Best practice — Change management for cloud software adoption

Best practice — Change management for cloud software adoption

September 24th, 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 one — planning and scope. Claudia shows us the way.


Change and adoption is all about making meaningful, impactful change. Most businesses have learnt the hard way that it’s not enough to just ‘turn on’ a new technology and expect that people will use it. Whatever the solution, it needs to have relevance — not only to the business, but to each individual employee. It needs to feel like the next logical chapter in the story that is your business.

That requires quite a lot of planning up front to understand, for example, the different personas or stakeholders within a business, what their day looks like, and how you can then craft messages, education, and coaching experiences that will bring them along on the journey with you. To get them to see the value in using a new product or adopting a new behavior. All of that requires quite a deep understanding of the business, which is why it’s really important to have internal staff, who are on the ground, who live and breathe the business every day, that feed into this process.

Phase one — planning and scope

The first phase is planning and scope. In this stage there’s quite a lot of work that internal teams need to do to prepare for a change. Particularly when deploying a new cloud technology, whether it’s a full suite of products, like Office 365, or it’s just an individual product within that, like Microsoft Teams.

How much time you spend in your planning phase varies depending on the size of the business. Typically, the preparation stage for a smaller company is anywhere from one to two months. A larger company takes two to three months’ worth of planning.

These are some of the things you need to consider during this phase of the change process:

1. Form your squad

A key part of this phase is to identify all the key stakeholders that will influence change in your business. This is the time to bring together your key business partners, or your squad — an executive sponsor, project managers, champions, communications lead, change and adoption lead, and your technology lead. If you’re a really small business, your communications lead and your adoption lead might be the same person. Whatever the size of the group, it’s important that you identify and bring that core group of people together.

EXECUTIVE SPONSOR

Executive sponsors drive successful change. They’re the ones who fund the project and it’s critical they show active and visible participation in the change — to lead by example. Using Office 365 as an example, an executive might model new behaviors by ignoring emails with attachments; they’ll wait until it comes as a document link to a shared portal like OneDrive or SharePoint. That way, they’re not only actively modeling the new behaviors but also showing full support for this new way of working.

Research shows that when a CEO or an executive member is open to change, the transformation is successful quite early on, and it usually cascades well throughout the rest of the business.

SUCCESS OWNER / CHANGE AND ADOPTION LEAD

You need a person who is accountable for the overall success of the change project’s implementation. Someone to guide internal teams to do all the activities they need to do to make this change happen.

CHAMPIONS / EVANGELISTS

Usually our champions, or evangelists as they’re sometimes known, are people who have an interest in technology but are not officially part of a technology team. They’re generally the people across the business that are open to change and willing to try new things. They’re the type of people you want to identify at this early stage as part of your change network to bring some enthusiasm and ‘can-do’ attitude.

PROJECT MANAGERS

A project manager is responsible for the day-to-day tasks, like managing risks and dealing with issues. They’re usually a conduit between the IT stream, the change lead, and other stakeholders on the team.

COMMUNICATIONS AND MARKETING LEAD

Is there a particular staff member that can own the comms and marketing for the change project? There’s quite a lot of internal communication and awareness-driving that must happen throughout, so it’s important that messaging is consistent and is owned by one or two people.

IT / TECHNOLOGY LEAD

Lastly, your core team will need someone with technical expertise. People who have a deep understanding of how the technology works and understand the road map as well. Your technology lead is the one to drive your business’s technological readiness assessment in this phase.

2. Find and acknowledge your champions

Once you’ve identified people to be part of the change network, you’ll want to consider setting up a program of recognition for your champions. Small businesses might only need a couple of people. Big businesses are likely to form a whole community of people. A champion is anyone in the organization who wants and believes in the change but may not have the authority to make the change happen (and doesn’t have direct accountability for it). They might be early adopters of technology, have key or broad network range, or both. They are influencers who will do much of the work of implementing the change project on the ground.

The role of champion is typically an addition to that person’s day job — they’re helping you drive this change. This makes it especially important to acknowledge that and show them the value of being a champion. You can demonstrate your appreciation in many ways; a certificate of recognition, letting the team member put the change into their KPIs so that it’s recognized during the next performance appraisal, awarding merchandise, etc.

3. Identify personas

At this stage you need to do identify your ‘personas’ — think about the various types of people in your business and how they are likely to use the technology. This will help you make the change relevant to individuals in your business.

4. Think through scenarios

Once you’ve got your personas, think about common business scenarios for using the technology and how they fit with the different personas. At this point, it’s also important to think about and plan for potential resistance you might face. During this planning phase, it’s vitally important to map all of that out, so that you can start to put together mitigation strategies to reduce the noise and resistance you may get.

Framing the change through business scenarios is all about translating the technology into a language people will understand. Rather than saying, “we have this shiny new application you can use,” it’s about framing it as, “do you want to save an extra hour or two in your week?”, and then showing them how to do that, whether through more efficient meetings, better document collaboration or better team collaboration — whatever benefits the particular technology solution brings.

Once you’ve identified the business scenarios relevant to your business, it’s then about the prioritization and planning of those. For example, you may launch a campaign with one or two really key business scenarios that resonate across the business and tackle those first. Once you finish the campaign, you review adoption statistics to see if there’s been a change in how people use technology. Then you look at rolling out other scenarios. It’s also about giving people bite-size change rather than overloading them with all these new ways of working all at once.

5. Assess your technical and organizational readiness

Another really important thing to do in the planning and scope stage is to think about technical readiness and organizational readiness. These are two assessments that happen in tandem.

Technical readiness involves things like checking the network performance to support your new cloud technology. It’s really important to make sure your company is set up from a technology standpoint to support whatever you’re rolling out. There’s no point rolling out a shiny new piece of technology if the network can’t cope with it. Get those fundamentals right to start and it will set you up for long-term success.

Alongside that, you need to do an organizational readiness assessment. This involves looking at other changes in the works, the level of appetite for change in the company, and the overall sentiment about change within your business.

Think about long-term adoption

Regardless of whether it’s a business of 30 people or 15,000 people, changing behavior and embedding new ways of working takes time. You need to make sure you consider the different working styles across the business and leveraging your champions network — coaching them, upskilling them, making them experts in the technology — so they can continue influencing change long into the future, well after the program has completed.

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