By Janis Richman, Director, Training and Adoption Services, Wilson Allen

Part six in a six-part series on developing a successful client-centric culture and how to address the resulting operational implications.

To succeed in achieving a client-centric culture and meet client expectations for efficient and effortless interactions with firms, firms must modernize their approach to operations. Modernization hinges on the effective use of technology.

When implementing new software, your firm may have met all its deadlines, deployed the software on schedule, and have it humming away on your servers or in the cloud. But without an effective change management plan, you risk low adoption rates that jeopardize your overall ROI. And, you may also pay for it many times over in resources and reduced efficiencies down the line.

Whether users adopt new technology can often be a deciding factor in the profitability of the initiative. Therefore, an effective change management plan is critical to the success of technology implementations to ensure user adoption and competency as quickly and compassionately as possible. Here are some ways your organization can help to ensure the success of your change management efforts.

What is change management?

According to Prosci, Inc., a leading organization with expertise in change management and user adoption strategies, change management is the discipline that guides how we prepare, equip, and support individuals to successfully adopt change to drive organizational success and outcomes[1].

A well-rounded approach to change management focuses on both the organizational and the people side of change.

Getting your organization ready for the change

When designing an organizational change management plan, the focus is on the impact on the business and organizational groups like practice groups, offices, regions, and roles. As you prepare your plan, listen to your people and look at the organization’s history. How much change are you asking people to absorb at once? What else is demanding attention? Are your people slogging along with rollout fatigue? Two ways to overcome these issues are by securing sponsors and thoroughly assessing your readiness for change.

Secure sponsors

A critical success factor in a change management program is gaining the support of key sponsors and creating sponsor coalitions. Do you have a sponsor that is engaged, visible, and totally on board and transparent? While it may seem to be a lot to expect from a sponsor, good change management anticipates this need by coaching sponsors on adoption best practices. Creating sponsor coalitions that encourage sponsors to collaborate with and engage each other helps facilitate adoption and improves your organization’s ability to reach its user adoption goals.

Assess readiness

Doing an organizational readiness assessment provides critical insight into the risks and potential ‘gotchas’ before you get started. You can gather data through sources such as interviews, backend analytics, and surveys to assess the following:

  • What were the firm’s past experiences with rollouts?
  • Are managers competent at handling change?
  • Are employees competent at managing change?
  • Are there many or few changes underway?
  • Is there a unified vision that is widely shared?

If your firm had had negative experiences with change management in the past, your new program would be less likely to succeed without specific mitigation measures. Understanding where you’ve been helps you to better prepare for what you hope to accomplish in the future.

Preparing for “people side of change”

When it comes to technology adoption, addressing the “people side of change” can make or break the profitability of a project. In fact, according to Prosci, 80% to 100% of the anticipated benefits from a change management project are dependent on people changing how they do their jobs.[2]

You can have all of the organizational change management processes in place to roll out a training and adoption program. But, if your people aren’t primed and ready to incorporate the new technologies into their daily working lives, you’ll face an uphill battle. However, once people feel they’ll benefit from the new way of doing things, they’ll be more willing to cooperate. Then the organization can reap the anticipated benefits derived from the new hardware/software and changed workflows and behaviors.

Build trust

For people to adopt a new way of working, they need to be open to the new learning and willing to “do it your way” because you say it’s good for them.

The key is to know what IS good for them. Know your users. Not just their roles, but what their behaviors, patterns, workflows, and quirks are – how they do it and why. When you operate from a mindset of precisely knowing what your users need to know and the best way for them to learn, you greatly facilitate user adoption.

When you implement or upgrade a system that requires your users to do something differently, earning their trust is imperative. The presence of trust fosters cooperation and collaboration and the feeling of safety to facilitate learning. Communication is critical to building trust. Share frequently and listen openly. Messages from your sponsors and direct managers need to show that you understand your users’ pain points and that you are addressing them up front.

How you can help

Giving employees the means to become masters of their workflows through ongoing reinforcement improves their confidence and engagement level. In turn, you get easier adoption and continued ROI as technology moves forward. To ensure you are getting the ROI return you want on a technology project and to encourage a learning culture:

  • Know your organization
  • Know your users
  • Use change management strategies and tools for training and adoption
  • Follow change models that keep your project user-centric
  • Accelerating the phases of adoption

At Wilson Allen, our training and adoption team addresses the people side of change by adhering to the Prosci ADKAR Model for change management. ADKAR is an acronym for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. In a future post, we’ll address how your firm can apply ADKAR to move users through each phase more quickly to accelerate the phases of user adoption.