Bruno has previously been Director of Human Resources for Western Europe outside France, and then HR Director for France. With an intense interest in the technological, economic and human challenges faced by our companies in today’s business landscape, he draws on his experience in France and internationally every day, and can call on a team of 80 consultants and training specialists to help customers transform their organizations.
What part does effective change management play in growing information systems successfully? If we underestimate its importance, or manage an IS project as though it were just another simple technical project, we could easily jeopardize the very objective we are pursuing in the first place: in other words, to bring the information system up to date.
Does that sound obvious? Absolutely. But many IS modernization projects are nevertheless still being managed as though they were just routine technical tasks: sometimes this is even quite deliberate in order to avoid putting the success of the project at risk! “If we carry out an impact assessment, or communicate too much in advance, or get people involved before the system goes live, we risk losing control as the contracting authority. We could even stir up resistance and so delay or complicate the achievement of our objective.”
Change does carry an element of risk, and the question of how best to manage it is becoming even more acute given the constant and inexorable evolution of technology that our organizations have to face up to in today’s increasingly open environment.
Business driving taking orders from technology
IT Directors and CIOs have to exploit the networked world, building bridges, interconnecting people, mobilizing resources, enabling synergies, while at the same time providing reliable information systems that are solid foundations for value creation, even if the technological components from which they are built are changing day by day, sometimes even hour by hour.
The information system is not just a driver for improved productivity, but a driver for the business itself, a driver for increased openness within the business ecosystem, and for new kinds of freedoms and opportunities within organizations. It ensures permanent alignment with business imperatives, accelerating innovation, interconnectivity, decision-making, and all in an Open World where the points of reference in time and space are increasingly blurred, with transactions getting ever faster and more personalized. In short, a world that puts customer, citizen, user and business alike, at the heart of the system.
Today our information systems projects resemble the tip of an iceberg, the submerged part of which extends beyond across all frontiers to cover the sole entire terrain technical fieldly speaking: processes, business organization, customers, expectations, resistance In this context, managing change and supporting users and IT specialists so they “know how to evolve” becomes a sub-project in its own right on which the overall success of the IS evolution depends.
The human aspects of change
By its very nature, any change that has an impact on people’s working environment is uncomfortable because it disrupts working practices and makes people change the way they do things, and even the skills they need to do them. And this is only exacerbated by the speed of technological change: yet another area of uncertainty and experimentation.
So change requires everyone to move on, and that process of moving on can lead to imbalances and concerns.
As a result, change needs to be actively managed, with the help of tools to:
Mobilize people’s energies
Encourage a sense of commitment
Encourage a sense of loyalty
Get people involved
Modify and update people’s skills.
Managing and supporting change: an essential sub-project to a technical project
Working closely with the technical aspects of a project, change management takes into account its organizational and human dimensions. In doing so, it facilitates effective integration of new business processes, acceptance of the project by the various people involved, and achievement of the project’s various objectives.
Change management activities undertaken early in the project lifecycle will ensure that in the end each person involved fulfils their potential as far as possible, giving them the opportunity to invest in building his or her own future, as well as that of the organization more broadly.
As well as the human aspects, there are also significant organizational dimensions to any change. Effective change management will enable structural innovations to be integrated as quickly as possible: defining the target organization and work processes, and then managing the transition between the current and future set-ups.
A professional, structured methodological approach to deliver tailored solutions
Bull has been able to capitalize on its experience and role in technology evolution to develop in-depth expertise in change management. Our methodology – aligned as closely as possible with our customers’ operational needs – is aimed at ensuring the delivery of the most appropriate technology solutions while also taking full account of the human dimension in their implementation.
The methodology follows a roadmap, and enables successful and efficient delivery of projects involving even the largest of organizations. Some basic rules are essential, nonetheless, however large or small your organization may be.
The human aspects of every project need to be managed from the very beginning.
Handle change management as a distinct project, albeit in complete alignment with the main technical and functional project.
The organization’s own internal resources should, where possible, take on the role of the prime contractor, because change is only successful if it is driven from within.
A business-oriented approach will guarantee that users are fully operational from the start.
