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‘Are you ready?!?’ — Change management at the start of a technology implementation

03/23/2021 By


Change management is a seemingly “soft” topic that can have a highly adverse impact on hard ROI because failure to manage change undermines the success of your technology rollout.

When it comes to change management for a technology implementation, most people think of ensuring user adoption once the technology is installed, but it should start sooner than that. You need to understand the motivation to change from the perspective of each stakeholder well before you select a new technology. That ensures buy-in and a willingness to adopt new practices at the time of rollout.

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As such, you need to assess how ready your organization is for change as part of your business case for investment. Review current practices, processes and policies to determine — with the help of the appropriate stakeholders — if they support where the organization wants to go. Find out:

  • Where do the pain points lie and how severe are they?
  • Will the status quo inhibit growth objectives, compliance or other strategic objectives?
  • How will the end user benefit from any technology investment …
  • … and how will they suffer (e.g., headcount reduction, learning curve, job role changes)?

Technology implementation: Getting started

In terms of project scope, identify where the optimal ROI point of adopting new technology lies based on stakeholder inputs as you build the business case.

Do you need a nimble, a deep or a customizable solution to meet your organization’s needs?

How are users going to use the new technology?

How are current processes affected?

How will you know when you’ve achieved your objectives?

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Most often, a business case for technology investment is built around the cost saving and headcount reduction it can drive. Achieving operational excellence is wonderful, but be careful of taking such a narrow perspective of any technology initiative. When determining your project scope and success measures, be sure to look beyond tactical improvement opportunities to the strategic ones, ensuring your success KPIs are not purely tactical in nature.

Taking such a conscientious approach to change management at the front end of any project is sure to get buy-in at all the right levels across the organization and should not be overlooked. Of course, any transformation requires further change management.

Expert advice on tech implementation and change

Procurement expert Barbara Ardell was the Senior Vice President and Influencing Change Practice Leader at Paladin Associates when she wrote this advice: “Traditional change management takes very much of a project management approach. It addresses things like strategy, systems, process and structure. All of these are necessary, however, they are only the tip of the iceberg. Traditional change management leaves us wanting in terms of the degree, the speed or the sustainability of the change delivered. What’s typically ignored by traditional change management is what’s below the waterline of that iceberg: culture, norms and status quo behaviors — that organizational resistance — that undermine and impede your change.

“Think about technology implementations. Typically, the technology is relatively straightforward. It’s getting people to adopt the technology and do things differently that presents the challenge. Organization change is really just the sum of individual behavior changes. This is where Influencing Change focuses.”

Barbara also wrote about the three components to the Influencer model, applied in order:

  1. Clarify Measurable Results — What do you want to achieve? This should be a ‘S-M-A-R-T’ statement, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. A procurement technology example might be 85% of all sourcing events run through the e-sourcing solution by end of year.
  2. Find Vital Behaviors — What are the few behaviors that will lead to the greatest amount of change? Think the Pareto principle. Most change efforts focus first on things like strategies, processes, technology, policies, organization structure and reward systems. Successful influencers don’t start here — they start by identifying and focusing on vital behaviors. Research shows that focusing on a few vital behaviors can drive your desired change. Sticking with the e-sourcing example, a vital behavior might be consulting an e-sourcing coach when feeling pressured to execute a sourcing event quickly.
  3. Use Six Sources of Influence — How will you motivate and enable change? The Six Sources do double duty. They are first used to diagnose why the desired change isn’t happening or isn’t likely to happen without intervention and then provide a systematic framework to develop strategies to overcome the resistance identified. Research shows that using four or more sources of influence targeted at vital behaviors will improve results tenfold.

In terms of influencing technology adoption, she shares some great insights: “We tend to rely very heavily on ‘carrots and sticks’ to motivate change. This is much less effective than tapping into personal motivation (values, beliefs and emotions), and social motivation (peer pressure). If there are skill gaps (ability issues), you need to address those specifically, as focusing on motivation when there are ability issues only results in frustration.”

Pierre Mitchell, Managing Director at Spend Matters, highly recommends “ADKAR” as a good default approach to change management. He evaluates ADKAR in a procurement context and shows how it can be applied in different scenarios in this post.

“In essence, ADKAR comes from a firm named Prosci that licenses the framework via books, training, toolkits and even a hosted software diagnostic tool. It stands for:

  • Awareness of the need to change
  • Desire to participate and support the change
  • Knowledge of how to change (and what the change looks like)
  • Ability to implement the change on a day-to-day basis
  • Reinforcement to keep the change in place

“In all these cases, awareness of the need to change is critical, and it must be done with data (spend analyses, diagnostic assessments such as internal/external benchmarking, ‘voice of the stakeholder’ surveys, etc.).”

Pierre points out that “reinforcement of changes that you’ve implemented is perhaps the most insidious of the change management steps because many business cultures, especially in the West, are much more focused on ‘effect’ than ‘affect’ — emphasizing short-term programs and projects to create favorable short-term financial effects.

“This is where leadership and a more advanced management system come in, for the purpose of tracking ongoing performance and related capabilities for the impacted areas that were changed. Not to bring up another framework, but the ‘C’ (control) in the DMAIC methodology is key to helping automate (if possible) and making the new process/system fail-safe so that performance doesn’t revert to the old way. DMAIC and ADKAR are closely related, and we discuss DMAIC in more detail here, but we encourage you to think about how they relate to each other and to your transformation abilities at your firm.”

Though always a challenge, change management is core to the success of a technology implementation of any kind. Take the advice of experts such as Barbara Ardell and Pierre Mitchell to move beyond traditional change management. Start managing change from the get-go and delve into the underlying culture and status quo behaviors to understand motivation and resistance factors to achieve full and sustainable technology implementations and transformation overall.

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