Change is an inevitable part of life, and nowhere is this more true than in the dynamic world of business. Drill down another layer into the niche of tech and RevOps, and such turbulence of change is not intended for the faint of heart.
In order to effectively navigate these choppy waters, organizations must embrace structure and rigor when it comes to planning and execution. For companies embarking on digital transformation initiatives such as Software as a Service (SaaS) implementations, it’s critical that these organizations keep their people top of mind.
In this article, I plan to dive deep into the world of organizational change management and share five important principles for Revenue Operations professionals to remember for their next SaaS implementation.
What Is Change Management?
As a discipline, change management has drastically evolved and matured over the past few decades. Research about different change management initiatives suggest that in order for change to be successful, employees must be prepared and supported comprehensively throughout the process.
“70% of change initiatives fail. Companies that struggle to lead through organizational change see the negative impacts on their overall business performance. They also see dips in employee engagement, wellbeing, and productivity”. [WTW Study]
While other disciplines like project management focus on the tools and systems to deliver an outcome, change management is an enabling framework for managing the people side of change.
Meeting the budget or timeline of your software implementation is not enough. If your people are not ready and willing to embrace the new systems, you may endure harm rather than the positive outcomes you originally set out to achieve.
These five key principles of change management are a guiding framework for Revenue Operations professionals to leverage in order to achieve our desired outcomes. While there are different change management models you can follow, I find these five steps always work for me.
The Change Management Process
1. Understand the Change
The journey of large-scale software implementations should always begin with a clear understanding of what change will come about. Most organizations get this wrong by focusing on what the implementation means at the organizational level, failing to understand what it means for the employees who are most impacted.
This understanding of change involves acknowledging and deeply understanding areas of friction and resistance you may encounter with adoption and utilization.
Part of this first principle of understanding the change includes proactively understanding what risks are present. These risks are factors that may negatively impact achieving your desired outcomes.
Organizations like Prosci have created great assessment templates that can be used when trying to assess potential risks for your next implementation.
As part of understanding the risks of your implementation, you may also want to conduct change readiness assessments to determine how ready all groups and individuals are for the change you are preparing for.
It is essential to assess the current state of your organization and its people as part of any software implementation initiative. Things you will want to consider as part of this readiness check may include:
- Company culture to change
- Current capacity for change
- Residual effects of previous change
- Middle management’s current predisposition toward this kind of change
Understanding where the people in your organization are today in terms of risk and readiness is a critical first step. The data you gather in conducting these assessments will be used to effectively create a plan for change.
2. Plan the Change
Once you have a clear understanding of the current dynamics within your organization, it’s time to create a comprehensive plan. Successful change management professionals rely heavily upon tried and tested frameworks that can be used as a guiding light when things become complicated or complex.
Take the ADKAR methodology for change which is a widely used framework that supports change management planning. Like other change management strategies, ADKAR involves developing a roadmap of events that focus on activities, communication, and resources necessary for successful change.
As part of your planning, you will be required to define a clear vision of the desired future state with specific objectives. This vision will guide the organization through the change process from start to end.
Along with having a clear vision and measurable objectives, your organization will also want to focus on the following components within the principle of planning:
Scope and Timeline - Clearly define the scope of the change and establish a realistic timeline for your implementation. This will most certainly help in setting realistic expectations and managing stakeholder groups through the change process.
Resource Allocation - Make sure you identify the resources required for your change plan to be effective. You will want to review the budget, human resources, and technology available.
Roles and Responsibilities - A part of any effective change management plan is defining the roles and responsibilities of each group. Some of the roles you may want to consider defining include executive sponsorship, change leaders, change agents, project managers, and frontline.
A well-structured change plan will serve as a roadmap for your next software implementation. This plan will provide a sense of direction and will help maintain focus and alignment on producing effective change. Moreover, it will ensure that everyone is aligned, reducing friction and increasing buy-in.
3. Communicate the Change
Effective communication is the lifeblood of successful software implementations. Communication needs to be intentional, clear, and consistent throughout all levels within your organization.
An effective communication strategy will help reduce anxiety and uncertainty among employees while also fostering a sense of involvement and ownership, particularly from key stakeholders.
Throughout my experience in software implementations, I have followed this four-step structured approach to building a communication strategy.
Step 1 - Create a timeline of events
In creating a timeline of events, you are effectively being intentional and proactive about the message you want to share and the time in which you will share it. There are certain times during the month, week, and day when messages might be better received. Focus on building a sequence of communication events that will help drive your change efforts.
Step 2 - Segment your audience - refine your message
In communicating with your audience, make sure you refine the message for the receiver. In doing this, you may have very different messages you will share a all levels within your organization.
Step 3 - Enlist the support of senders
As we have heard before, the medium can sometimes be the message. This is why it is incredibly important to enlist the support of your change management team to communicate with your team members. Craft messages for your business leaders to send or prepare a brief for your senior management to present to their direct team about key changes.
Enlisting the support of others who have credibility in the eyes of your intended audience can really influence how the message is received and reduce the resistance to change.
Step 4 - Communicate through different channels and mediums
When setting up your communication plan, ensure that you are using different channels and mediums. Too often I see colleagues rely way too heavily on emails for most of their comms.
Think about the message you are delivering and consider using mediums such as newsletters, posters, social events, or physical documents.
4. Implement the Change
With a clear understanding of the change, a well-structured plan, and an effective communication plan in place, it’s time to implement the change. This is where theory meets practice.
A core part of implementing change is the rollout of your training plan. Providing the necessary training and resources to equip employees with the skills and knowledge required to use your solution. Throughout the training process, continuous learning should be emphasized.
As part of your planning, you would have also defined the milestones and metrics you will be tracking. Having a clear measure of key performance indicators (KPIs) is critical to track both short-term and long-term progress. Regularly look to assess and communicate progress towards your transformational change.
5. Reinforce the Change
As a guiding principle, change does not end with implementation but rather it is an ongoing process to maintain. To make sure that the change becomes a permanent part of the entire organization’s process and culture, it is critical to maintain reinforcement programs.
In executing effective reinforcement, it’s important to look beyond ongoing training and focus on feedback and evaluation.
Look to continuously seek feedback from both end users and your change team to gauge the effectiveness of the change. Create incentives for this participation to help get the feedback rolling. You will soon uncover areas of opportunity to focus on and unpack further.
Along with collecting feedback, make sure to acknowledge and recognize individuals who embrace change and exhibit the desired behaviors. Celebrating small wins is a great step toward driving the right organizational culture.
Lastly, lean on your change management team to continue to demonstrate support and commitment to change. Their actions will serve as a model for employees to follow long after your solution has been implemented.
Bottomline, whether you are implementing a Saas software application or making changes to an existing process, these change management principles are essential for organizations to understand intimately in today’s rapidly evolving world.
To navigate change successfully, organizations must embrace intentional structure and rigor to maximize their investment in change initiatives.
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