Implementing new software is more than simply installing it and telling employees to make the switch from existing applications. The move to a new application can involve altering processes, adding or eliminating jobs or departments, or training employees. It can be complicated, which is why you need to create a solid implementation plan to make sure it’s a smooth transition.
Such a plan can include several components, like developing a business case, getting executive buy-in, and finding a reliable partner. But perhaps the most important piece is getting employees on board and making sure they have what they need to make the transition a success.
This component is known as change management. Here we explore what change management is and how to use it to get the best return on investment (ROI) from your new software.
What Is Change Management?
Some people are more comfortable with change than others but, regardless of comfort level, change requires effort from every employee involved in a particular process. Change management helps minimize the effort and helps workers move through the transition as easy as possible.
Depending on the reach of a new software program, change management may be needed just in a specific department, or across an entire company. The purpose of change management for software implementation is threefold:
- It helps users see the big picture of why you need the new software and what benefits you expect it to bring.
- It gives users the training and support they need to implement the change.
- It ensures users are employing the software and executing new processes correctly.
Poor change management can have disastrous effects on a company, which is why it’s important to do it well. The following video explains some of the possible outcomes of poor change management and offers tips for getting the opposite result:
Establish a Change Management Team
Companies implementing new software are smart to establish a change management team early in the process. This team should be responsible for the following tasks:
- Analyzing the impact of the new software and determining who it will affect the most
- Getting input from key stakeholders including employees who will be using the software
- Establishing timelines and goals and eliminating roadblocks on the way
- Creating and leading training programs
- Overseeing the entire process and monitoring employee engagement
This team can be composed of members from various parts of the organization, including IT and HR professionals, C-level staff, and lower-level employees who will be asked to use the new application.
Develop a Change Management Plan
A change management process should be part of the overall software implementation plan. The change management process should include a budget, goals, timelines, resources, and communication strategies. One person on the change management team should be in charge of monitoring progress and keeping everyone on track.
Some organizations find it useful to consider the ADKAR change management framework. Its name is an acronym that comes from awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement:
- Awareness: Make employees aware of the upcoming change process, including what will be happening, why you made the decision, and how it will impact them.
- Desire: Communicate the benefits of the expected change, both for the company and for individuals and teams.
- Knowledge: Provide tools to help employees succeed with the new application.
- Ability: Give team members opportunities to practice their new skills.
- Reinforcement: Use rewards and incentives to maintain momentum and enthusiasm with the new software.
You can incorporate many of the ADKAR principles into your change management plan, using the following steps:
- Survey employees who will be affected to find out when is the best time to initiate the change.
- At the same time, invite people to voice their concerns and be sure to address them as swiftly and transparently as possible. Continue to check in with team members throughout the process.
- Start with end goals in mind and create milestones that will lead to their completion.
- Make a training program that includes enough sessions to familiarize users with the new processes. Name a contact people can call with questions.
- Identify some possible roadblocks and determine ways to get around them if they occur.
- Keep abreast of the process as it moves forward and be ready to make changes to the process if needed.
Explore Change Management Tools
Depending on your software implementation project, the change management process itself might be very large, requiring special tools to manage it. Here are a few ideas for applications that could help:
- A project management platform can organize tasks and help everyone involved see what’s coming in an easy-to-read graphic format.
- A central communications hub, such as a Slack channel or forum can keep messaging organized.
- A project folder that’s accessible by all concerned can help keep training materials and other documents organized.
Some commercial off-the-shelf solutions include ChangeGear, Freshservice, Gensuite, Intelligent Service Management, and WalkMe. Organizations with very specific needs might also consider custom software from a development company like BairesDev.
Prepare for Challenges
Change management isn’t always easy or straightforward, so prepare for some challenges:
- Employee resistance. Employee resistance can occur for a variety of reasons. Change management teams should seek to understand the reasons their own employees have to oppose the modifications. Common causes include fear of inadequacy in learning new skills, being unconvinced of the need for change, and lack of faith in leaders.
- Technical issues. Complex software implementations may present challenges, especially if the new software is being integrated with older systems. Change managers should be aware of this possibility and the delays it may cause.
- Budget changes. A software implementation budget might change because of other things going on within the organization such as new priorities, or because the software development or implementation team changes the scope of the service. Change managers must be prepared for the need to reduce their influence accordingly.
- Poor performance. With so many stakeholders involved in a software implementation project, it’s possible some of them will perform poorly, affecting the total project. They include company leaders, change managers, employees, or vendors. To remedy the situation, review goal-setting, communication, and training practices.
It’s Worth the Effort
As you can see, change management for software implementation involves many steps and a lot of work. But you’ll likely find that it’s well worth the effort to ensure as smooth a transition as possible and get the biggest benefits from new software.