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Demystifying modern change management

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

In every organisation, change is inevitable—goals shift, projects pivot, and tools are replaced. Yet introducing change is never easy, especially when it comes to implementing new software. When inadequately planned or defined, a software deployment can burden IT, frustrate employees, or fail entirely if end users don’t adopt the new solution.

To ensure software implementations are successful, strategic change management should be a top priority for CIOs and leaders across the organisation. Rather than taking a blanket approach to software deployment, proper change management should be personable, introducing change on the individual level. When executed properly, change management can support IT, increase productivity for new users, drive adoption, and enhance ROI. But are businesses seeing positive yields with their current change management initiatives?

 To explore the current state of change management in organisations, Nitro asked over 300 CIOs, Vice Presidents, Directors, and IT Managers about their approach to change management. Detailed in  this research report, the findings revealed common goals, challenges, misperceptions, and areas for improvement. Based on the research, here are six key insights to help guide and optimise your change management strategy.

Define success + beware of challenges

Outlining clear goals is the first step in crafting an effective change management strategy. But what are the specific results that define success? Seventy-one per cent of our survey respondents identified user satisfaction as the most vital success metric, with productivity gains coming in a close second at 67 per cent. A significant portion of respondents (57 per cent) also pinpointed user adoption as an important goal.

Regardless of industry, size, or location, companies share some of the same obstacles to these change management goals. Named a challenge by 67 per cent of respondents, the strain on IT time and resources emerged as the most common hurdle to success. The two other most frequent difficulties are user resistance to change (55 per cent) and having multiple user groups with varying needs (53 per cent).

Communicate on an individual level

A takeaway from these challenges is the importance of focusing on the individual user and his or her needs. To ensure deployment doesn’t fall flat, it’s imperative that implementations are personal, not transactional. One of the best ways to introduce change on a personal level is through clear, effective communication. Yet of the leaders surveyed, 35 per cent had encountered difficulties with ineffective or insufficient communication to users, revealing a distinct opportunity to be more strategic with communication plans.

The key to persuading your users to adopt a new tool is to effectively convey how the solution benefits each person on an individual level. Does the software have unique features that will enable the user to work faster? Are there native app integrations that can streamline workflows? Is there a cost-saving 

aspect that allows the company to redirect funds to other initiatives? It is critical to develop messaging around these value propositions to help users understand and accept why the new solution is being implemented.

At the same time, adoption will look a little different for every group of users—a truth that’s reinforced by the fact that 53 per cent of respondents faced challenges due to varying user groups and needs. How do you approach this adoption barrier? Tailor your communication style to address each group and its varying needs. For example, will the new software improve processes for Sales? Will the tool simplify Finance’s workflows? Taking the time to individually communicate these benefits to each department will help disintegrate some of the inevitable user resistance to change.

Invest time in your rollout strategy

After conveying the value of the new software, an organisation must seize the opportunity to satisfy users from the onset of rollout. As we all know, it’s hard to come back from a poor first impression, so these initial instances of learning and working with the new software are vital to earning user buy-in.

While user training is an effective way to introduce knowledge workers to a new solution and workflow, it is a source of frustration for many companies. Forty-two per cent of respondents found insufficient training hinders the success of software implementations, a discovery that provides insight into the importance of a strategic training plan.

For an implementation to be successful, businesses must meet users halfway and remove as many barriers to opposition and adoption as possible. Clearly define how IT will implement the software and ensure that deployment doesn’t encroach on employees’ daily workflows. Provide department-specific onboarding, interactive trainings, and helpful resources to equip knowledge workers with the necessary tools to maximise the new solution. In doing so, you can help ensure your software implementation educates and engages—rather than isolates or burdens—users.

Track + quantify success

Unlike tracking progress on more numbers-driven goals like sales quotas, organisations often struggle with how to determine if change management is successful. While defining success will vary depending on each organisation’s unique goals, quantifying success remains the same for every business: Measure and track. Unfortunately, many organisations don’t have processes in place to effectively measure success. For example, 57 per cent of respondents identified user adoption as a key success metric, but fewer than one in 15 actually track this—and even those who do find it ineffective.

In order to deliver on their goals, organisations must be strategic about monitoring how employees engage with the solution. Is there a way to track usage within the software? Can IT gain visibility into workflows and provide insights as to whether knowledge workers are actually utilising the tool? Putting such processes in place will help you not only evaluate the success of a current implementation, but also help optimise your strategy for future change management initiatives. 

Broaden vendor expectations

With everything from onboarding and user training to communication plans and user adoption tracking, change management is no easy feat. It’s no wonder 67 per cent of IT leaders say the biggest challenge of a software implementation is the strain on IT time and resources. So how do you accomplish all these strategic initiatives without further burdening your IT department? Rely on the right vendor.

In Nitro’s research, the majority (55 per cent) of organisations strongly agree that a vendor understands their change management needs, and 75 per cent said that a vendor’s level of change management support has affected their decision to sign an agreement. Yet only 27 per cent actually hold vendors accountable for taking the lead on change management. Of course the first question in any software evaluation is the quality of the tool—but even if the software is groundbreaking, it won’t be effective without user adoption.

Therefore, combine your knowledge of your users’ workflows, preferences, and technology needs with the vendor’s knowledge of their product. By leveraging each of your strengths, you and your vendor can craft a bespoke strategy to both maximise the tool’s potential and fulfill employees’ needs.

Ask the right questions

While collaborating with the vendor to create a comprehensive rollout plan is extremely important, the vendor’s role shouldn’t end with deployment. Vendors should provide continued support throughout the entire implementation process to drive user satisfaction (which IT leaders identified as the top success metric).

Begin by asking what training resources a vendor will provide. Is there a dedicated  Customer Success team that will help with onboarding, training, and deployment? Will the vendor offer user-facing guides, ebooks, or trainings to educate employees on features and functionality? Once you feel comfortable with the available training resources, ensure the vendor can help track user adoption across the organisation, providing visibility into how—and if—knowledge workers are integrating the tool into their workflows. Based on these analytics, the vendor should offer recommendations and insights into what’s working best and what needs improvement. 

Change management can be a big task, but it’s one you don’t have to surmount alone. Join forces with your vendor, and approach your implementation with specific goals, a clear strategy, and a way to measure results. If you do, you can turn a potential pain point into a unique opportunity to improve workflows and engage employees on a deeper level. Not to mention, your IT team will love you.

Steve Bower, VP of Customer Solutions, Nitro
Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible

Steve Bower
Steve brings an incredible wealth of experience to Nitro as VP of Customer Solutions. With 25 years of Engineering, Sales Engineering & Professional Services experience, Steve is an integral part of driving global revenue and product adoption across all regions at Nitro. Previously, as Nitro’s VP of Engineering, Steve oversaw the global expansion of the Engineering team and the launch of many Nitro Pro & Nitro Cloud product releases.