When I was a kid, I used to love my Walkman. I’d create mixed tapes of my favorite songs and share them with friends, spending hours discussing our favorite tracks. The rewind button on my Walkman got a lot of use, and I couldn’t imagine anything ever replacing it. But, of course, it did. Several times over, in fact. First, Walkman models with higher fidelity came out, followed by slimmer versions, and then tapes gave way to mini-disc players. Eventually, CD players emerged as the new standard. After a few generations of iPods, we now have phones and watches that have made the Walkman nearly obsolete.
Change is inevitable and, in today’s world, it’s happening at an unprecedented pace. Technological advancements, innovation, and globalization are driving this accelerated rate of change. Companies, no matter the industry, must continually adapt to remain competitive. For instance, Apple, once a small player in the mobile phone industry, has now become the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer, displacing giants like Motorola, Nokia, and RIM. Utilities are grappling with changes due to grid modernization, fluctuating commodity prices, and the shift towards renewable energy sources. Financial services companies are dealing with a myriad of challenges, from regulatory changes to the cost of maintaining IT infrastructure and growing competition in the digital banking sphere.
This wave of change isn’t confined to a few industries but extends to telecommunications, certain government departments, and healthcare, among others. Companies across the board are facing an array of transformative initiatives.
Portfolio management of change
So, how can an organization effectively manage and coordinate these numerous change initiatives while ensuring they positively impact employee performance and customer experience?
Change initiatives are essentially projects that require employees and sometimes customers to adopt new ways of doing things. Whether it’s adapting to a new system interface, understanding a new product, or following a revised company policy, these initiatives all involve behavioral changes.
However, here’s the challenge: these change initiatives often affect multiple departments within an organization. For example, a new IT system rollout impacts the IT department but also influences how other departments work. A new HR policy influences the entire organization, while changes in a product’s features affect the marketing, sales, and customer support teams.
The consequence is that change initiatives rarely affect just one department; they have a ripple effect across the organization. In some cases, an initiative might even contradict another department’s efforts, leading to confusion and inefficiency.
To manage these changes effectively, organizations must gain a holistic view of all ongoing initiatives. This means understanding what changes are happening, when they’re happening, and how they’ll impact different employee and customer groups.
A Unified View of Change
The challenge for large organizations is to create an integrated view of all change initiatives. For smaller companies or industries with relatively stable environments, spreadsheets might suffice. But for larger, more complex organizations with operations spanning different regions and functions, a more rigorous approach is necessary.
Sadly, many large organizations still rely on standalone spreadsheets that require extensive manual effort for data collection, verification, analysis, and reporting. These spreadsheets often focus on cost, timeline, and resource data but tend to overlook a crucial piece of the puzzle: change impact data, which reveals how employees and customers are affected by an initiative.
Imagine the sheer volume of changes a sizable financial services company may face in a year. There could be over 10 legislative changes, countless business improvement initiatives, multiple restructuring efforts, numerous technology updates, and various divisional policy changes. And this is just the beginning. The overall list of change initiatives can be overwhelming.
When I talked to colleagues in divisional operations, they often expressed their difficulties in keeping track of changes. They struggled to understand what changes were happening, which department was driving them, which teams were affected, the timing of these changes, the nature of the impact, and the size of the impact.
With each department maintaining separate spreadsheets or, worse, not having any centralized system, the result was continuous disruptions to employee performance and operational efficiency. Imagine a scenario where one department pushes its call center to sell a product, while another department sends out notices stating that the same product is nearing end-of-life. The resulting confusion affects not only employee performance but also the customer experience.
For organizations dealing with a multitude of changes, how can they create an integrated view of all change initiatives, regardless of whether they involve legislative, technological, policy, strategic, or product changes?
Utilizing Technology for Change Management
To effectively manage the complexity of numerous change initiatives, organizations can benefit from an online tool. The tool should help reduce complexity, enhance communication, and improve risk management. Here are the key characteristics such a tool should have:
Ease of Administration: The tool should be simple for both those driving and those receiving change. It should efficiently capture essential data related to people’s change impacts.
Focused on Impact Data: While the tool should cover essential project and business data, its primary focus should be on collecting key impact data. This data complements existing data, enhancing the overall change management strategy.
Effective Reporting Tools: The tool should offer effective and flexible reporting tools. These help operational managers, project management offices (PMOs), and senior managers plan for people’s readiness for change initiatives.
Analysis Capabilities: The tool should include analysis features to identify change risks. These analyses could include change loading and timing issues, which might necessitate reprioritization of initiatives.
Customization: Each organization is unique in terms of its departments, types of changes, and reporting requirements. The tool should be adaptable to accommodate these differences.
However, the effectiveness of any tool depends on how well people use it. An effective tool for presenting a sequence of changes the company is undertaking should be complemented by two crucial aspects:
1. Operating Rhythm to Embed the Tool
This aspect involves establishing processes for using the tool across all divisions of the organization. For example, the marketing department should have designated roles for coordinating product changes and ensuring they are entered into the tool. These roles may also include analyzing the data from the tool to plan product launches more effectively.
With an integrated view of change initiatives, the need may arise to create an enterprise-level governance body or committee to oversee the ongoing development and usage of the tool. This committee can address the needs of various stakeholders and discuss strategic issues related to change delivery risks and initiative prioritization.
To read more about building and maturing change analytics capability click here.
2. Leveraging the Tool for Business Decisions
Once the organization has an integrated view of change initiatives, the challenge shifts to using this data for critical decisions. These decisions may revolve around managing employee capacity to absorb change initiatives, resource allocation, potential effects on customer experience, timing of initiatives, and alignment with the overall strategy. Historical data can provide insights into how much change capacity is optimal, leading to informed decisions.
Implementing an enterprise-level change management tool will not only provide a comprehensive view of all change initiatives but also enhance the overall change management capability. As processes and operations adapt to support the tool, the organization’s ability to manage change effectively will increase.
To read more about measuring change using change management software click here.
In this article, we’ve emphasized the importance of understanding what is changing and having an integrated view of initiatives. To experience the transformative power of The Change Compass, join our Weekly Demo every Tuesday to enhance your business performance.