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The importance of Business Process Change Management

by David Mainville on

Digital Transformation and Business Process Automation remain top priorities for CIOs everywhere. The driving factor is to drive efficiency, reduce costs and improve the customer experience. Too many of these initiatives fail because we neglect to address the "people side" of the transformation. This failure will put your project at risk and reduce the chances of meeting your projected outcomes.

There is an old saying, "the more things change, the more they stay the same." This saying is especially true when it comes to implementing IT projects. We continue to see failure after failure. 

This quote from Gartner sums it up. "Despite more than 50 years of history and countless methodologies, advice, and books, IT projects keep failing".

This failure rate is no better in the era of Digital Transformation. Just search for Digital Transformation failures, and you will find countless examples on the internet.  Here are some of the common reasons for failure.

  • No active executive sponsorship
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Poor project management skills
  • No defined business processes
  • lack of documented requirements

Perhaps the most fundamental reasons for failure is the lack of an organizational change management process.

What is Organizational Change Management (OCM)?

All companies have some degree of organizational inertia. They have been operating a certain way, and it takes a lot of energy to change direction. A good analogy is an oil tanker. Once the ship gets underway, it takes a lot of energy to change course.

People become comfortable with the status quo. The introduction of an organizational change brings about a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Employees become anxious and start asking questions.

How will this change affect me? Will I still have a job? Things are working well; why do we have to change?

OCM is a set of practices that help overcome your team member's doubts. The goal is to make them willing participants in the change. A substantial part of change management is effective communication. It would help if you let people know why a change is essential, how the change will affect them, what the benefits will be and how they can help.

Changes come in all sizes, from a simple change to a process to fundamental changes in how the business operates. Regardless of the degree of change, you still need to apply effective change management to overcome resistance and garner adoption. The degree of OCM will based on the magnitude of the change.

OCM is a well-established discipline with many resources at your disposal. There is substantial literature on the topic, along with well-documented best practices. There are various courses and certifications available to educate yourself on OCM. Many organizations turn to consultants that specialize in this area. 

Organizational Change Management Models

Several models provide an excellent framework for managing organizational change. These models can make a wonderful addition to your Business Process Management toolbox. Some of the more popular ones include:

  • ADKAR is a model for implementing organizational change focused on the five outcomes of; Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.
  • Dr. Kotter's 8-step process came from decades of observations and research by this Harvard Business School professor. The steps include; creating a sense of urgency, building a guiding coalition, forming a strategic vision, enlisting a volunteer army, enabling action by removing barriers, generating short-term wins, sustaining acceleration, and instituting change.
  • Lewin's Change Management Model. This model is a three-phase approach to change management. Phase one is to unfreeze the status quo. Phase two is making the transition. Phase three is to freeze the change in place.
  • McKinsey's 7-S Model looks at the balance between seven organizational elements. These elements include structure, strategy, systems, skills, style, staff, and shared values. Originally developed as an analysis tool, this method has proven to help implement significant change.

The Basics of Organizational Change Management

At their core, most of these change models follow a similar philosophy. Here are some key takeaways from the various models that can help you on your change management journey.

  • Explain why the change is essential.  Anyone with children knows that when you ask them to do something, the first thing they say is why. People don't like doing things blindly, and failure to explain why opens the doors to speculation and misinformation. Check out this Ted Talk by Simon Sinek on the importance of starting with the why!
  • Discuss "what's in it for me" (WIIFM). Along with knowing why the change is essential, employees must also understand how they will benefit from it. It's important to note that the WIIFM can change depending on the audience. How the head of sales will benefit from the change can be very different from how a finance clerk will. Constantly communicate the benefits in the language of your audience.
  • Let the staff know how the impacts. One of the ways to alleviate fear is to identify how an employee will be affected. They will want to learn what's expected of them and how their job may change. Let them know how the change may impact the organizational structure.
  • Solicit assistance in selling the change.  Start by getting someone who is a recognized authority in the space, and people will listen to what they say. Get the help of well-liked and respected employees. If they are on board, others will follow. Get consensus from key stakeholders, as people will tend to follow the crowd. In his work on the Science of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini identified several principles that can help you sell the value of a change.
  • Keep communication lines open. It is essential to develop a comprehensive communication plan that addresses all phases of the change, from initiation to completion. Hold kickoff meetings with the staff. Hold regular communication sessions where you can update everyone on the project's progress. Weave communication into the day-to-day interactions with the team. Solicit feedback regularly. It's not enough to tell people the change is coming. They need constant and consistent communication throughout the life of the project.
  • Celebrate quick wins. One of the best ways to keep the momentum going is by structuring your project to include quick wins. These wins can demonstrate progress and build excitement for the overall project. Once people see the benefits, they will want to jump on board.
  • Lock in the change. Organizational Change Management doesn't end with the project is over. You must institutionalize the transition into the organization. Your ongoing management strategy should include developing Key Performance Indicators from which you can measure success. Management plans must consist of constant measurement and continuous improvement.

BPM and Change Management

We started this article by discussing the importance of Organizational Change Management to the success of a Digital Transformation or Process Automation project. So how does this relate to Business Process Management? Having well-defined and managed processes is at the heart of any Process Automation or Digital transformation project.

To learn more, check out this article on how BPM and becoming a Digital Enterprise.  Also, learn more about the benefits of Business Process Management.

Digital Transformation had Process Automation will remain top priorities for the foreseeable future. You must factor in BPM change management when embarking on a Process Automation or Digital Transformation initiative. These practices will help you garner support for the change, smooth the transition, and lock in adoption. Addressing the people side of the project is the first step on the journey to successfully implement your project.
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