Did you know that the average IT project runs 45 percent over budget, 7 percent over time AND delivers 56 percent less value than expected?1 For those of us who sell and implement technology, that’s painful! So, what change management processes can we encourage our clients to consider to improve the likelihood of project success? As a manufacturer or reseller of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) technologies, you can coach your clients to consider a few surprisingly simple strategies that will improve their chances of successful implementation.
A Process to Follow
Start by giving your clients an understanding of a typical change process to give structure to their activities (and consider coaching them in the typical resistance profiles discussed in an earlier article in this series.) Well-known Harvard business professor, John Kotter’s 1995 book “Leading Change” (and updated in his 2014 book “Accelerate”) offers a useful framework for managing change processes.2 It’s easy to explain and will help your change leaders plan for potential obstacles that may come during the project.
Kotter outlines the following basic steps to consider when planning a change initiative.
- Create Urgency – Projects need 75 percent management “buy in” for a change to be successful, so spend time helping people understand the compelling reasons for going digital and automating common business functions. If your leaders are exhibiting the typical resistance profiles, consider implementing the targeted approaches identified in the first article in this series.
- Form a Powerful Coalition – “Managing change isn’t enough — you have to lead it,” says Kotter.2 Change leaders do not always follow the formal hierarchy, so don’t forget to look among “the masses” for individuals with influence over their peers. Called a “volunteer army,” this group should include all those whose positive energy toward change will help to create the outcomes you seek. Perhaps you have some people who have used digital images in previous positions or who are naturally change-friendly. Engage these folks in helping convince other, less change-friendly personalities to experiment with the options and get involved in supporting the change.
- Create a Vision for Change – A strong vision helps unify ideas and clarify options under a framework that people can grasp. Your vision should be simple and easy to explain, while also offering a compelling reason for staff to get involved.
- Communicate the Vision – Share your vision frequently and powerfully. Become incessant — talk about it all the time! Here’s your opportunity to lead by example.
- Remove Obstacles – Every change will encounter obstacles along the way, and it’s the leader’s job to overcome them. Look for resisters and processes that may be getting in the way, and then manage them individually.
- Create Short-term Wins – Key milestones that occur during the rollout should be acknowledged and celebrated. Talk about these incessantly too. The positive reinforcement encourages adopters to keep going and helps put naysayers at bay.
- Build on the Change – Keep looking for improvements that take you beyond the quick wins. What else can be improved through small additional efforts?
- Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture – Some change resisters may want to backslide over time to old methods; don’t let them! Train new employees in new methods without presenting acceptable alternatives that return to older processes.
Did you know that the pace of change can influence the likelihood of project success? It’s true. If the change needs to happen quickly and you have a clear plan for implementation, little staff involvement is needed. However, if the conversion will happen slowly over time and there will be many options and variables to consider, then early participation and extensive training are needed. “Organizational change efforts that are based on inconsistent strategies tend to run into predictable problems. For example, efforts that are not clearly planned in advance and yet are implemented quickly tend to become bogged down because of unanticipated problems. Efforts that involve a large number of people, but are implemented quickly, usually become either stalled or less participative,” explain Kotter and Leonard Schlesigner.3
The speed at which digitization occurs is often a function of the reasons behind the change. For example, companies converting to digital records in response to industry or government regulations may have little control over timeframes or even technology options. In this environment, a rapid pace of change implementing product that has a history of successfully helping other companies comply with the specific regulation involved, is likely the best option. As a vendor or reseller, it is important that you help your client identify what is driving the conversion to digital and whether a fast or slow pace is best suited to successfully achieving desired outcomes.
Try a “Land-and-Expand” Strategy
Though we all want to close very large deals, they can quickly become unwieldy during implementation. If you’re dealing with a very large prospect, you may encourage them to implement product in stages—a land-and-expand strategy.
Why start small? In a 2012 study of IT projects, the Gartner Group found that “small is beautiful.” They noted a failure rate 50 percent higher for very large projects (budgets in excess of $1 million) versus small projects (budgets below $350,000). “To optimize success, look for ways to limit the size, complexity and duration of individual projects …,” says Lars Mieritz, lead analyst on the report.4 In addition, departmental successes offer compelling proof to other parts of a business that your technology works. They don’t have to rely on the “evidence” of other businesses whose circumstances may not match; rather they see folks in the same corporate structure and culture finding success and generating returns from digitization efforts. This a simple strategy to increase the size of your “volunteer army” of project supporters.
How does it really work? Consider the case of the R.C. Bigelow Company, makers of Bigelow Tea. They are the No. 1 specialty tea company in America and produce more than 1.7 billion tea bags annually. More than a decade ago, their finance department embraced digital invoicing and cloud storage to streamline processes and improve employee productivity and morale. The department was able to eliminate expenses associated with copying and mailing records between offices and offsite document storage fees. They even reduced payroll due to the elimination of overtime and seasonal employees who were brought in to help with audits. Analysts at Nucleus Research verified the project’s return on investment (ROI) at 813 percent with full project payback in just two months! Over time, the successes recognized by the finance team encouraged other departments to implement the same cloud-based ECM service, and now the company is almost entirely paperless. Today, the company has more than 50 system users in many departments including accounts payable and accounts receivable, sales, customer service, purchasing, human resources, payroll and the tea division. In fact, even their Charleston, S.C., Tea Plantation manages records using the digital system. What started in finance is now virtually ubiquitous across the organization. “It’s a huge win for the company,” exclaimed Noreen Clough, accounting manager.
There are at least three surprisingly simple strategies for your clients to consider when planning an implementation of imaging, document management, or business process automation that will help improve the chances of project success. First, make sure they have a basic understanding of the change management process. Second, help them recognize that not all change should happen quickly … or slowly; the pace should be suited to the circumstances. Finally, encourage very large customers to follow a land-and-expand strategy whereby they implement in phases, offering the company the opportunity to prove the value to themselves as the project rolls out.
This is the second in a multi-part series on leading change. Read Part 1 here and look for additional articles on personal resistance profiles and tips for leaders tasked with managing change initiatives.
1 Project Management Institute. (2015). “Pulse of the Profession 2015: Capturing the Value of Project Management 2015”
2 Mind Tools. (Dec 2016). “Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model.” Retrieved from: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_82.htm
3 Kotter, John P. and Leonard Schlesigner, (July-August 2008). Choosing Strategies for Change. Harvard Business Review.
4 Larz Maritz (June 1, 2012). “Gartner Survey Shows Why Projects Fail.” Thisiswhatgoodlookslike. Retrieved from: https://thisiswhatgoodlookslike.com/2012/06/10/gartner-survey-shows-why-projects-fail/