It's not uncommon to face resistance or bumps along the road when looking to implement a new technology for your organization. That's why when undergoing these type of transformative projects, it’s best to create a change management strategy to set yourself up for success.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, change management refers to the process of preparing, equipping and supporting individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organizational success and outcomes.
Change management is incredibly important since statistically, 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. In fact, when examining the biggest obstacles to implementing any change program, it seems that the largest barriers rest within the people of the organization. According to the Best Practices in Change Management, 2018, the top five obstacles to successful change are:
Lack of executive support and active sponsorship
Inadequate change management buy-in and resourcing
Resistance and lack of support for the specific solution
Change-resistant culture and organizational structure
Change saturation and lack of prioritization
That being said, you absolutely need a change management strategy when undergoing any type of organizational transformation. There are three essential elements that any good change management strategy needs to take into consideration: people, processes and technology.
The people aspect is, statistically speaking, not only the most important, but also the most challenging. Ensuring that the people within your organization are onboard and ready to embrace the upcoming change is extremely important, and failing to do so will be detrimental to your success. If the desired change isn’t communicated effectively or within the right amount of time, staff can become disconnected and resistant, which is obviously something you want to avoid at all costs.
Next is the processes factor. Your change has to be supported by new or improved processes that can ensure you're successful. For example, say you're implementing a new knowledge-centered support tool. You need to ensure that you have a new documentation process so that all documentation finds its new home and no information is lost.
Last is the technology part. If you have the people and processes successfully in place, you’re golden.
Applying the people, processes and technology elements to your plan is key; these will, in essence, be the recipients of the change process.
Your change process itself will be mapped out into three distinct stages:
Assess the Current State: Assess your current processes, identify leadership and determine the state of change readiness within the organization.
Select Tool/ Vendor and Plan Rollout : Select vendor/ tool, design processes and craft communication strategy.
Launch and Operate: Launch new tool, train staff and ensure that change is communicated as rollout continues.
Drawing on our example above, let's take a closer look at each stage and the steps necessary to rollout a new knowledge-centred support tool.
Stage 1: Assess Your Current State
The first step in any successful change management strategy is first assessing where you’re currently at. This includes the people in your organization, the current technology you use, your processes, your business needs, and even where you fall short. Knowing where you currently stand will provide the framework for your plan and will inform the direction you take later down the road.
Identify Change Management Leadership Team
Change management is an organization-wide initiative, and as a result, you need to ensure that you have a leadership team that represents the organization as a whole. Make sure that you have identified who these people are; they don’t necessarily have to be VPs or Directors. They could be management, or even senior staff, so long as they have the capacity to fully take on the responsibilities that come with being a key member of this team and are able to lead their department.
Review Current Processes
An essential component of the assessment stage is ensuring that decisions made later down the road are informed and methodically implemented. In order to make these informed decisions, you need to ensure that you’ve thoroughly examined how your documentation, help articles and knowledge management processes are currently operating. This will help you ensure that any existing gaps in your current processes are identified. In order to do this, you should consult with your Change Management Leadership Team and any key frontline workers, such as your most experienced customer service representatives.
The best way to really define how your processes work is to map it out using a process map. Processes maps are a great way to visually layout how things operate, and as a result, are excellent tools in assisting the identification of any bottlenecks or process issues.
Change Readiness/ Organizational Culture Assessment Survey
One of the most critical aspects of successfully implementing any change is ensuring that all staff are onboard—this is increasingly important since if your staff aren’t on board and committed to the new knowledge-centered support strategy, it might not garner the results you’re hoping for. A well-oiled machine is a must in order to achieve success. You therefore want to start with a baseline of staff attitudes before the change and continue to measure throughout so that it can be monitored and addressed as necessary.
Doing this will allow you to not only prepare a change management strategy that fits the unique attributes of your organization, but will also allow you to assess the actions of the leadership team and its effects on the staff and organization.
Identify Business Needs
This step is key. Why are you considering implementing a knowledge-centered support strategy in the first place? Are you looking to increase customer experience? Decrease support costs by deflecting tickets? Increase your response time to product/ service issues? Find documentation quickly and easily?
Make sure you create a full list of what it is that you’re looking to address with this new knowledge management technology, and what your business needs are. To assist you in this step, you should examine what your organization's mission and vision statements are; this is always a good place to start. Be sure that you keep your business needs and goals in mind, since they will assist you later on when you look to measure your success through KPIs.
Stage 2: Select Tool/ Vendor and Plan Rollout
After you’ve assessed your baseline, you’ll be ready to actually find a solution that addresses your business needs and can deliver on your goals. The tool and vendor you choose will ultimately inform how you develop your rollout strategy.
Have Discussions with Vendors
Now that you’ve identified your business needs and have mapped out how your knowledge currently flows through your organization, you’re ready to do some shopping. Be sure that the vendor/ tool that you choose is able to address all your business needs and make your vision a reality.
