and with maximum positive effect, then everyone must invest in the change and the positive impact of the change needs to highlighted and frequently reiterated. What are some actual, achievable steps to get there?
Why implementations fail without change management
Anything new and different resulting in growth can require an adjustment in practice. The overarching reason why implementation of new initiatives fail is because the reason for the change and the change itself has not been accepted through all levels of the organisation. As researchers have found, people who do not feel connected to a program, who do not feel that they have a role to play and who feel like they cannot share in the program’s success, generally resist implementation. This can damage even the most well thought-out change management plan.
Define clear objectives
The first step to change management for software implementation is to very clearly define the purpose of the implementation. For example, you might be looking at implementing a new inventory software. If so, why are you looking to implement a new inventory management software? With the objectives in mind, there should be no problems embracing change.
Define roles and pick your team
Part of change management is ensuring there is a team to instigate it, promote it and to keep the ball rolling. Some change management processes can be drawn out or require time which allows time for morale and passion to dissipate. You need a team to keep the mission alive and keep the company on track. Similarly, it can be very helpful to identify the different roles you will need for the change management. It is important to clearly define these team members’ tasks and to equip them to do their jobs efficiently and correctly.
Good, clear communication is absolutely essential to successful change management. This includes communication with staff, but also with customers who may be affected by the changes. As much as these issues should be ‘shielded’ from the customers, they should still be able to rely on clear communication and support from the company should anything go awry.
A large part of good communication is treating it as a two-way street by providing the opportunity for customer and employee feedback. Any organisation or process is only as good as its weakest link, so it is imperative to ensure you have listened to and planned to deal with complaints and issues in the implementation plan.
Despite most developers having a strong focus on user experience, new software can still create difficulties and hurdles, even for the most adept users. Empower your staff by providing software training prior to implementation, during implementation and then allow for on-going expert support to help iron out issues they may encounter subsequently in their jobs.
By equipping your staff properly and providing them with access to competent technical support, you are achieving a number of things. You are helping to ease the load and dissipate staff stress. You are indicating that you are a part of the team and that, while you believe in them, you also understand and support their frustrations. Crucially, you are empowering them with new skills and knowledge to make everyone’s job easier down the track.
As with any endeavour, an incentive or reward is a useful means of remaining focussed and driven. The same could be said for any company process, including change management in software implementation. If you make achievable goals clear to your staff and then incentivise them and follow through, you will provide much needed morale and drive, which is at the core to any change management plan. And why shouldn’t they be rewarded for successful work?