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 Chuck SchaefferChange Management Framework for CRM

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Why Change Management For CRM is in Need of Change

Change is the impetus behind improvement, innovation, evolution and viability. Customers and markets are rapidly evolving. If businesses are not following suit, they are falling behind and deteriorating. However, even with this reality, change is often endorsed by the few imposing the change and contested by the majority receiving the change. For the recipients, change brings uncertainty, skepticism and anxiety.

That's why Organizational Change Management (OCM) strategies are needed to offset the natural resistance to change and sustain the benefits of new business strategies, enabling technologies and business transformation initiatives.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, staff productivity decreases up to 75% during unmanaged change. Change management is an approach to systemically shift individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state while mitigating productivity loss during the transition, creating the environment for sustained change and realizing the benefits of change more quickly.

The implementation of a new system will move many people away from the status quo and outside their comfort zone. Most enterprise software implementations incur many cautious or resistant users and a smaller number of users who are adamantly opposed to change. This later group may be initially difficult to recognize as they generally cast doubt in private forums outside of management visibility. If uncontrolled, the hidden agendas and failure to embrace the needed change will significantly challenge the project, and likely result in time and budget overruns.

To proactively head off this predictable occurrence, I recommend an OCM program to operate in parallel to application deployment. The OCM program will analyze changes caused by the new solution, forecast the operational impacts, understand the cascading effects to users, prepare staff for change, and implement methods to minimize employee resistance to change while simultaneously maximizing the effectiveness of the change effort.

Change Management Framework

Here are the ten most important steps in implementing a CRM change management program.

  1. Begin with OCM expertise. OCM experts examine the corporate culture, solicit and gather user feedback, design the change management strategy and plan, develop the case for change, provide methods and tools, and manage transformation activities and progress. OCM experts also orchestrate the change governance hierarchy.

    Change Management Governance

    Change management consultants can bring leadership and best practices, but the change effort must be led from inside the organization.

  2. Articulate a clear vision. Introducing more change without clear direction contributes to employee anxiety. Introducing change with clear vision, purpose, communication and roadmap mitigates anxiety. OCM staff should help executive management craft a clear project vision – and help management articulate how this vision directly aligns with the organization's most important business priorities. The vision should be tailored for each stakeholder group, including the customer, the employee and the company. It's also helpful to forecast milestones along the journey so staff can witness progress and see a finish line. The more interim successes the better.

  3. Assess change readiness. Most change management projects kick off with a survey to establish a baseline measurement for the critical success factors to change acceptance. Surveys can also identify cautious or resistant users or groups for additional planning, mitigation and response.

    Change Management Readiness

    The reasons for change will be questioned many times during the project so the case for change must clearly identify the pressures for change, the benefits of change and the definitive reasons why not changing is not an option. Surveys can determine whether the case for change is understood throughout the organization.

    Surveys are a good start but you need to go much further and view change from the employees' point of view. One of the best ways to craft the change management plan is to first walk a mile in the user's shoes. Empathy can provide meaningful insight. Take a little bit of time to understand how things evolved to their current situation and remember that people do not accept or resist technology, they accept or resist the way technology changes their lives.

    Also be on the lookout for sacred cows. Change agents normally incur institutionalized obstacles such as cultural norms, established processes, influential people or political fiefdoms so entrenched or insulated that they appear sacrilege to question and untouchable. There are sacred cows in every organization. Put them out to pasture or a stampede could trample your progress.

  4. Design the Communication Plan. Staff will react with suspicion and angst if they learn they must change work methods without understanding why change is needed, without having a chance to voice their reactions and concerns, and without being invited to be involved in the process. Acceptance begins with understanding the need for change and becoming involved in the change effort. Employee engagement empowers the change transformation team to learn and address user community concerns and misconceptions. They can then respond with successive communications to help staff take small steps along a stepping stone journey that build on each other until they reach the targeted level of understanding and adoption. This approach is memorialized in a Communications Plan that architects messaging by project phase and group. The communication plan defines what will be communicated, to whom, when, with what frequency, for what purpose, and how and by whom it will be delivered. My experience shows the best results using a cadence of general communications delivered to all constituents supplemented with tailored communications designed for various stakeholder groups. Additional change management best practices include the following:

    1. It's critical that management articulate a consistent narrative regarding the need for change, the process for change and the benefits of change. It's helpful if management can also provide the context for change by linking the change effort to external factors such as customers, competitors and markets.
    2. The Communication Plan must strive to deliver the right message to the right audience at right time. As enterprise software projects can be fluid, the Comms Plan should be similarly flexible.
    3. Good communications plans start small, build momentum and finish with a crescendo effect. I recommend a progressive messaging plan that moves recipients along a continuum from Awareness, to Interest, to Understanding, to Engagement.
    4. People respond to different channels differently. It's helpful to engage stakeholders using multiple channels and media (email, newsletters, Intranet notices, enterprise social networks, face to face meetings).
    5. Whether conversations or written communiqués, it's critical not to over-promise when setting expectations. It's helpful to acknowledge there will be some rough spots, benefits may be realized in small increments and not every user will benefit from the project after go-live or possibly ever.
    6. Make the messaging interactive. Always solicit and act on feedback. Use a channel such as an internal social network group or voice of the employee tool to capture feedback. Periodically issue surveys to identify gaps and measure trends. Make sure your communication with users is a dialogue and not a monologue and remember that all feedback is a gift. You will increase input by creating a reward system for feedback and new ideas.

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The reasons for change will be questioned many times during the project so the case for change should clearly identify the pressures for change, the benefits of change and the reasons why not changing is not an option.

 

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