Change management doesn’t end at go-live
Your project may be completed, but that doesn’t mean you’re done with change management.
- It’s important to measure the results and efficacy of the change management process
- After go-live, collecting feedback will help with prioritization
- Don’t overlook the importance of recognizing and rewarding success
The first part of this blog series analyzed why change management is important for higher ed. The second part discussed why it’s vital to bring the right people to the table when introducing change, and the third part delved into the crucial role of engagement.
Let’s assume your project has been shepherded to completion. The transition was relatively smooth, and now it’s time to go live. But don’t make the assumption that your change management tasks are done. Far from it.
In fact, the period after go-live is one of most critical phases of the change management process. This is when you need to take the pulse of everyone involved.
As I mentioned in the first blog of this series, it’s vitally important to set goals early in the change management process that outline some kind of target. Some people are a bit reticent to set specific targets, but it’s necessary to understand what the sponsor is trying to achieve or what their version of a “job well done” looks like. What are you looking to achieve? What kind of adoption numbers/metrics are you looking for? It’s critical to have that discussion and set some kind of goal, no matter how much it may change down the line, because you have to have something to shoot for.
It’s perfectly fine to have a draft of goals that may mature as the project is in full swing. I'm not saying you should lower the bar once you go live to have the results meet adjusted goals—but it’s perfectly acceptable to tweak the goals to suit reality. You're better off throwing something out there so you at least have a working goal, or a working set of metrics, that you want to try and measure against.
Some will be tempted to shy away from setting formal metrics, but you can help by explaining the importance of setting targets rather than final goals. Establishing metrics as targets provides the project sponsor with the flexibility to adjust and adapt expectations as the project matures.
Measuring the success and efficacy of your change management efforts
Everyone wants a dashboard to view data and quantify results. But for technology adoption, it’s a little more complicated. Measuring the efficacy of change can be exceptionally difficult, because even if you're getting great adoption, or in cases where you're not, there’s no direct line to be drawn between the adoption itself and whether the change management plan was directly responsible for the success (or failure) of the project. It’s more amorphous, and numbers may be hard to come by.
But that doesn’t mean that hard numbers showing success or efficacy don’t exist. You might be able to show the number of active users of a new solution as a percentage of the institution’s employees or students, or point to the number of new channels that have been created.
However, data doesn't paint a complete picture. Simply asking, “What are your teams seeing? How is adoption proceeding?” may offer a more qualitative perspective, but it’s no less valuable.
Suffice it to say, hard data can tell you some valuable things. If you’ve rolled out a new student information system, you can measure how many log in, what functions are being used, and which ones aren’t. But that doesn't tell you important considerations such as whether they even enjoy using the new system, if it’s a better experience, or if the branding is pleasant. That kind of information is only gleaned through interviews, surveys, and comments.
What’s really going on out there?
Once you go live with a project, it’s time to monitor the progress from this point forward. One way that happens is when people come to you to tell you that something has gone wrong, but that doesn’t necessarily provide an accurate picture of how the change has been accepted or how it has evolved. There may also be a temptation to rely in IT help-desk tickets as an indicator of success or potential trouble. However, the presence (or lack thereof) of IT tickets doesn’t provide a reliable snapshot of the change management process—although that may be one piece of the pie.
The best approach is to set the expectations and processes for feedback early on. What are the most effective ways to elicit feedback from your group of users? It could be via email, through a messaging system or chat group, or (most likely) a combination of these.
It’s wise to establish a process for how you’ll collect and handle feedback once it starts coming through various channels. This is where a communication plan for the most important members of the team will come in handy. What information do you need from them and when? What information will you provide? In what format?
Transparency is crucial at this stage as well. People prefer unpleasant data over no data. You may have 200 open issues, for example, and have only closed three. Not an ideal situation, to be sure, but at least it shows there’s an effort being made to deal with problems and gives you the opportunity to provide more information and next steps. And it’s preferable to be up front with the information, no matter how unpleasant, as opposed to remaining vague with statements like, "Yeah, things are going pretty well. We have some issues, but we're working on them." Be specific: “We've got this many SEV1's, this many SEV2's, this many SEV3's. We've closed this many issues. Average close time is two days.” That gives people some comfort.
In the third blog of this series I outlined techniques for building open communication and trust with members of the team. That’s a good starting point for what comes next.
For complex projects, you might contact people directly to collect their feedback, or use tools such as SharePoint, which creates a centralized place for all issues and where they originate from. Attaching screenshots and other details will be beneficial as your team gathers to discuss problem areas, triage fixes, and prepare reports.
And speaking of triage, how do you prioritize what to fix, and when? It’s purely up to your judgment. A typo might take precedence over aesthetics. The latter may be fixed sometime down the road, after the text itself is solid. In some cases, functionality issues might come first. After all, if the institution’s HR system is having trouble, that could potentially affect a lot of people, or if individuals can’t do their jobs because of a problem, that must become a priority over aesthetics.
Naturally, if there is an information security or data privacy issue, that’s a priority. If I can log in and see everyone's salary data, that should be fixed straight away. But during any discussions you might have with the users of the new system or solution, you might find that fixing certain issues might need to be moved up the “fix it” list. The important thing is keep focused on the critical items first, then move down the list, because with new issues coming in (and they will), some semblance of order will keep the whole thing from devolving into chaos.
Change management is an opportunity for continuous improvement
Change management is an evolution—it’s a continual process, and—like it or not—you’re never truly “done.” But that’s a good thing, because the process is a springboard to improvement.
It’s valuable to sit down with your team and discuss each project in depth, asking questions like, "How do you feel like your change management plan worked? What surprised you? What things that have worked in the past that still work versus those that don’t?" Looking at change management through that lens—by looking at the big picture—will bring to light any themes and patterns that may be fostering success, or conversely, hindering it.
It’s all too easy to get bogged down in the details of any individual project. Yet a holistic view of how you’re handling the change management process can provide valuable insight, and help you build on a solid foundation for future successes.
Recognizing and rewarding success improves adoption
On any project, everyone's busy and you're aiming for a successful and relatively painless go-live. But perhaps one of your project’s champions (see blog 1, 2, and 3) had a good idea, or has done something really helpful and effective to help push the project along.
That’s something to celebrate, and certainly something to recognize. Recognizing people for thinking outside the box or for going that extra mile—or bringing useful feedback back to the rest of the group—paves the way for future successes. You never know when you’ll be working with these folks again, or when you may need their help, so a little courtesy can go a long way.
Change is never easy. Higher ed’s unique challenges and responsibilities can sometimes make change seem even more daunting. Yet with a well-conceived change management plan and team in place, anxiety and uncertainty can be mitigated. Higher education institutions are united by a single goal: to make sure students succeed. And a solid change management plan—no matter the size or scale of the project—ensures that disruptions and roadblocks are minimized or eliminated altogether, allowing institutions to concentrate on what matters—the students.