Moving the Needle Through Change Management

Introduction

To start, I would like to level set definitions. “Change Management” for the purposes of this article refers to the Release and Deployment Management area from an ITIL perspective. This does not refer to the “Change Management” ITIL process that has to do with managing systematic change requests made within an IT organization.

Change management tends to be a topic that organizations like to talk about, yet when it comes to planning and execution, many organizations recognize missed project. This article highlights some tips and tricks that can assist organizations with change management initiatives based on my experience as part of the project team with my organization.

“Change management tends to be a topic that organizations like to talk about, yet when it comes to planning and execution, many organizations recognize missed opportunities in post project reviews.”

My organization went live with Oracle HCM Cloud, Payroll, Supply Chain and ERP / Finance in July of 2017 and with Performance and Goals in April of 2018. The organization migrated from Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS), which had been used by the company since 2003. The first conversations around upgrading our software occurred at the executive level in 2013. It was not until 2015 that RFPs were sent out and requirements began to be gathered. The project officially kicked off in August 2016, meaning that all modules were “live” within a year of the project starting.

All things considered, this was an amazing achievement and certainly is something that I did not think could have been achieved with the success we have had. From a change management perspective, the first communication (email) was sent to leaders in the company at the project kickoff in August 2016. Communication went out to all employees (short video and email) in May of 2017 notifying them of the change coming. Those who would be heavier users of the system received some in- person training, but mostly change materials were screen-shot job aids hosted on a SharePoint site. Without delving into granular details, it should be evident that there was and are opportunities for improvement when it comes to change management initiatives.

Areas of Opportunity for Improving Change Management Initiatives

Partnerships and an organizations deployment strategy as two major areas that have a direct correlation to the change initiatives of a project.  I will discuss both of these areas and then provide my seven recommended steps for change management success during and after a project.

Partnerships

Organizations that choose to use an implementation partner have two challenges in my opinion:

  1. Choosing the partner that
  2. Being open to that partner’s suggestions and recommended best

Just because an implementation partner has been ranked the best in a technology does not always mean that they will be the best fit for a company. It’s important the project owner, project manager and stakeholders vet potential partners for not only their acumen in the targeted system but their communication style and fit culturally.

Project teams should be prepared for partners to bring in their best practices and find that those practices may not necessarily line up with “the way we’ve always done it.” This is ok, and there will have to be compromises made on both sides of the fence. From a change management perspective, it’s best to set these expectations ahead of time with your stakeholders and business owners. This way they can be prepared to choose which processes cannot be compromised due to business practice or other reasons and which processes can be improved naturally throughout the project. If the latter can be positioned as a benefit, the projects where new technologies are being implemented represent excellent opportunities to be process improvement initiatives as well — so long as the business is prepared and open to evaluate those processes objectively throughout the project and those activities have been accounted for in the scope of the project.

Finally, ensure there is an appropriate support agreement for the organization post go-live with the partner. This is imperative, whether it’s a bank of hours or a resource on site part time to ensure that the business is not just pushed off the cliff with no proverbial parachute to catch them should they need support.

Project Deployment Strategy

Ideally, the deployment strategy is discussed and planned during the requirements gathering phase of the project and all resources on the project team are on the same page. In general, there are two options when it comes to deployment:

Big Bang: Going live with the entire scope of the project at the same time.

Phased: Breaking the scope of the project into pieces and then having mini go- lives spread out over a designated period.

For my company, our go-live had two phases. The first phase was Oracle ERP / Finance Cloud, which went live in May of 2017. Two months later, in July 2017, HCM, Payroll and Supply Chain went live. The logic behind this was to have the financials of the business set up and stabilized as much as possible prior to the other modules. The other modules during cutover were running concurrent with the EBS product to ensure that the calculations were accurate.

When it comes to the impact on change management, being in tune to your employee population and understanding the true capabilities of users are key. Organizations with a population possessing high technological acumen can pull off deployments that are more aggressive. This is because the population being tasked to make the change can stomach the training necessary to be able to complete    their jobs in the new tool. Populations that may have a lower technological acumen or are just resistant to change may benefit from the phased approach.

The truth is, either can work. What is important is the intimate understanding of the company’s needs, both culturally and technically. If your change management plan caters to both cultural and technical needs, either the Big Bang or Phased deployment strategies could be used, based on the needs of the project rather than the constraints of the company’s ability to adapt.

