Change Management: 5 Steps to the Perfect IT Rollout

Change Management: 5 Steps to the Perfect IT Rollout

The wrong focus or too fast an end! Why acceptance, skill and time play an important role in the rollout and why change management makes sense. […]

Basically, it’s nothing new – the project has ended, the rollout has gone, but the desired effect is not manifested. Was the focus during the introduction, as so often, on the technical implementation? Were the acceptance criteria of the users not on the agenda?

An IT rollout is more than just the simple implementation of a new technical application. The people who are to deal with it must be won over to it. This requires trust, acceptance and the ability of all participants to change. This makes the rollout a change, albeit a small one at first glance, but one that can have a big impact – both in one direction and in the other. By the way, the same applies to the introduction of new structures or processes.

Experience shows that there is still room for improvement in rollout management. Especially in times when mobile access to the company’s systems is indispensable due to the pandemic, a rollout must run smoothly and the acceptance of the users, i.e. the “want to apply”, but also the “can apply” must be ensured.

The social and spatial distance increase the challenges for a successful introduction of new applications many times over. If you take a look at the development of success rates in dealing with changes and the involvement of employees in the change process, it becomes clear that much more has to be invested in the personnel side of the change in order to be successful. For example, the Change Fitness Study 2020/2021 shows that the success rate of change processes carried out has fallen further and further in recent years.

Because it is the employees who create the utility value of the new application with their commitment. However, motivation and commitment decrease if there is a lack of involvement in the process.

It is the employees who are directly affected by the rollout and are to use new applications in order to fulfill the desired goals of the change initiative. Be it the introduction of electronic files, a new automated processing of inboxes, the introduction of expert systems or simply the introduction of new time recording systems.

In such cases, digitalization also leads to the transfer of activities to the operational units and to relieve staff positions. In addition to the automation of the processes in the core business, there are other areas of responsibility that are no longer part of the core business. In addition, for example, changing the inbox processing in case of poor preparation can lead to delays and delays in the scanning process or to incorrect routing. The delays created here make it impossible for the area operating close to the customer to comply with the externally communicated service levels. Complaints that the department is not responsible for, but has to deal with, are the result. This creates resistance and resentment, which a company can avoid with careful integration of the departments.

The requirements of the (new) users are therefore often not or hardly taken into account and acceptance criteria are not defined. During the rollout, reference is made to the FAQ lists, learning videos and manuals as part of a short presentation of the application. This usually ends the project and a downstream support or a needs-based qualification of the users is missing in practice. In this case, the Acceptance, that Can apply and sufficient Time for learning and testing, the decisive role for the success of implementation.

Then it is not surprising that lack of acceptance leads to failure and the desired effects do not occur. If, for example, the application is not yet mature enough, there is a lack of useful effect, meaning and purpose are not recognizable or not clearly conveyed, then an insurmountable resistance may develop (emotional exit), which leads to failure. Due to the negative experiences, significantly higher standards of potential users are then applied to a new attempt at implementation.

If the introductory phase is too short in practice, not accompanied by training courses and contact persons who quickly eliminated the errors that occur in practice and close knowledge gaps, these negative experiences can cause resistance, which in the worst case leads to a rational termination. The growing pressure in day–to-day business, the not yet existing routine with the new application – combined with a lack of know-how – increase the stress and can quickly lead to an intuitive relapse into old behavior.

Solutions are then sought in workarounds or alternative applications and the introduction of the new application has failed. Especially in today’s time, when the dynamics of change are constantly growing and the stress level is increasing, the relapse into old behavior patterns is often programmed. So it is important to secure the rollout with effective change support.

A methodical approach is needed to reduce the uncertainties and resistance that can be expected from the implementation of new applications. In order to achieve a positive basic mood towards the new application or the new process, it is not allowed to focus exclusively or too strongly on the technical implementation during the conception. The aim is to carry out the rollout not only with very little influence on day-to-day business and little set-up and downtime. It is also part of this to quickly put the users in a position to want and be able to use the new systems easily and as enthusiastically as possible.

A rollout is also always a human, sometimes emotional matter that requires acceptance, trust, communication and the ability to adapt to new processes. This is a special challenge in times of social and spatial distance. A good part of the project effort should therefore also be invested in accompanying change activities that focus on the personnel side such as qualification, communication, participation, leadership and behavior change. No or insufficient investments in accompanying change activities endanger the effectiveness of the desired change.

The best application does not help if it is not used. To ensure a smooth rollout during operation and to motivate users to use the new systems, there are five steps.

  1. Developing a story: Create transparency about the initial situation and the background of the change. Why is the change taking place? Why now? Why in the defined area? Develop a change story that increases the willingness to change and in which the goals, the benefits, the time frame and the procedure in the individual process steps are clearly presented. It is also important to convey appreciation for what has been achieved so far.
  2. Know expectations: Determine the expectations of the users and create acceptance criteria that are included as indicators in the rollout process. Carry out regular acceptance and commitment measurements in order to be able to intervene at an early stage.
  3. Creating transparency and integration: Define a communication and participation strategy beyond the “going live date” and support the implementation with appropriate interventions.
  4. Organize learning and support: Qualification and active support in the context of the introduction as well as the first time of application. Here, specialist coaches should proactively approach the users and solve problems.
  5. Ensure quick assistance by a team of specialists: Support sustainable acceptance by setting up task force units. When technical problems occur, they ensure that they are eliminated very quickly within a defined period of time and that the application can be used without hindrance.

At its core, the rollout of an application always entails a change in attitudes and behavior. The application therefore develops a high degree of efficiency best when the acceptance of the users in the change to be implemented is given to the maximum extent. This requires tailor-made change support with a focus on the personnel side as well as measures and interventions that support sustainable change. After all, a new technology can ultimately produce immense effects – if people can actually use and apply it.

*Claudia Schmidt, an expert in change management, has been Managing Director of Mutaree GmbH since 2008. Schmidt works as a consultant at the Frankfurt School of Finance &Management, the European Business School and the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management.

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