Change Management Strategies for the Digital Era

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Sarah Fane
Sep 29, 2020

One of the most common reasons transformations fail is that there isn’t enough focus on the human side of change and change management. Software can speed up a process, but unless your workforce is there to support it, your progress won’t be sustained and it won’t truly be transformative.

Here are three key elements to successful change management

Get the basics right before you automate

For the first time in years, you may have the momentum for change on your side. But you don’t want to neglect the basics. If you rush in and automate your outdated processes with poor quality data, you probably aren’t going to be happy with your results. The best change management programs will still struggle to succeed if you don’t have a good foundation for automation.

  • Are your current processes fit for purpose? If you are looking to automate, it’s important to consider whether you should be automating your current processes, or if you need to makes some changes first. Also, go beyond the ‘four walls’ of your organization. Talk to your suppliers and customers about your processes. Be open to sharing your objectives with third parties. Don’t be afraid to discover what you don’t know. You don’t want to automate processes that don’t work for you or your partners. Once those have been fixed, only then is it the right time to automate.
  • Data. If you don’t have quality data, your automation efforts won’t hit their potential. This isn’t the most glamourous job – and it’s usually an ongoing process – but investing in making sure the data in your systems is high quality and is maintained will help you get the most out of automation.
  • Governance. Who will be accountable for the technology and transformation adoption? Consider a governance council for large-scale projects with experts from IT, FP&A, HR, and people who understand your business processes inside and out.

Good data, high-quality processes and robust governance are crucial to underpinning a successful transformation. Without them, you may be spot-treating problems, but you won’t be transforming your service.

For more transformation tips, read our latest white paper, Digital Transformation is now Essential for Shared Services

2 Ensure a people-centric change management strategy

You may understand what it takes to implement technology, but it’s equally important to have a people-centric change management strategy. Even if you have the benefit of momentum on your side, it’s not the time to neglect the basics of change management.

Define your strategy and get top-level sponsorship. Even when the corporate world has been turned upside-down, resistance to change should be expected. There will almost always be people who don’t want to change the way they work, or who will be worried about its impact on their role. Securing senior-level C-Suite sponsorship can make or break your efforts. Having them support your efforts will help ensure company-wide compliance with new processes.

Communicate and understand the human element of change

After seeing old processes buckle under the pressure of social distancing and supply chain disruption, your team might now truly understand the need for change. Change management and regular communication is even more necessary.

When it comes to major changes, don’t underestimate the need for communication. Here are some ways to ensure you engage people so they understand the reason for change and can help you on your journey instead of offering resistance:

  • Have a change story. Stories should have a beginning, middle and end, so be sure you can communicate your vision to your employees. Perhaps now more than ever, employees will understand the need to move away from paper and start new processes, but never assume this. Give the team a goal to work towards.
  • Be honest and up-front with your team about why the change is happening and what it means for them and the organization. If you keep people in the dark, teams can become wary. Communicate clearly and consistently.
  • Listen to the feedback. Your teams who work on this every day will have feelings about change, both positive and negative. Be sure to take time to listen and acknowledge their concerns or ideas for improvement.
  • Build in incentives. Consider building incentives into your plan to reward people working towards your common goal.

Without a plan to help your team navigate change, you could slip back into old patterns or undermine your larger goals. If you have a goal, you need a plan, and make sure you communicate it and check in regularly. Be sure that anyone tasked with change management has some capacity to spend time with people and engage them, and isn’t snowed under with the technical aspect of change.

3 Build Continuous Improvement into your change strategy

Even when you’ve planned and implemented your solutions, the journey is never over. World-class shared services are rarely happy with their current performance. They are always looking for ways to improve and are never 100% satisfied.

Heads of Continuous Improvement or Process Owners are ideally placed to drive this, but there should be someone accountable for continually driving improvements internally and externally.

To help drive improvements within your organization:

  • Internally, examine your processes and compare performance across regions, and understand variations and their likely causes.
  • Externally, benchmark with your peers and understand where you sit, what world-class looks like, and whether world-class is something you want to aim for.
  • Work with your software providers. Good software providers will want to see you hitting your KPIs, so be sure to leverage their best-practices and don’t be afraid to tell them what functionality you would like to see, and where the solutions may not be meeting your expectations. Be sure you are receiving the latest updates and developments.

Improving processes doesn’t stop when the project is implemented. For a world-class service, you need to make sure continuous improvement is in the DNA of your organization.

For more transformation tips, read our latest white paper, Digital Transformation is now Essential for Shared Services

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