People don’t like change. It is a fundamental part of the human condition, the impact of which can be seen in numerous media outbursts and employee departures and missives of online rage.
Just take a look at the universal reaction to Instagram changing something as simple as its logo. People were upset, they liked the old and the steady, they wanted the brand back.
The same resistance is found in organisations whenever new systems and solutions are introduced. It can impact use, adoption and morale and ultimately cause an expensive investment to fail. What’s needed is for change management to be part and parcel of the process from the start.
Change management is defined by how an organisation handles change during a project or initiative. Done well, it assures of seamless interaction between the technical and the personal, ensuring issues are recognised and addressed.
“Change management is something which comes up frequently in the area of business intelligence (BI) and reporting,” says Andrew Espin, GM of the Cape region at Decision Inc. “It makes the introduction of a new product or a solution complex – the users you want to introduce it to are resistant and reluctant. Organisations have to overcome a number of landmines before the project can move forward with the right momentum. The first of these is awareness. Often the mandate to bring a system online came from the top and management didn’t communicate clearly with the lower levels.”
The challenge is one which lies with management. If the person who signs the cheques has decided to use a BI tool with little consideration as to how it affects the people below them, then there is going to be a problem. If, on the other hand, employees are allowed to buy into the idea and made to feel part of the decision making process, then the difference can immediately be felt.
“A recent installation at Afrimat is a superb example as to how a business can pull its employees on board,” says Espin. “The BI manager is involved in gaining user acceptance and buy-in. As employees are not centrally located, she does roadshows every few months to show them the project’s progress, introduce new information and see what tools they like to use. She takes their input into what has become obsolete or needs to be added, and includes this in the next layer of implementation. The approach has been incredibly successful and resulted in deeper penetration into the business.”
By not leaving the job of introducing a new system to just the IT experts, Afrimat has allowed for employees to become more engaged with the process. It has also addressed one of the other barriers to adoption – ability. Employees are used to working in a certain way and using specific tools to achieve specific goals. When these are summarily taken away and replaced with a new solution which is way out of their comfort zone, people will resist the change.
“When you put something in, you have to introduce it, train people and set the system up according to each organisation’s needs,” says Espin. “It is an approach which will allow for users to become accustomed to the system and, if done well, gives them ownership of it. Afrimat implemented a training programme for their various sites which helped employees to understand how the new reporting environment worked. Decision Inc. went to the sites to deliver one-on-one training at regular intervals and the result was high uptake, adoption and widespread system use.”
There is no debating the benefits of a new BI installation and how it can potentially streamline processes and add inordinate analytical value. However, before any solution can stand on its merit, it needs to be welcomed by the people who use it through effective and informative change management which builds buy-in from the bottom up.