Every enterprise-wide IT project implementation must be undertaken only along with a robust and detailed change management procedure. Failure to do so could lead to disastrous consequences such as a dip in employee morale, negative returns on investments, distrust about technology amongst users, and compliance issues.
Here is a step-by-step guide for defining effective change management procedures. Use of this methodical approach can significantly increase the success rate of IT implementation.
1) Set clear goals
The biggest challenge in any IT project is to set realistic and practical expectations and goals, and then stick with them. Indeed, this is an essential prerequisite for any change management procedure to succeed. At Gujarat Industries Power Company Ltd. (GIPCL), the management’s goal was to have a system that could monitor employee meal records to prevent potential misuse of paper coupons. For this, a canteen coupon management system (CCMS) was implemented, and employees were issued proximity cards that stored coupon details. This eliminated the possibility of misuse, as there was no physical coupon that could be traded for other benefits. Setting clear goals as a procedural step thus helps any change management initiative.
2) Assign ownership
The second step of any change management procedure is to set up a core team or committee that will act as a change agent, and define the plan of action for even the minutest impact that the IT implementation could have on organizational processes. During our SAP implementation, GIPCL’s SAP core team created a detailed authorization process to validate every change request. The committee based its process design on the existing SAP Solution Manager best practices, and customized it to the organization’s requirements. Any request from a user would first be reviewed by the SAP core team, and then sent to the CIO for approval only if relevant. Since the core team had its ear to the ground, GIPCL could identify and address 160 issues across various business processes within six months of SAP implementation.
3) Ensure sustained user engagement
Consistent and effective communication with users (and not to users) is probably the most important aspect of any change management procedure, to ensure sustained interest and engagement of users with the IT implementation. This goal of engagement also involves an element of training. Following SAP implementation, GIPCL organized accelerated training programs for users. Taking the initiative further, GIPCL has now created an in-house training capsule on SAP, which is offered to new recruits as part of their induction program.
4) Involve top management
It is important for the company’s top management to play a role in defining the change management procedure by providing clear and consistent directives. This ensures that the project is not thwarted by a few misguided individuals. When the carrot does not work, one must have a cudgel at hand.
However, top management’s commitment towards any change initiative should nevertheless incorporate a human touch. At GIPCL, while there are digital interfaces managing the CCMS system, in certain areas such as at the plant shop floor, employees demanded reintroduction of the paper coupon system. Since the plant staff could not leave the manufacturing floor even during lunch time, lunch had to be delivered to them. The top management intervened, allowing for a reversion to the old paper coupon system for the plant employees as an exception.
5) Develop a culture of accountability
For change management to succeed, accountability is key, and a system of ownership must be defined as part of the procedure. The IT department must deliver on promise in order to win the confidence of users. One way to achieve this is to break the goal into smaller, measurable tasks, assigning responsibilities to IT team members. Regular and consistent communication as well as coordination must exist between IT and business teams for every predefined task.
About the author: Col. Shankar Gurkha is CIO at Gujarat Industries Power Company Limited (GIPCL). He has designed and built enterprise-wide IT architecture including SAP ERP, data center, disaster recovery, WAN and Internet connectivity at GIPCL. Prior to this, he worked in the electronics and mechanical engineering service of the Indian Army for 20 years.
(As told to Anuradha Ramamirtham.)