Steps for Success

This is what I have come up with in addition to standard ITIL principles when it comes to change management and the Ideological Elements for Success (See Slide Below). While all elements are required for success, if you work from the bottom foundation up, in my opinion, your project and your change management initiatives will be successful.

 

1.   C-Suite / Executive Leadership Buy-in and Engagement / Definition of Success

This is the foundational ideological element. If an organization cannot provide someone in the C-Suite who is going to sponsor a project and buy in to the success of the project, they will not be an effective change agent. It’s the Definition of Success that will help sell the executives, and once that is agreed upon and there is some excitement around the initiative, that’s the message they will pass on to the business. This is extremely important, especially when it comes to having to hold business owners accountable throughout the project and change management initiatives.

2.   Discover / Requirements Gathering / Project Planning / Resource Strategy / Technology Selection

This is hard to stick to but is important when tied to change management. I think about any leadership class I have ever been in and when it comes to connecting with people and motivating them to accomplish something. “Because I said so” is in no way as effective as being able to “explain the why,” — how it impacts the business, aligns to the company’s strategy, etc. If there is proper discovery, requirements gathering and strategy as identified in this element, it will aid in your

The other piece here is the resources strategy and the selection of the technology. They are included in this element because they are dependent on the aforementioned aspects of the element. Change management initiatives will most likely be among the first items cut during the project to save time and money, if the project is not properly staffed and the appropriate resources allocated.

3.   Dedicated Project Manager (With Escalation Avenues)

 The project manager must be dedicated to the project with the appropriate bandwidth. There are times when organizations spread project managers too thin, which can result in details and expectations of the project to slip through the cracks. This is especially important if the organization is using its implementation partner to provide a PM resource. Make sure to ask how many projects, if any, they are assigned. Preferably, they are only assigned to the organization’s projects exclusively.

They must also be equipped with the necessary levels of escalation to hold resources accountable if deliverables and deadlines are not met. Without the confidence in escalation avenues, the project manager is at the mercy of the resources in the project. This can easily turn into a scenario where change management initiatives get dropped, because there is no escalation point to ensure they are completed.

4.   Engaged OD / Training Department

 This is a nice to have; if the company has a training or organizational development department, it makes the resourcing for the project that much easier. Those departments will theoretically deliver a higher quality product when it comes to training materials and communications. It will also save costs by avoiding having to pay a third party or partner to fill that role.

5.   Clear and Concise Expectations with Business Partners

 While this may seem self-explanatory, this is usually where politics and culture can play a huge role, especially if your foundation is not solid. As soon as a business area is required to create training materials, test or write their own communications, their cooperation can deteriorate quickly. Either by using a RACI document or something similar, the expectations of the business for the project and the change management plan should be captured in clear and concise terms. The most difficult piece of that process is normally getting names with due dates next to action items, but that is critical. One idea that has worked in the past is forming a champion group with select business partners as an area of opportunity and that automatically will help your project and change management plan.

6.   Realistic Deadlines

 Having realistic deadlines is another element that may seem too simple, yet there are a few situations that should be recognized and avoided specific to the change management portion of the project plan.

  • The overzealous employee that promises more than they can deliver.
  • Too many communications / materials needed in a short period of time.
  • No time for the team to review.

They key is to make sure that whatever is needed is done right by the correct resource(s) and whoever is doing the work is set up for success.

7.   Technology

It is fitting that this is at the top of the pyramid. Realistically, it is listed twice, with the first time being when the technology is selected. Finally, the technology needs to be able to function in the manner in which it has been sold to function. For instance, say the business is sold that the Time and Labor platform that allows them to email a request for vacation and the approval can be done via email. The project loses all its credibility and momentum when the CFO / (enter executive here) sends an email to request vacation or responds to one of their requests via email and the functionality is not there.

Conclusion

It’s my hope that in reading this article there are no major surprises for you, but instead it provides a bit of a refresher and different way to think about the importance of change management as it fits into project management and the ITIL Service Transition Management Process. If you have any questions or if you would like to connect, please reach out via LinkedIn. I have included the complete slide presentation below in the photo gallery.

Michael Urgo has his MBA and MS in Technology Management, is ITIL Certified and also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. He is passionate about the strategy and optimization of business systems, processes, and service transition. Outside of his day job, Mike is the head coach of Stevenson University’s ACHA Division II Men’s Ice Hockey Team. Contact Mike at linkedin.com/in/coachurgo.

 

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