Once you’ve decided on a vendor and tool that can give you what you want, it’s time to design your strategy and set timelines.
Design Processes and Set Deadlines
The vendor that you select should have a good idea of how long it’ll take to get the tech up and running, and will likely inform you of anything they need from you to get the project started. This step will no doubt vary depending on what tool you’ve selected and how large your existing repository of knowledge is; however, it’s always good to refer back to Stage 1 where you mapped out your existing processes. This should provide you with a good indication of where all your current knowledge is stored; from here, you can begin to plan how and when these documents will be added to the new tool.
Some things that you’ll want to consider during this step, as it will impact the timeline, include:
Determining how you want knowledge to move within your organization, within the parameters of your new tool capabilities
Determining whether the file format of your existing documentation needs to be migrated to a new file type
Determining whether your existing documentation is actually correct; ensure that you have the most knowledgeable staff review these files for quality assurance
Determining the standard for your new content; whether you want your new documentation to fit a certain writing style or format layout, and who will be responsible for this
Determining the article life cycle and how often they will be reviewed for quality and accuracy, and by whom
Determining how your knowledge categories will work/ your metadata definitions and who will be responsible for tagging the content
Determining the naming protocols for your new knowledge documentation (in a way that’s SEO friendly and can be easily found)
Lastly, you’ll want to set a deadline for every aspect of your plan. Some steps will likely have to be completed before others can begin, and so I’d recommend using a Gantt Chart to help map out all the steps you need, those accountable for them, and the deadline. Do keep in mind, however, that some vendors may take control of this process for you and lead you through it; you should definitely take that into consideration when shopping around.
Create an Org-Wide Communications Plan
Creating an organization-wide communication plan is key to the success of your project. Refer back to your change readiness survey that you conducted in Stage 1: what are the general sentiments across your organization or within specific departments? Is change being welcomed with open arms, or apprehension? This survey will provide the framework for how you should approach, inform and onboard staff during your transition process.
Be sure that the communications plan is created with the input and assistance of the entire leadership team; this ensures that there is an element of accountability that represents each department. Further, it’ll help address any concerns that management may have when it comes to the change. Some things that you’ll want to consider when crafting your communication plan include:
How you plan on shifting organizational culture, if necessary
How often staff will be updated with regards to the process of the change
How you plan to onboard staff with the new processes
How you plan on migrating any documentation or content into the new system
What role your staff will play in assisting with the transition
The approximate timeline of the transition
Additionally, you’ll want to consider what type of messaging, if any, you want your customers to see when they go to your website or access any existing self-service support tool you may have.
Create a Risk Assessment and Continuity Plan
The launch of any new initiative requires a careful look at any risks associated with the change or risks that may occur during the transition process. As a result, you should be sure to develop a risk management plan to help identify what these risks could be. Doing so will help ensure that you’re not only being proactive, but have also taken the time to consider how you’ll address these incidents, should they occur. That being said, be sure to also create a continuity strategy—or in other words—have a strategy in place to address these issues if they arise.
Stage 3: Launch and Operate
This stage is all about getting your new tool up and running! Ensure that the people within your organization remain informed and supportive and that the processes to operate your knowledge-centered support tool are executed successfully.
Train All Relevant Staff
Now that you know how the flow of knowledge will work in your organization, you’ll need to train all your relevant staff on the new processes required to operate your knowledge-centered support. This includes how new knowledge will be added, how knowledge will be maintained and how it will be formatted. You also might want to consider whether you might be in need of any new/ more specialized staff to help operate your new tool.
Set Process/ Content Revision Protocols
Your tool will likely include a feedback feature, or “helpfulness” feature, where customers can provide you with information regarding the usefulness of help articles/ documentation. That being said, you should be sure to layout new protocols surrounding what constitutes a poor rating, and at which point your staff should get involved and review the content.
Support Continued Rollout
It may take a few months for your entire plan to be completed; this largely depends on the size of your organization and how much content you have. As stages of your plan continue to rollout and be completed, be sure to follow your communication strategy, developed in Stage 2, to ensure that your staff remain supportive of the initiative. Be sure to stay as transparent as possible and address any questions or concerns as soon as they arise.
In order to implement any new program or tool, such as the knowledge-centered support tool that we used as an example in this blog, you absolutely need to have a change management plan in place. The people within your organization can be the biggest barrier to success, so make sure that buy-in is a priority when crafting your plan. You should aim to ensure that the change within your organization is:
Carefully considered and planned based on consultation with relevant people
Clearly articulated, in terms of the purpose, the need, the scope and the impacts
Transparent, consistent, fair and conveys all known information
Communicated to the relevant people in an appropriate and timely manner and provides opportunities for questions
If your change management plan abides by these principles, it’s likely to succeed.