Change is the impetus behind improvement, innovation, evolution and viability. Customers and markets are rapidly evolving. If businesses are not following suit, they are falling behind and deteriorating. However, even with this reality, change is often endorsed by the few imposing the change and contested by the majority receiving the change. For the recipients, change brings uncertainty, skepticism and anxiety.
That’s why Organizational Change Management (OCM) strategies are needed to offset the natural resistance to change and sustain the benefits of new business strategies, enabling technologies and business transformation initiatives.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, staff productivity decreases up to 75% during unmanaged change. Change management is an approach to systemically shift individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state while mitigating productivity loss during the transition, creating the environment for sustained change and realizing the benefits of change more quickly.
The implementation of a new system will move many people away from the status quo and outside their comfort zone. Most enterprise software implementations incur many cautious or resistant users and a smaller number of users who are adamantly opposed to change. This later group may be initially difficult to recognize as they generally cast doubt in private forums outside of management visibility. If uncontrolled, the hidden agendas and failure to embrace the needed change will significantly challenge the project, and likely result in time and budget overruns.
To proactively head off this predictable occurrence, I recommend an OCM program to operate in parallel to application deployment. The OCM program will analyze changes caused by the new solution, forecast the operational impacts, understand the cascading effects to users, prepare staff for change, and implement methods to minimize employee resistance to change while simultaneously maximizing the effectiveness of the change effort.
Change Management Framework
Here are the ten most important steps in implementing a CRM change management program.
Begin with OCM expertise. OCM experts examine the corporate culture, solicit and gather user feedback, design the change management strategy and plan, develop the case for change, provide methods and tools, and manage transformation activities and progress. OCM experts also orchestrate the change governance hierarchy.
Change management consultants can bring leadership and best practices, but the change effort must be led from inside the organization.
Articulate a clear vision. Introducing more change without clear direction contributes to employee anxiety. Introducing change with clear vision, purpose, communication and roadmap mitigates anxiety. OCM staff should help executive management craft a clear project vision – and help management articulate how this vision directly aligns with the organization’s most important business priorities. The vision should be tailored for each stakeholder group, including the customer, the employee and the company. It’s also helpful to forecast milestones along the journey so staff can witness progress and see a finish line. The more interim successes the better.
Assess change readiness. Most change management projects kick off with a survey to establish a baseline measurement for the critical success factors to change acceptance. Surveys can also identify cautious or resistant users or groups for additional planning, mitigation and response.
The reasons for change will be questioned many times during the project so the case for change must clearly identify the pressures for change, the benefits of change and the definitive reasons why not changing is not an option. Surveys can determine whether the case for change is understood throughout the organization.
Surveys are a good start but you need to go much further and view change from the employees’ point of view. One of the best ways to craft the change management plan is to first walk a mile in the user’s shoes. Empathy can provide meaningful insight. Take a little bit of time to understand how things evolved to their current situation and remember that people do not accept or resist technology, they accept or resist the way technology changes their lives.
Also be on the lookout for sacred cows. Change agents normally incur institutionalized obstacles such as cultural norms, established processes, influential people or political fiefdoms so entrenched or insulated that they appear sacrilege to question and untouchable. There are sacred cows in every organization. Put them out to pasture or a stampede could trample your progress.
Design the Communication Plan. Staff will react with suspicion and angst if they learn they must change work methods without understanding why change is needed, without having a chance to voice their reactions and concerns, and without being invited to be involved in the process. Acceptance begins with understanding the need for change and becoming involved in the change effort. Employee engagement empowers the change transformation team to learn and address user community concerns and misconceptions. They can then respond with successive communications to help staff take small steps along a stepping stone journey that build on each other until they reach the targeted level of understanding and adoption. This approach is memorialized in a Communications Plan that architects messaging by project phase and group. The communication plan defines what will be communicated, to whom, when, with what frequency, for what purpose, and how and by whom it will be delivered. My experience shows the best results using a cadence of general communications delivered to all constituents supplemented with tailored communications designed for various stakeholder groups. Additional change management best practices include the following:
- It’s critical that management articulate a consistent narrative regarding the need for change, the process for change and the benefits of change. It’s helpful if management can also provide the context for change by linking the change effort to external factors such as customers, competitors and markets.
- The Communication Plan must strive to deliver the right message to the right audience at right time. As enterprise software projects can be fluid, the Comms Plan should be similarly flexible.
- Good communications plans start small, build momentum and finish with a crescendo effect. I recommend a progressive messaging plan that moves recipients along a continuum from Awareness, to Interest, to Understanding, to Engagement.
- People respond to different channels differently. It’s helpful to engage stakeholders using multiple channels and media (email, newsletters, Intranet notices, enterprise social networks, face to face meetings).
- Whether conversations or written communiqués, it’s critical not to over-promise when setting expectations. It’s helpful to acknowledge there will be some rough spots, benefits may be realized in small increments and not every user will benefit from the project after go-live or possibly ever.
- Make the messaging interactive. Always solicit and act on feedback. Use a channel such as an internal social network group or voice of the employee tool to capture feedback. Periodically issue surveys to identify gaps and measure trends. Make sure your communication with users is a dialogue and not a monologue and remember that all feedback is a gift. You will increase input by creating a reward system for feedback and new ideas.
Perform a business impact analysis. Sometimes called change impacts, these are the effects created when implementing new strategies, org structures, job responsibilities, processes and systems. It’s the difference between the current and the future for each individual or role. Change impacts are not just from changes in process or new technology. In fact, some of the most challenging change impacts will be caused by a change in culture and control. For example, a common change in moving to a centralized CRM system is the sharing of customer information across the organization. Other changes that may impact people include new skills, types of work to be performed, performance measures, reward systems or reporting relationships.
