Technology is the great enabler, allowing companies to transform and deliver better products, services or experiences to their customers. But the magic doesn’t always go according to plan. In fact, despite improvements in recent years, studies show that most IT projects are still failing to deliver on their intended goals.
There are a variety of reasons for this. In some cases, the seller overhypes the benefits. In others, the technical implementation is less than stellar. But the most common reason projects fall short of expectations is poor change management, according to CIO.com. In other words, projects are mismanaged at one or more of the critical stages.
Technology can facilitate significant change in an organization — think Facebook or Amazon — but a triumph ultimately depends on whether users embrace it or reject it.
How not to do it
I once worked for a mid-sized publishing company that decided to implement a new desktop publishing system, an initiative that would ultimately allow editors more control over the pages of their magazines.
It was a laudable goal, but how they went about implementing it was seven flavours of wrong. With little-to-no consultation with the users, IT showed up to install the new software on our computers — disregarding the fact that several editors were on deadline at the time. In the end, the users got on board, but not without a great deal of resistance and resentment slowing down the process.
At a smaller firm where I worked, the founder used an email to declare that our small team would be adopting Slack, an online tool that streamlines communication by organizing conversations into subject-related threads. I agreed the slick platform would be ideal for internal messaging and allow us to ditch the clunky email software we were using. Again via email, she invited team members to check it out and asked for feedback.
Can you guess what happened? Nothing. There was no real communication. No accountability. No leadership. No follow-up. And in the end, no Slack.
Too often, tech projects are toppled by poor change management practices. So here are five essential tips to ensure your project’s ultimate success.
1. Engage users
Often, by the time a tech project gets to the implementation stage, users either haven’t been consulted or if they have, it’s been in a very limited way.
End users need to understand why the project is being undertaken and what they will get out of it. In a recent study on the corporate uptake of artificial intelligence, industry research firm IDC cited stakeholder buy-in as one of the top barriers to adoption. Successful change management requires input from stakeholders, and if you fail to identify the true stakeholders and what they’re getting out of the deal, your change management efforts are sunk, says CIO.com.
2. Start small
If you’re rolling out a new customer relationship management (CRM) system across the entire company, start by kicking off a pilot project in a small group. This will allow for working out the kinks and incorporating the lessons learned before moving along to full implementation across the organization.
At this stage, it’s also critical to cultivate ambassadors who can champion the benefits of the new technology and bring the naysayers along in the process.
3. Communicate — tell a story and listen to feedback
That means providing users with solid information as to why they’re transitioning from the old way of doing things.
Few people readily embrace change, and many only do so when the intrinsic benefits become apparent.
Use interactive town halls and video conferences that give users a voice. Managers should also be prepared to listen and act on the feedback they receive.
4. Training — the final frontier
Take what you learn from pilot projects to create a comprehensive training program that’s customized to each user groups’ individual needs.
Because many IT projects run over budget, training is often pushed off the agenda, but neglecting it is an almost-guaranteed way to ensure a project’s failure.
To achieve the best results, develop a fun training format — think an interactive lunch-and-learn over a PowerPoint presentation in the boardroom.
Don’t just dump the new tech on users and walk away.
Check in often to see how it’s working. Are they taking advantage of all the features? What are their challenges?
If things aren’t going as expected, perhaps some tweaking of the system or some additional training is in order.