When dealing with outsourcing projects in infrastructure and end-user services, I have over the course of several years had the opportunity to observe many interesting events among our clients. These have been related mainly to IT and the significant impact that this broadly defined field can have on an organization's efficiency and ability to adapt to the ever-changing market environment. In my opinion, this is an important factor that can either give a company a competitive advantage or marginalize attractive elements of its offer.
Where can we observe such situations?
As an external company, we often have the opportunity to play the role of observer of processes and changes taking place in a given organization, without interfering with the reasons behind them and with no opportunity to take corrective action. This gives us a better perspective because companies are often not aware or cannot assess whether a given activity is carried out effectively in a manner that keeps all participants fully informed about goals continuous processes. This is particularly evident in IT – the field in which we specialize.
During my work, I have often had the opportunity to observe implementations of tools that have been insufficiently tested and therefore cause huge problems (rather than facilitating anticipated process improvements) for users. Some issues, such as administrative problems relating to management, implementation, internal communication and training may not appear “technical” per se, but can often have a cascade effect leading to a host of complications.
At the same time, these problems could be avoided by preparing projects more comprehensively.
It is probably fair to say that every one of us can identify a project in which we have been involved, and which, in retrospect, could have been implemented faster, better, more efficiently and without lots of problems. A typical issue which we often notice when observing our clients’ processes is the implementation of a given tool in structures in such a manner that responsibility for IT support is divided between several centers (such as applications, infrastructure and user service). It may also be the case that structures themselves dispersed between countries, and so on.
In such cases, implementation should be planned to take into account not only a given department, branch or organization’s expectations and goals, but above all the impact of the implementation on the work of all participants affected by the change.
It is extremely important to plan the changes in detail, to agree them with all parties, and to clarify any questions and concerns that arise before implementation.
All this is quite obvious, so why do we so often encounter problems in similar projects during and after implementation? Why do we hear complaints about new tools and changes?
There is, of course, an element of human reluctance when faced with change. Yet, in my opinion, the problem lies mainly in insufficient communication within the organization, inadequate reasons for the introduction of a given modification, lack of prepared answers to potential questions, and insufficient emphasis on potential benefits.
So how do you prevent this, and how can you avoid overcomplicating simple modifications while staying on track for desired, more complex changes?
The key concept here is communication, understood as a tool for verification before, control during and supervision after implementation. From the perspective of an observer and party to many processes, I assess that the best communication exists naturally within an organization. The tools should be available in a standard manner, be known to all, and cause no inconvenience or discomfort during the changes. It is also important to match the form and tools of communication to the level of upcoming changes.
Could you explain the process of implementing changes?
We can divide it into three basic phases: analysis and preparation, implementation, and support. Without going into the technical details - this is conditioned by the tools used in the organization, by the technical side of the implementation and by post-implementation support, I would like only to note communication between teams and communication to the final recipients of changes in the first phase.
As far as the technical level is concerned, both internal communication within the implementation team and consultations are absolutely necessary. In addition, management information should be supplied to those affected by the change, giving them time to evaluate the solution and its impact on the operation in the structures for which they are responsible, and providing them with comprehensive answers to known issues. A registry is a useful tool in which matters concerning issues that require explanation, the creation of procedures, and the elaboration of responsibility can be recorded.
Having a list ready means that each party to the process is aware of their role, has been granted the verified authority to carry it out. It also means that most potential problems are foreseen, and the procedures are more precise. Only when such a list is prepared can you proceed to official communication to all users/recipients of a given change.
On a larger scale, it is more difficult to identify all players and verify with each of them the possible effects of a given change. Nevertheless, the rather elementary preparations described above should prove effective and ultimately facilitate smooth implementation and proactive protection against possible and previously identified issues.
Which tool will be the best for mass communication about changes?
Unless there are unusual circumstances, email is the basic, ideal tool for mass communication in most cases. For smaller changes, you can describe all the important issues in an email, maintaining a consistent and homogeneous message without excessive detail. Any other type of communication, for example via internal intranet sites, forums or attachments, should only be an addition to email.
Of course, one should also bear in mind that the choice of media should be adapted to the culture and traditions of the organization (there will be differences between technology companies and traditional family businesses, for example). In addition, media should be selected in terms of employee organizational structure (what works in companies at which most employees deal with conceptual work would not necessarily suit production companies).
What can stand in the way of introducing changes in a given organization?
It would be impossible to offer analysis of every potential scenario. Given this article’s emphasis on good communication, an attempt to do so would be misplaced too. I would just like you to ask yourself a few questions before introducing the next change in your organization, and to look at the implementation from the perspective of everybody involved. Do you know everything that is necessary? Can you fix any errors? Do you know what will be changed and why? And, are you able to begin implementation in the confidence that you have adopted all the rules mentioned above?
If you can give positive answers to all of the above questions, there is nothing to prevent you from starting the process.
Author: Grzegorz Gawron, Service Manager Comarch S.A.