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Best practice — Change management for cloud software adoption — Implementing change

Best practice — Change management for cloud software adoption — Implementing change

December 5th, 2019

Claudia Piscitelli is the change and adoption lead at Engage Squared — the first Australian business consultancy and tech service provider recognized as a “Microsoft Preferred Partner for Business Applications”. We know, fancy! When it comes to managing change, Claudia knows her stuff.

Claudia helps businesses understand how to implement cloud technologies in a way that connects with their business strategy. We’re very pleased to host her guest series, where she’ll discuss how you can effectively accomplish a change initiative, how you can deliver it in a way that will have the most reach and the most impact, and how you can sustain that change in order to realize the true value and return on your cloud tech investment.

Welcome to part two — implementing change. Claudia leads us on.

Click here to read part one.

At this point (after reading part one), you’ve got your core team ready, your master change plan is set, and you’ve identified your champions. Congratulations! You’re all set to implement and influence change.

If you think back to all the effort and time dedicated in the first phase, you’d have established a clear purpose — a clear ‘why’ and a clear understanding of the ‘what’s in it for me’ (WIIFM) story — not just from a business perspective, but from a team and individual perspective too.

Having a clear understanding of the why and WIIFM is what will set your initiative apart from the rest. It’s what’ll make your change initiative feel like the logical next step in the story that is your business, rather than just another tech roll-out.

Stagger the implementation

During this phase you’ll use your initial learnings, strategies and plans from phase one to begin boosting adoption through a series of activities. This should include targeted engagement with certain stakeholders across the business to build that solid foundation before jumping into a large, broad-scale launch.

This means upskilling and coaching your key stakeholders first — your champion network, executive sponsor, middle managers, and IT support team. It’s important to plan your training and coaching efforts in a staggered way so that the change is seamless and users have the best experience possible. For example, once you do your big bang launch, your IT support team may receive an influx of new requests and issues, so it’s important they’re upskilled first and are prepared well and truly before the change hits. Likewise, your executive sponsor needs to be able to ‘walk the talk’ and model the new behaviors that you want to coach throughout the business, so it’s important to invest time with them early on so they can fully embrace the change and fulfil their role as a sponsor.

It’s really important to give each member of this extended change team all the skills and capabilities they need to support new users.  

Share stories and demonstrate value

Begin by targeting select groups in the early stages of your implementation, focusing on your innovators and your early adopters first. Get those two groups to start using the new tech  before you start your mass launch to the rest of the business.

Among other things, this will help to validate your approach and refine key activities such as your governance model. It’ll help distill your business scenarios, your education and support approach. It may also help you identify any skills gaps or behaviors that you didn’t pick up on in your initial planning.

Targeting early adopters will also give you a really good opportunity to collect some real use-case examples that you can then share with the rest of the business when you do your broad-scale launch. For example, let’s say Jane from team A is using Microsoft Teams to centralize collaboration and communication across her projects. You could ask Jane to talk about the benefits, do a short video, or write a short blog post on what she experienced and how she found the platform really useful in her daily work. Then you can use those quotes throughout your communications when you do your big bang launch.

Collecting quotes and testimonials throughout will help you articulate the why, reinforce the change and demonstrate real value.


Research tells us that a predominantly self-serve education model is typically the most effective approach for adult learning. It’s also a highly recommended approach for introducing new cloud technology, particularly products like Office 365 [and Synergy *wink*], because the software changes so frequently with updates and new features. You don’t want your staff relying on a classroom-based, face-to-face training model to learn new systems. It’s important that you teach them to fish, so they become accustomed to change and know where to go to access information or support.

Notice that we’re talking about ‘education’ instead of just ‘training’ — this is because it’s so much bigger than simply training people on a new piece of technology. You’re coaching new behaviors and new working styles. That takes times and it needs an education frame of mind that asks:

It’s also really important to start with the basics, that is, application-based education like ‘Microsoft Teams 101’. In the early days, it’s about developing confidence — not competence. Once that’s done, you need to build. Habits are usually deeply ingrained in business culture so you’ll quite often run into the, “but we’ve always done it this way”, attitude. Make sure to meet people where they’re at (in terms of technical literacy) to avoid anyone slipping back into old habits and resisting the change.

It’s a fine line that you need to straddle between the self-serve and the face-to-face engagement. There’s a really strong case for bringing groups of people together and running education sessions, whether it be physically face-to-face, or virtually through a live webinar. This type of training session is particularly powerful if you’re doing it with a team — for example, the finance team or the marketing team. Not so much for learning about the technology, as coming together to talk about how they, as a team, are going to use it in their particular context. It gets people thinking, “Oh, we could use it for this and, oh, we could use it for that”.

So it’s still essential to run some group education sessions. But once you’ve phased that out — because really it’s not cost effective to keep delivering those sessions indefinitely — where do those teams go for support? This is why a self-serve knowledge hub or pointing out the built-in support features, like Tell me in the Office suite is important.


The purpose of communication is to build awareness and reinforce the change. It’s usually the first thing end users will see so it’s important to make sure you speak the same language as them and demonstrate value upfront.

Generally, in most businesses, there’s a proliferation of applications and systems that staff have to use. Those applications are quite often siloed and don’t ‘talk’ to each other, so, if you’re introducing another technology, another thing that someone has to learn, you’re going to want to make sure it’s framed through the lens of personal productivity gains, as well as providing context… remember that ‘why’ and ‘what’s in it for me’ story? This is where that comes to life. 

It’s really important during implementation to promote, through your communications, the use of the technology in terms of personal productivity gains and the outcomes that staff can achieve. You’ll struggle to build desire if you promote the technology itself first.

One tactic for helping you achieve this is promoting your high-value business scenarios, or use cases, to key personas. So, you might have four, five, or six business scenarios that you’ve created. One of your business scenarios could be better team collaboration, or smarter meetings, or flexible working. Be sure to have a mixture of scenarios that are valuable to different people across the organization. For example, you might have frontline staff who don’t really need to know how to collaborate with their team on complex documents , because actually they’re answering the phone for most of the day, so you wouldn’t target a ‘document collaboration’  scenario to them. Make sure to marry your scenarios with the personas created during the planning stage and target your communication to your audience.

Refine and build

Once your official launch activities are complete, it’s time to turn your attention to full value realization — this includes starting to think about more advanced business scenarios and education. Once users are more confident with the change, you’ll find that teams, particularly the more tech savvy ones, come back to you wanting to explore other capabilities. For example, they may want to build a flow to help automate a particular process or understand how to go paperless. So make sure to account for this during implementation.

Post-launch is also where you would look at making sure the full functionality of whatever technology you’re implementing is really being embraced and embedded into day-to-day work practices. Have your users really grasped this new change or do they need more support? You can understand this by regularly monitoring your adoption measures and doing pulse checks throughout pre-launch, launch, and post-launch.

Guaranteed, no one will get their change strategy and business scenarios absolutely perfect when they first launch. So keep refining it. Use your adoption measures, real-time data, and feedback channels to keep tweaking as you go.

If you take one thing away, make it this: listen to your users and take a staggered approach to the change so you can learn and iterate throughout.

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