The goal of this step is to identify the business impacts from change and proactively implement actions to smooth these impacts. This is a four step process of documenting key changes, identifying who is impacted, prioritizing the impacts, and implementing a change impact action plan. Change impact plans apply a combination of communication, training, updated job descriptions, new policies, revised procedures, new or revised performance measures and incentives to minimize disruptions and achieve the desired effects from the proposed changes.
Change impacts can be aided through financial and non-financial efforts. A financial option to accelerate the benefits of change is to alter incentives or tie compensation to CRM software utilization. An increasingly popular non-financial technique is to use gamification tools in order to permit employees to demonstrate their new software skills and achievements.
Delegate responsibility. Enlist line of business leaders in owning the change with goals, actions and outcomes. Coaching, measurement and recurring communication will be required. You want to ally with line of business champions and influential staff who see the vision, are respected by peers and will endorse the needed changes. Project success improves if you partner with people whose personal success is linked to the project’s success.
Assemble a field team. Identify, on-board and train a select group of subject matter experts (SMEs) or super users to provide peer endorsement and identify pockets of user resistance that need attention, coaching and support. These people should participate in change management workshops so they can understand how to effectively act as the local eyes and ears and promptly identify culture challenges or user resistance that need to be addressed.
Make users net beneficiaries. When the advantages of change exceed the disadvantages staff become net beneficiaries and will more willingly accept the change. The case for change and the business impact analysis can be used to identify benefits for each role, or even individual staff. The Communication Plan can be used to communicate those benefits. I like to identify and express benefits using the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) method for each role and stakeholder group.
Making CRM accessible in preferred channels is a benefit for most users. A CRM system that lives where users work, or is available in their preferred channels and devices, will facilitate the change of new technology. This is why integrating CRM software with mobile devices, enterprise social networks and Outlook increases user adoption.
- Double down on training. A change management program will focus on understanding and preparing each end user for change by developing their skills and confidence to succeed in the new environment. A CRM software deployment will cause anxiety to some employees that are accustomed to performing their work in a familiar way – even if they don’t like the current system.
Successive training sessions will steadily erode these emotional and psychological barriers. A comprehensive training program should include a training strategy, training plan, role-based curriculum of courses and training assets such as:
- Aids such as reference guides, cheat sheets, custom help, screen prompts, videos, podcasts and infographics
- Events such as periodic conference call updates, town hall meetings, lunch and learns, webinars and recordings
- Self-service training courses and knowledge-base support
- Guided navigation or instruction technology aids such as Walk Me
CRM implementations tend to use a small number of comprehensive and fairly generic training courses. However, a higher number of short or even bite sized training programs make training more focused, faster to consume and easier to remember. My experience finds that training is normally under-invested by about half and typically pursues the wrong objectives. The training programs that I have found most successful are probably about twice the norm, designed for the employee experience, change the objective from delivering training to measuring learning and don’t stop after the go-live event.
- Measure value. Value realization is the ultimate litmus test for your change program. Because change is a process and not an event it’s essential to monitor and measure the impact of change over time. It’s similarly essential to hold individuals accountable for change impacts. One tool I routinely use in CRM software implementations is a user adoption dashboard that measures employee engagement and promptly identifies unenthusiastic or sluggish user adoption. This should be used upon the go-live cut-over in order to establish a baseline and then at periodic intervals in order to view trends. Tracking user logins and system logs is a common start, but it’s not enough. More meaningful key performance indicators may include the following:
- System activities such as the volume of new or updated (customer, contact, activity, opportunity, case, etc.) records, the types and volumes of activities created (i.e. tasks, events, email, phone calls) and the completion of end to end processes (lead to closed opportunity or support case entry to closure)
- Individual record updates such as the frequency of updates to account and opportunity records
- Data quality and completeness metrics such as the percentage of account, opportunity or case entity fields that are correctly completed when new records are created, or the number of opportunities created or updated with Close Dates in the past
- Peer metrics such as application utilization comparison among all members in the same roles
- Time based metrics such as daily time spent in the system; application use and user actions by time of day and day of week; or the number of users that haven’t logged on for N days
- Errors incurred such as the number of manual and system errors experienced or calls to the helpdesk
- Under-utilized application functionality such as entities, forms and other CRM software components not being used or being lightly used
- You can also perform additional qualitative analysis such as viewing search keywords, custom views and purpose built queries
Using dashboards to measure change adoption KPIs can identify what future learning interventions are needed to improve employee engagement. Continued use of dashboards can help create a culture of continuous improvement that sustains well beyond the go-live event.
Be ready with post conversion intermediation measures. Experienced change management consultants often have intermediation actions or prepared responses at the ready in order to quickly counter resistance to change. For example, when poor user adoption is identified, remediation actions may include additional education, messaging or training. If new systems are not being populated as expected, management must investigate to see if staff are reverting to old systems or creating shadow systems. Other measures may include revisiting financial and non-financial incentives, or messaging that reaffirms the advantages of adopting the change as well as disadvantages of not adopting the change.
For users who are on the fence or who are clearly not on board I recommend additional personalized education programs and a deeper dive to find those users’ WIIFMs. It is absolutely critical to quickly identify non-compliance or sluggish adoption in order to take action before individual resistance expands to others or small concerns elevate to become crisis. While change agents should deal assertively with resistance to change they should not personalize the resistance. Change agents make the process, not the people, the problem.