When an organization replaces or significantly upgrades its enterprise systems, many stakeholder groups can experience a substantial amount of stress. Systems often included are the HCM suite of applications, ERP or Financial applications, and Student applications for the Higher Education industry. The reasons for replacing the applications are many: the system is no longer supported, modern features are missing, and costs or security weaknesses need to be improved.
If replacing the system provides many benefits to an organization, why would it be so hard to replace? Most people do not like change, and often there are so many changes from the old system to the new system, that the initial reaction is to reject the new. This can result in the project exceeding its budget, passing the targeted go-live date, or incurring a reduction in scope.
Why do stakeholders refuse to engage with a new system when it has significant benefits? Stakeholder fear is the #1 reason. A person can fear job loss, reduced authority, or fear not being able to master the new processes the way they do the current ones. Remember that an organization doesn’t change; its people change. When stakeholders don’t engage with change, they may not accept the system, utilize it, or ever become proficient with it. The new system may have many benefits to the organization, but it will fail if users either refuse to use it, or more common, find “creative” work arounds to make it feel more like the old system (while unintentionally subverting many benefits or controls of the new system!)
Prosci[i] does extensive research in the area of change. They have identified signs that show when stakeholders are not engaging or actively resist:
- Emotion – fear, loss, sadness, anger, anxiety, frustration, depression, focus on self
- Disengagement – silence, avoidance, ignoring communications, apathy, low morale
- Work impact – reduced productivity/efficiency, non-compliance, absenteeism, mistakes
- Acting out – conflict, arguments, sabotage, aggressive or passive/aggressive behavior
- Negativity – rumors/gossip, complaining, focus on problems, celebrating failure
- Avoidance – ignoring the change, reverting to old behaviors, abdicating responsibilities
- Building barriers – excuses, counter-approaches, recruiting dissenters, breakdown in trust
- Controlling – asking lots of questions, influencing outcomes, defending the current state
Including the tasks of Change Adoption with a system implementation can dramatically reduce project risk. Change Adoption creates many deliverables to engage users and increase the likelihood of project:
- Communications – frequent and targeted messages from the organization and/or project team
- Sponsor assistance – supporting project sponsors with key message points and message preparation
- Coaching – provide talking points for managers about how their employees will benefit
- Resistance management – anticipate resistance, help managers identify and address resistance
- Training – prepare stakeholders to gain the skills and competencies for operating the system
Change Adoption provide a comprehensive process to prepare an organization to adopt, utilize and become proficient with a new system.
Change Adoption does add cost and team members to a project, however the benefits of user engagement can be measured, and these benefits are significant. Over the past 20+ years, Prosci [ii] has quantified the benefits of including Change Adoption in a project and have found that these projects are:
These dramatic increases in the likelihood of project success outweigh the costs of Change Adoption in almost all projects. If project success and engaged stakeholders are the objectives, Change Adoption is extremely cost-effective and can prepare an organization for even more change in the future. It can help create an overall climate of change acceptance within an organization.
Key concepts and metrics are part of Prosci’s research into the area of Change Adoption.
[ii] An Introduction To Change Management, What It Is And Why It Makes A Difference In Your Organization, Prosci.