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Expert Advice for Medium and Midsize Businesses

Embrace Organization Change Management for a Successful Project

Guest Author

Chris Gloede, Sr. Project Manager, CSS International – An Oracle Cloud Partner

Since cloud and other enterprise projects are often painted as primarily business and technology initiatives, it is easy to forget about the people who use the deliverables. While well-defined enterprise software initiatives provide great opportunity for improvements in every organization, they are potentially fraught with adoption risks if the end users are disillusioned and distraught over the purported outcomes.

Yes, employees can and do perceive that change can be difficult and scary. It is not a trivial situation which is why application of organization change management (OCM) principles is a driver for project success.

Consider typical small-to medium-size (SMB) company projects. During past initiatives –  like an on-premises enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation – it is common to hear comments like:

  • “Why do we need this?  We are just fine the way things are.”
  • “We’ve never done it that way before.”
  • “How do they expect us to know how to get our work done and use this stuff?”
  • “They always install this new stuff that just makes things harder.”
  • “They never ask us what we really do or need.”

And once go-live occurs, these behaviors are similarly observed:

  • Low productivity.
  • Lower utilization or incorrect usage of new processes, systems and tools.
  • More people taking sick days or not showing up.
  • Turnover of valued employees.
  • People using work-arounds or reverting to the old way of doing things.
  • Active or passive resistance.
  • Disinterest in the current or future state.
  • Divides between ‘us’ and ‘them’.
  • Employees that worry if they are prepared to be successful in future state.

It is not hard to find projects that have experienced these questions, comments and behaviors; collectively, they point to inadequate, poor or missing OCM. 

OCM is an important consideration for any project, especially as organizations transition from decades-old on-premises systems and other aged technologies to cloud applications.

Consider these observations from different authors:

  • "Culture shock is possibly the most difficult hurdle in an ERP rollout.  Employees are resistant to change for a myriad of reasons; usually rooted in some type of fear." (source: Profitkey International)
  • “Change initiatives are time consuming and costly, significantly impacting an organization’s drive toward success. And nearly half of them fail.  Since the reality is that change is unavoidable, organizations need to resolve how to successfully adapt and sustain change.” (source: The Project Management Institute)
  • "ERP success demands that users adopt new business processes, ways of working, communication channels, software tools, and so on. This challenging proposition becomes even more complicated as organization size increases." (source: Michael Krigsman, “In Beyond IT Failure.”)
  • “Transformational change initiatives have a dismal track record.”  (source: Gary Hamel and Michael Zanini, "McKinsey Quarterly" referencing the Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter’s statement that nearly 70 percent of large-scale change programs didn’t meet their goals.)

These comments highlight that no matter how brilliant the solution provided, without addressing the human side of change and preparing users properly with OCM, the chance of successfully achieving desired goals and the return on investment is significantly reduced. The risk of project failure is greatly increased.

How do project managers and their companies manage this risk? 

The first step is to acknowledge – despite what we often hear – that people are not afraid of change.  Consider a recipient of a winning super lottery ticket worth millions. It is a drastic change to the winner’s life yet, who resists the change.  Why?  They know the context and accept the meaning of the sudden change. 

McKinsey has identified four basic conditions necessary before employees will embrace change and positively modify their behavior:

  1. A compelling story, because employees must see the point of the change and agree with it.
  2. Role modeling, because they must also see the CEO and colleagues they admire behaving in the new way.
  3. Reinforcing mechanisms, because systems, processes, and incentives must be in line with the new behavior.
  4. Capability building, because employees must have the skills required to make the desired changes.

An effectively delivered OCM approach will:

  • Increase project success
  • Reduce employee resistance to change
  • Verify people-dependent ROI metrics
  • Establish organizational change competency

Opting to ignore or underestimate the level of effort to successfully drive the adoption of change when small-to medium-size firms move to cloud applications is a quantifiable risk to project success. Use documented, repeatable, and predictable OCM approaches to achieve a steady state of operations faster which also drives a higher ROI.

OCM delivers excited, engaged and empowered users, a key ingredient for every on-premises to cloud project.

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