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The change management Russian roulette

Author: David Derrier - Nexell Operations Manager

Gun Barrel change management banner

Change management & CRM: Why should you care?


Change management is quite often a misleading concept, as many organizations ignore the risks of not properly anticipating, managing, and monitoring the change. defines change management as the methods and manners by which a company describes and implements change within its internal and external processes. In the context of CRM implementations, we have seen over the years that many organizations expected things to happen by magic, both technically and organizationally. In small to mid-sized organizations, management often minimizes the role of change management and does not realize that project success can be highly compromised. What about you? Do you really want to play Russian roulette with your project? 
Even with the best technical solution and features, organizations can fail on projects and limit the operational impact. The main goal of a change management approach is to reduce the risks of failure, which can be divided into 3 families:
  • Adoption: Users don’t want to use the solution, don’t know how to use it, or don’t understand why they should use it. Adoption issues are often due to a lack of empowerment (training and support), a lack of communication about the goals and benefits of the projects, a lack of KPIs, a lack of project or product ownership, or a lack of consideration of bottom-up feedback.
  • Costs: The money aspect can be highly impacted by a bad change management approach. The project can go over budget, the project can be within budget with a very low ROI, or the ROI could simply not be measured. This usually happens when technology comes before business processes, when the scope is unclear and/or irrelevant, and when there is a lack of consensus over the project priorities. 
  • Time: The main purpose of planning a project is to set dates and milestones. However, a weak change management strategy can lead to delays, vanishing go-live dates, or disdain for the project, which is no longer seen as a priority. This can usually be due to a lack of executive sponsorship, weak project management, or underlying expectations or requirements.

Change management during the project lifecycle

The above-mentioned principles must be followed during the life of a project and mean something very concrete and relevant in the different phases

Prepare & Share
When preparing the project, you must be clear on 5 questions:
  • Why? Understanding and formalizing the reason(s) why you are launching the project are very important. The reason can be operational, strategic, or legal.
  • What? You then need to clearly identify the main purpose (Mission) of the project from a business perspective: increase donations, boost the impact of marketing activities, increase customer satisfaction, offload agents from admin tasks, etc.
  • When? A project without milestones - even high-level - will not go anywhere. Because you are at a preliminary stage, things will move and flexibility is needed, especially in an Agile approach. Nonetheless, you must set the main milestones (kick-off, testing, go-live, etc.).
  • How? Answering this question will help identify the approach to take with the project: Proof of concept? Phased approach? “Big bang effect”? There is no perfect situation but the more clear you have it, the better you will prepare it and the lower the risks.
  • Who? Identify internal and external stakeholders involved in the project, because either they will use the solution or they will be part of the project team
It is key to communicate internally about what is going on and what the next steps will be. Setting and managing stakeholders' expectations is a key factor in success. Nevertheless, preparing the change is already a change in itself, which must be managed properly.

Once the project takes shape and is approved, it should be planned before implementation. The planning phase includes several elements that will delineate the upcoming implementation:
  • Scope: What are the business priorities? Are they in line with the initial vision? What is the budget allocated to the project?
  • Governance: Which project methodology or variant will be used to orchestrate the delivery? What risks have you identified and how would you mitigate them? What KPIs will you define and implement to measure the success of the project as well as the activity of the organization? What data governance principles should be on top of everything to ensure business continuity and compliance?
  • Resources: Who should be involved in the delivery of the project based on skills, availability, criticality, and will?
  • Roles & Responsibilities: What is expected from the different stakeholders? Who is accountable for certain tasks or business processes?  
  • Milestones: When is the project expected to go live? When should an agenda be booked for training sessions? When would data cleaning be required?
Apart from the technical aspects related to configuration, development, and customization, the delivery phase plays a big part in the change management process. You must focus on 3 critical dimensions:
  • Coordination: Who is managing the project? Is there a steering committee to approve major decisions? What communication channels are in place to discuss the project? They could be team meetings, 1-to-1 meetings, town halls, meetings over lunch, training, or workshops.
  • Feedback: In an Agile approach, users are involved in early-stage and iterative testing phases, which means that feedback is collected not only on the things that are delivered and tested but also on new things that users may suddenly need or require. Collecting ideas and suggestions is part of the backlog management process that must remain under control.
  • Training: How do you ensure that users understand how the solution works and how it relates to day-to-day business processes, whether they are legacy or brand-new? Where should your internal teams go in terms of technical autonomy related to administration, maintenance, and support?
Once the solution is delivered, the work in terms of change management is not over. On the one hand, you must close the loop and have a retrospective on the project so that you can provide feedback to the different stakeholders about adoption KPIs, budgets, etc. On the other hand, the project does not stop immediately with a hard cut; you need to anticipate different aspects
  • Support: How will you ensure that users get suitable support and assistance when needed?
  • Ongoing training: How will you ensure that users stay on top of news processes or features?
  • Onboarding: How will new hires be introduced to the solution?
  • Release management: What is the roadmap for future releases of the solution?
Change management is about not only theory and principles but also very basic and down-to-earth actions and rules. There is too much at stake to not carefully deal with change management.

Takeaways: Change management low-hanging fruits
Before launching an implementation, and to summarize, 4 main principles should be kept in mind, as they can substantially reduce the risks of unsuccessful change management:
  • Define a vision: Have a clear path forward and understand where the organization wants to go with the project to gain visibility of the scope and priorities. To do so, the organization must clearly understand what is triggering the project and what goals should be reached. The initial project may be part of a more extended roadmap and you need to position it clearly in the landscape. 
  • Communicate openly: Share information about the project, related decisions, and potential blockers, and collect feedback from stakeholders. This communication should happen before the project (to set expectations and engage people), during the project (to keep the momentum and provide visibility on the progress), and after the project (to provide feedback about usage, ROI, and next steps). 
  • Make every voice count: Involve people from different teams and hierarchical levels of the organization, regardless of their seniority level. Don’t opt for a top-down-only approach or for “new hires exclusions”. The best option is to have a mix of historical employees with perfect knowledge of the organization and its processes, and newcomers with a fresh eye to bring some fresh blood into the equation. The goal is not to approve every single request but to at least acknowledge them all and engage employees from the very early-stage discussions of the project.
  • Identify champions: Spot the staff members who are enthusiastic about the project and who really want it to be a success. By dynamically bringing ideas and inputs, these champions will also act as the project team / management and the end users / staff members.
Change management is not a vague theoretical concept but, rather, a series of guidelines that will substantially increase the success rate of your project. Some organizations can tolerate and embrace change much more easily than others, but with a bit of anticipation, you can set aside the Russian roulette game and, instead, opt for a high-precision sniper shot in the bull’s eye.
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