When you think about the millions of dollars organizations spend each year on IT programs of work, wouldn't it be prudent knowing that employees actually understand and most importantly embrace the reason behind the changes? There is one way of ensuring that employees and their managers have got the message and truly understand the reasons for the new system implementation. And that is the means that you communicate change.
Let's start with reviewing how most organizations manage technology based change. If your organization's approach to this type of change is new skills training and employee communication strategies that include stakeholder management (translated briefings), intranet and email updates then that's not managing change, rather it is focussed on information. So what is the difference and why do we need to do anything more than provide information?
IT systems are not introduced for the sake of a new system itself, they are introduced because there are benefits to be realised from a business management perspective. This may include more information on customer profiles and identifying other products or services clients may be interested in purchasing, the chagnes might focus on back office systems such as greater information for human resources management or accounting or they may focus on the supply chain and logistics. Whatever the reason there is a business reason for change and this is what employees need to understand if the full benefits of any system implementation is going to be realised.
Let's look at an example. This financial services organisation was introducing a new back office system. In the past employees worked in separate divisions so customers were transferred from one area to another to process their request. The new system meant that all of the customer details were now available to employees and that they would now work in teams and "own" the customer from the commencement to end of transaction. It was a complete system and work style change so before specific system training was introduced a simulated work area was established and employees were taken through the customer experience. It was important that they understood the benefits to the customer by looking at the changes through the eyes of the customer. This way we created the "Aha" moment, employees got the message better than any intranet, information session or email bulletin could have conveyed it. And when employees went into system training they clearly understood the benefits and business reasons behind the changes.
The five key things to remember when communicating technology changes:
- Be very clear about the business reasons for the changes – who will benefit and what will those benefits be?
- Establish why those benefits are important? What will the impact be on the organization?
- Decide the key messages for your information strategy – what will you need to communicate, to whom and when?
- Concurrently design an engagement strategy at key points in your project plan that will engage employees at all levels in the reason for the technology changes.
- Remember to ensure engagement the message is not about the system itself but about the business reasons for the changes.
Finally, as change management professionals can we take the same approach to managing system changes and apply it to every new organization? The answer is clearly no because as every organization's culture is different, so it follows that every approach to change management and employee communication must be different to maximise the investment and potential of the system changes that are implemented.