Change is one of the trickiest things to navigate in business, and in our experience, changes to IT systems or infrastructure are up there with the hardest.
Whether we like it or not, we rely on IT for our jobs more and more every day, and when something you have done a thousand times changes even slightly, it can throw you off completely. With hundreds of change projects completed every month, the team at Netitude navigate every day across all types of industry, from minor changes to cloud migrations, from small businesses to large ones.
Poorly managed or ill-planned change can lead to reduced productivity, frustration amongst employees, and resistance. Therefore, any change should always be carefully planned, communicated, and carried out to minimise disruption. In this blog, I'll talk through some of the methods we use at Netitude to manage change and minimise disruption to the business.
Step One – Gather employee feedback
It is often an overlooked step, but by getting your staff involved in the discussion ahead of a change, you are getting their buy-in. Communicate clearly with those who stand to be affected by the change and explain why the change has been suggested. Give them a chance to provide you with feedback – it's easy to overlook a detail that may seem small at first, but it may have a significant impact on a department.
Many surveys have found that employees involved in the decision-making process become more motivated and engaged in the workplace. By giving them a say in the outcome, you can change what is originally perceived as an inconvenient change to something which can benefit them in their jobs.
Step Two – Address pain points
When explaining the decisions behind an upcoming change and the potential impact on affected business areas, consider positive outcomes for everyone. For example, perhaps the CRM solution you're upgrading to will finally fix that quirk that's been frustrating the Finance team for years, or the server upgrade will result in file opening and saving times being cut in half.
By selling the upside of the change, you can show your understanding and appreciation of how each department or employee works and show that the change is considered and not just for the sake of it.
Step Three – Plan for success
In the world of IT, we look to implement a change process to help plan and manage changes. It is common to have a Change Advisory Board (CAB) that meets regularly to discuss proposed changes before approval in larger corporate IT environments. A CAB is typically made up of key stakeholders to ensure that all areas of a company are considered when evaluating a potential change before going ahead. Although typical of larger or corporate companies, a Change Advisory Board can be scaled down to suit SMEs and is a valuable tool we strongly recommend trying out in your own business.
But what happens once a change has been discussed and given the green light? Planning and communication are critical to a successful and smooth change process. Starting with the planning stage, we recommend holding a kick-off meeting with key stakeholders affected by the change. Discuss the best course of action, potential pitfalls and agree on a timeline that works for all parties.
Following this kick-off meeting, a Project Plan can be drawn up with more detail: phases, tickets, or tasks for each stage and agreed timeframes. Once fully populated, your key decision-makers have an opportunity to review the proposed timeline and Project Plan and make any amendments. This part of the planning process is crucial and allows you to get official sign-off in writing, which comes in handy further down the line if somebody wants to make alterations or disagrees with the process.
Step Four - Communication is Key
Change needs to be clearly and effectively communicated to ensure that all affected parties are aware before, during, and after the change.
It might be that you start with an email to all users to clarify the change, but this should be followed up with an in-person discussion or video call, if possible, to reiterate the key points and ensure everybody understands.
To effectively manage change, communication cannot be a one-time event. Communication needs to occur during the shift to remind those affected that there will be disruption and why.
More crucially, it needs to take place afterward to confirm precisely what has happened. So, for example, sometimes a plan needs to be adjusted due to unforeseen circumstances, and that's OK. However, if the original plan has changed, you need to communicate the reason to all persons affected.
Let's break down exactly how we need to plan for the successful integration of new technology.
Step Five - Make use of your Account Manager
If you don't have an IT Support partner like Netitude to train you, most Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and other technology companies will assign you an Account Manager. Take advantage of them; they are technology experts and can speed up your adoption process by helping your users cope with the changes.
Here are some questions you should ask your Account Manager:
- What are the best practices for using this software?
- Do you offer support, and how and when can my team contact them for assistance?
- Do you have any tips to make it easier to train my team?
- Can I share your email with my team so they can reach out to you with questions?
Step Six - Train your employees
Unfortunately, in the world of IT, not everything is designed to be user-friendly. As a result, adapting to change can be difficult, especially for software that employees have learned inside-out and become experts in over many years.
By designing and providing engaging training sessions, you can improve attitude towards change. When designing training sessions, some things to consider are:
- Design your training sessions to suit all types of learners – this can be achieved by using a range of materials and techniques
- Make the training personal - let people know why this change matters to them and how it will impact their day-to-day work
- Ask for feedback from users at every stage in the implementation
If your change involves new or different software, it's worth keeping in mind that many SaaS and other technology providers like Salesforce, Hubspot, and Microsoft have free training programs that walk people through how to use every aspect of the software. Typically, this is offered free and online.
As an IT solutions company, we take care of all major technology changes for our clients, from initial recommendations right through to implementation and training. We create your technology roadmap based on your business needs and goals, to get you where you want to go.