Written by Juli Dixon, Andrew Mason, and Ben Marglin
Managing change means understanding what it is—and isn’t
Successful IT modernization initiatives are often more dependent on an organization’s culture and ability to absorb change than they are on the selection and implementation of the right technology. Yet, some federal organizations think of change management initiatives almost as an afterthought to technical delivery. A comprehensive change management strategy should be an integral part of any IT modernization effort—it’s a critical part of the overall culture and vision of any modernization plan.
Here are five key myths about organizational change management in IT modernization efforts—and the reality.
Myth No. 1: We focus all our change management efforts on the end users. They’re the ones who need it most.
The Reality: Change management efforts should address the entire stakeholder community. From your delivery teams and business units to your IT group, anyone who’s helping execute the work should be part of your change management strategy. They all need to work together to ensure proper adoption of new technology and ultimate success of the IT modernization initiative.
Myth No. 2: We don’t need executive leadership to help drive our IT modernization initiatives. We can handle this on our own.
The Reality: A change champion gives your IT modernization initiative the vital authority and support it needs to succeed. From communicating a vision to connecting the IT modernization efforts to the mission, an executive sponsor should be actively engaged—articulating just how important the initiative is to the greater stakeholder community. Without an executive champion, your change management initiatives may not be prioritized effectively, resulting in implementation breakdown.
Myth No. 3: Change management means communications and training, plain and simple.
The Reality: Change management involves a variety of activities—including training and communications—but also many others. Stakeholder analysis, performance management, policy development, business process reengineering, marketing efforts, workforce impacts, and organization analysis are all vital capabilities to ensure the IT modernization effort is successful.
Myth No. 4: We engage once the technical team is ready to deploy, and once we’ve completed that, our job is done. External agencies now own it and are responsible for their own activities associated with the new application.
The Reality: Change management starts with initial planning of an IT modernization initiative and goes throughout (and likely beyond) the full lifecycle of technical delivery—it takes a sustained effort over time. For IT modernization efforts that affect a large stakeholder community, you should engage with change management workstreams all along the way, from initial planning to post-implementation.
Myth No. 5: It’s difficult to measure the success of your change management activities during an IT modernization effort. It’s a lot of “soft” stuff that’s hard to measure and understand if it has been helpful.
The Reality: Leaders and teams are quick to claim victory in the deployment of solutions without taking the time to find out what’s working and what’s not. There are lots of ways to approach performance management to identify how and where the change efforts are impacting an IT modernization initiative, and ultimately the mission or business of the agency itself. Measures and metrics should be established and used to help with data-driven decision making around the success of change management. Common examples are user adoption of new technology, but other examples include measuring the success of communications, business process and/or workforce adjustments, stakeholder feedback, and many others.
The Bottom Line
As federal agencies look to move forward with IT modernization initiatives, they should build in change management as a key component to their plans. All too often, it’s an overlooked piece of the puzzle, or agencies feel that they don’t need to invest in change management (or the first to get cut when budgets are tight). Agencies are making large investments in new technology to drive their missions forward, and they should also look to invest (a relatively small amount) in change management to drive to successful outcomes.