‘Transforming’? Be sure to bring your people along for the ride

Published on the 18/05/2017 | Written by Donovan Jackson


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With the introduction of new technology, a focus on people is the key to success…

The measures for success when implementing new technology tend to be quite different from the perspective of ‘the IT guys’ and that of the business. For the tech team, the key metrics include on time, on budget and within spec. With that done, the project can be signed off as a success.

Except, of course, that if nobody uses it, those measures become meaningless, points out US-based Christian Buckley, six-time Microsoft MVP, founder of CollabTalk and regular visitor down under. “In the rush to transform to digital workplaces, it is often overlooked that technology is in fact the smallest piece of the puzzle. Process and business alignment are more important; if you have business alignment, even outdated technology is likely to deliver a positive experience,” Buckley said.

Through experience in deploying major intranet, SharePoint and collaboration tools across major enterprises, he said it has become apparent that one of the crucial factors for success was having help from one or more internal ‘champions’. “They come under a variety of names – project manager, business manager, collaboration manager, Microsoft used to have Customer Success Managers – but the idea is to have someone who understands the technology and what needs to happen for business alignment, but focuses the bulk of their time on culture and helping people to understand what is involved in the transformation and how to get there.”

Particularly in technology deployments where high levels of automation are being introduced, Buckley said those involved in the deployment tend to be over-confident in technology they believe is ‘intuitive’, often leaving employees to figure out how to master a new system because they assume that the people who must work with that technology don’t need sound levels of support. “Buying new technology, flipping it on and saying ‘here you go, users’ just doesn’t work very well. You need to coach, nurture and encourage. Whether an intranet or a full-blown automation system, this is crucial for long term success.”

The concept of taking the internal customers along for the transformation ride isn’t unknown down under. Westpac in New Zealand, for example, has an organisational psychologist guiding the development of its people as the bank seeks to modernise.

Asked about the levels of awareness around the necessity for cultural change management as a component of technology implementations, Buckley said there tended to be plenty of lip service, but less doing. “Ask that and people respond, ‘yes we understand that this is important,’ but then they don’t do it. There is a disconnect around what is truly required to make cultural change within an organisation, and part of the problem are the people who throw out platitudes such as ‘you need to be positive’ or ‘you need to work smarter’ and that kind of fake help.”

Those platitudes, said Buckley, are not tangible and don’t speak to the tactical steps of implementing change. And, he added frankly, those steps include a lot of hand holding. “That’s a reality-based scenario. This isn’t the fun stuff of being able to highlight coolest features in the amazing whizz-bang technology. Finding the right cultural fit is the hardest part – and who wants to do the hard stuff?”

Those platitudes, said Buckley, are not tangible and don’t speak to the tactical steps of implementing change. And, he added frankly, those steps include a lot of hand holding. “That’s a reality-based scenario. This isn’t the fun stuff of being able to highlight the coolest features in an amazing whizz-bang technology. Finding the right cultural fit, it is the hardest part – and who wants to do the hard stuff?”

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