Too often when I hear about failed digital initiatives, the story is coupled with a lack of change management. That isn’t to say change management is the secret sauce to a successful digital rollout — but it is a key part of the total package.

Traditional change management will only get you so far. You need to keep in mind two key, foundational aspects of change management: communication and knowing your audience. By working closely with the inhabitants of your digital workplace, you can learn if they will adopt your new system before finally flipping the switch and going live.

How Big Is the Change?

A common question you need to answer is, “How much is changing?” 

You might think that the more something changes the more effort you need to pour into your change management efforts, but it doesn't necessarily work that way. People deal with small changes every day. Their smart phone apps are constantly changing in minute ways, so people are used to adapting. But not all changes are small.

If the amount of change rises hand-in-hand with people’s ability to do their job, you'll reach a point where you don’t have to sell the system. You only need to train people. With large leaps in functionality that remove the annoyances of their day-to-day, people will see the benefit of the new system and adopt it once it is no longer intimidating to them.

The real problem is when a new system doesn’t deliver significant benefits to the user. The IT department may be happy they are finally supporting a modern platform, but if the end-user doesn’t see value being delivered, they won’t be happy. In this scenario, a lot of change management will be needed to help people understand the value of the new system and assist them in the transition.

Related Article: Digital Workplace Change Management Requires a Multi-Pronged Approach

Involve Your Digital Inhabitants From the Beginning

One of the most successful efforts I ever saw built change management into the process. We brought in a user experience team to help us. We had a handle on the non-functional and minimum viable product (MVP) requirements. What we needed was to make sure all the features were easy to use.

From a change management perspective, it was the best thing we could have done. Not only were we making the eventual inhabitants of our digital workplace help design their new work experience, they were learning the interface from the beginning. From wireframes, to prototypes, to beta versions, they saw and interacted with every iteration of the application. We gained insight into how they might interact with the system, and they learned a new way of working.

Related Article: Where Project Management and Change Management Meet

Learning Opportunities

Testimonial Time

You’ve seen books with little blurbs from critics and authors saying nice things about the book. Some books have so many testimonials you have a tough time determining what the book is about. It doesn’t matter though. If enough of the right people endorse the book, sales will go up.

How can we leverage this in our digital world? Gather testimonials from the people who have participated in the user experience efforts. Quotes are good, but a short video of them sharing their favorite parts of the new digital workplace, alongside a clip showing how that specific feature works, can help drive adoption.

One thing we've discovered is generic videos may not always be watched. But if we put real people in them, people will watch the video to see their colleague, friend or boss. They will watch to see how well they did on camera. However, during that viewing, they are learning about the new system and maybe, just maybe, they’ll see something they like.

Related Article: Avoid Digital Workplace Failure With 5 Change Management Principles

Adapt and Change

There is no single thing you can do to make every project a success. If you go in with a predetermined map, you are doomed to failure.

However, if you always communicate and work with the people who are going to be using the system for years to come, you have a shot. Grease the skids. Help them see the benefits. Make the transition easy for them, even if it is more work for you. Anything you can do to communicate value and keep the new system in a positive mindset is critical.

If you do it right, people may start asking why they can’t do more of their work in your system. When that happens, you know you’ve pulled it off.

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