The COMET methodology
Bull Training’s own methodology – COMET – has been successfully used on numerous change management projects affecting both users and IT personnel (from a few hundred to several tens of thousands of people).
This change management methodology involves two main stages:
An initial feasibility study and overall design phase
A detailed design and implementation phase.
The initial feasibility and overall design phase enables the development of a resource and activities map based on the vision the senior management team (the Contracting Authority) wishes to promote, including an analysis of the business context and the likely impact the project may have on the organization, business functions and skills, and on the way people view the jobs they do. It also serves to scope the project (both internally and externally), analyze the likely impact and measure any variations.
The detailed design and implementation phase enables the different elements of the overall picture to be translated into specific action plans and implemented in line with the various stages in the technical content of the project.
The various operational plans put together cover:
Communication and mobilization of personnel: identifying and setting the direction for the transformational dynamics
Training and documentation: giving everyone involved access to the know-how and information they need to fulfill their new job roles.
1. Creating a vision of the future
During the period of change, each person sees what’s happening in the present and compares it to the past. They know what has actually happened already, but ignore what the future of the organization or their own personal future within it will look like. But so long as those involved have no clear vision of the future against which to compare their knowledge of the past, they cannot project themselves positively into that future. This is why it is such a good idea to foster a common vision of the future, on the one hand, and on the other to add details to that vision specific to each group of people affected, and even in some cases to each individual.
The implementation of on-line banks at the heart of traditional organizations, or geolocation systems in transport companies, the change to a patient management system in the hospital or the straightforward computerization of inventory management or check-outs in retailing, all these projects have a significant impact on the everyday working lives of users and managers. So they depend utterly on their complete and total involvement.
2. Communicating with and mobilizing people
Informing people about the project is all about helping them to understand why it is necessary, focusing on the advantages and improvements that everyone should benefit from and showing people how this change can help them on a personal level.
A management accountant may be an expert in a system that he or she has developed himself and fear the implementation of a centralized system. A lawyer or HR specialist may reject the very principle of an expert system. Consequently, badly-prepared communications can even strengthen people’s resistance, making them more opposed to change and likely to share their fears and doubts with colleagues: “This new application doesn’t really offer any extra benefits: we might as well stay with what we already have”.
As a result, it’s not unusual for companies to install more and more systems, and for productivity to actually decline as a result.
Communication is also about knowing how to show that everyone’s efforts are valued, to make the change credible and send out the signals of recognition that help to motivate people. These situations are in themselves tangible proof of this; and communication can exploit the kind of acceptance generated by such examples.
Communication should be founded on a regular timetable, transparency and close proximity.
A regular timetable means everyone involved is kept constantly informed about developments on the project and can picture themselves in the future that is being constructed
Transparency helps to develop people’s confidence
Close proximity involves management and brings individual responses to people’s concerns.
3. Training brings transformation
Change often involves strengthening knowledge and skills. Employees’ job activities and responsibilities may change significantly. So they need to acquire new skills to fulfill new functions in their jobs.
It’s worth taking a personalized approach to training, based around the business practices you want to promote, and using examples and exercises from real-life situations, working closely with functional experts and user representatives.
This kind of personalization is not only relevant to user training. Using ‘immersion’ techniques for technical personnel in software development teams is very much appreciated when it comes to customization.
The way training courses are delivered should always encourage a participative approach: with people responding to questions and discovering the system for themselves, rather than listening to a trainer. Doing, rather than watching things being done.
Training resources and the way they are delivered will be built up from a number of constituent elements depending on the requirements and constraints identified (the employees involved, geographic spread, what they are used to in terms of previous training, the technical and human resources available, etc). Training may take the form of presentations, self-managed training delivered on line, virtual classrooms, ‘over the shoulder’ monitoring, general implementation or gearing down by ‘training the trainers’.
The choice of approaches should be the one that best meets the individual needs of your organization.
4. Supporting implementation
Support plays a role in training: its ultimate objective is the acquisition or integration of new skills to enable people to do their jobs more effectively.
It can extend the various technical, psychological and organizational aspects of training beyond go-live or as a permanent arrangement that enables experience to be incorporated into real-life working situations thanks to the presence of a trainer, coach, or other professional in the specific area involved.