Do reality checks on change

Technology implementations can be introduced to improve the infrastructure or to bring about change, says Chris Wakerley,...

Technology implementations can be introduced to improve the infrastructure or to bring about change, says Chris Wakerley, management consultant at the Cobalt Group. The infrastructure boost affects the business by enabling it to do things faster or cheaper.

But the change element alters the people dynamics, writes Ross Bentley.

"You must always assess and manage people issues," in advance, says Wakerley.

A company planning to install a portal will make parts of the business transparent to each other and will change relationships between business units. "Whereas before the company may have been divided into silos, this kind of technology will make some reporting lines defunct. The business starts doing things differently," says Wakerley.

"For example, if the business says, 'Let's get close to the customer', you put in some customer relationship management technology, then you have to make the business adopt the technology," he says.

"It may mean introducing an extensive training regime or bringing in new skills."

While preparing for constant business evolution sounds good in theory, relentless fundamental change within a company is difficult to achieve. "Implementing change cuts across the entire organisation is getting more complex as we start to see things in terms of the extended enterprise and B2B," says Wakerley.

He differentiates between cultural change and climate change. The latter, he says, is temporary, it is no more than a change of atmosphere that can be brought about with the arrival of a new leader, for example. Cultural change is much more deep-seated. It is about changing things that are woven into the fabric of the workforce.

Wakerley says to instill a new way of working companies must follow up initial training with refreshers and constant checks. But, he says, many companies overlook the importance of training altogether. "I have been involved in projects where getting people to leave their day jobs to attend training has been a nightmare," he says. "Another company put in a supply-chain system, but its employees kept working in the old way going through several screens to get something done."

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