Five Tips for Effective Change Management in New Technology Projects

Change is tough. Perhaps you want to give up something that is bad for you, keep to a challenging exercise program, or gain a qualification that’s outside your natural skill set.

A study by University College London and published in the European Journal of Social Psychology revealed that, on average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic. That’s 66 days, to be precise. And this can vary wildly depending on the individual; anything between 18 and 254 days, in fact. Two hundred and fifty-four days is over eight months. That’s the best part of a year for some of us to embrace something new!

Hang On to Your Hats!

We have all experienced enormous disruption over the past few months. We continue to face challenges as we return to our offices perhaps and try to keep pace with fluctuating markets and rising customer and stakeholder expectations.

It’s understandable, therefore, that many of us find comfort in our daily rituals. We know what we’re doing because we’ve always done it that way – even if that way might not be efficient any longer.

Change without Pain?

The enormous potential of technology to make the world of work better, improve customer experience, and help reshape business models is apparent. If we don’t seize opportunities, our competitors most certainly will. Yet, while we are all aware of the importance of technology, these investments are some of the biggest changes we will ever make.

With digitalization accelerating across almost every industry, many of our teams are going through unprecedented change. How can we better support them? How do we leverage new systems and solutions without discouraging – or worse, alienating – our most precious resource, our people?

1. Engage Your User Base Early

Inviting users to join at the beginning of a transformation journey will foster a sense of ownership and empowerment. Don’t just ask for their input and ideas – actively encourage them.

Psychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D. teaches that our brains are biased towards negativity. So, it’s crucial to explain why you’re planning the change. If people don’t feel fully informed, they may jump to the wrong conclusions and fear the technology will ultimately replace their jobs.

2. Rally a Team of Change Champions

You can’t fly the flag alone, so identify potential super users who can become your change champions. Their first role is to help spread the word! As well as educating the broader user base on the benefits, they can ease the burden on the IT team post-implementation.

It’s vital that users know who to contact should they run into any difficulties with the technology, especially over the crucial early days and weeks. Your change champions can be on hand to support and escalate issues to the IT team as necessary.

The last thing you need is for frustration to creep in and people to give up and return to their old ways when you’ve barely started.

3. Fix a Training Plan

Training is a crucial part of the change jigsaw, and one size does not fit all. Everyone has different learning styles, so consider your audience and offer a variety of training methods.

Some may prefer classroom-style presentations and Q&A sessions, while others opt for step-by-step manuals and how-to videos. Your change champions can contribute. Consider training a highly valuable investment, as you can reuse training materials for onboarding new employees.

One last point: be considerate about the timing of training and the launch date of the new technology. Month-end and financial year-end, for example, are probably best avoided.

4. Enlist Your Leadership Team to Support the Change

There’s a significant cultural piece here too, which starts at the very top of an organization. Your leadership team can play a hugely influential role in the introduction of any new technology. They can help generate a sense of anticipation by sharing the road map with employees.

However, it is also vital that your senior people consider the human perspective at all times. For example, technology could release employees from tedious, low-level tasks and give them more time to focus on activities that make the most of their talents.

5. Inject Some Fun!

Generate a sense of occasion; show what you are doing matters and that everyone is behind it. Consider a pre-launch countdown party or sending flyers and inexpensive novelty items to remote workers.

That’s a Wrap

Here’s a final bonus tip: most long-established companies have accumulated a collection of different technologies over the years. When a new technology is introduced, it can lead to confusion over how it might influence existing infrastructure.

For example, if your organization has many collaboration and communication tools, your people might be confused about which one to use when. So, be clear on what your new technology is replacing and how it fits with other systems and tools.


Guido Schlief is senior vice president and head of Services for Middle and Eastern Europe at SAP.