Guest Column | February 23, 2018

Change Management – The People Part Of Service IT Upgrades

By Julie Moffitt, VP of project delivery, Jolt Consulting

Change Management Field Service

It is often difficult to prepare employees in a service organization for necessary IT upgrades, realignments, and strategy shifts — especially given their close connection to customers. Employees are creatures of habit and are sometimes afraid of the unknown or pose resistance by uttering the dreaded “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” mantra. Furthermore, service employees interact on a daily basis with customers and are often protective of customer interactions due to fear of any change negatively impacting their customers. However, strong service executives know that remaining agile is necessary to thrive in today’s competitive environment and the challenge is to successfully enact change to ensure everyone within the organization is in alignment.

Change Management Is Often Overlooked Or Postponed

Time and again when a service organization decides to implement a new IT system, often not enough emphasis on change management inhibits employees’ embracing the new system. We have seen far too often organizations that fail to adequately plan for change reach out to consulting firms like ours to help right the project. To compound matters, failure to plan for change often reduces the efficiency and effectiveness of the service IT implementation, resulting in lower user adoption exposing the project to the dreaded IT death spiral. Additionally, if employees aren’t pulled through their resistance and challenged to overcome their fears, the service IT project goals and return on investment may delayed or not achieved.

Effective Change Management Is Required For Successful Transformations

To accomplish effective change management, planning is needed behind the scenes before any actual change occurs. It is imperative for service organization leadership to fully commit as they are the lynchpin, helping to communicate the strategies from the top down and ensuring completion of initiatives. Service leaders must develop a change management plan with solid components, including creating the vision for change, proper communication, accountability, and resource availability, helping to implement change much quicker within an organization.

Understanding Why Employees Resist Change

There are various reasons why employees resist change, but techniques exist to help personnel overcome their fears. 

  • Loss of control:
    • Challenge: Employees that have been with an organization for many years, fear change the most.  They feel a loss of control when new processes, strategies, or tasks are introduced.
    • Solution: One way to combat any pushback is to involve the veteran employee by bringing them early into the fold with decision making, planning and execution.
  • The surprise attack:
    • Challenge: Lack of communication about an upcoming change, especially one that affects an employee’s daily responsibilities or the customer experience, creates surprise, negativity and potential resentment.
    • Solution: No one likes to be taken by surprise, so it’s imperative that ample communication, time, training, and resources are given to employees and customers to prepare for impending change.
  • Too much too soon:
    • Challenge: Resist the urge to change everything at once.  Even if your ultimate objective includes several substantial changes, such as full schedule optimization, consider rolling them out in phases.  Too many changes too quickly will overwhelm, frustrate and confuse employees.
    • Solution: Focus on necessary changes first that produce quick wins, while building a foundation of success for potentially more meaningful, bigger ROI changes in future phases.
  • Proficiency concerns:
    • Challenge: With change comes learning and some employees fear they won’t successfully grasp new concepts or skills.
    • Solution: A detailed training plan, managerial support, and education is imperative to lessen the concerns of worried service personnel and to ensure they learn the required skills.
  • More work:
    • Challenge: Change often comes with hiccups, and obstructions, which are all inevitable, and also require more work by staff members.
    • Solution: Leadership can soften any frustrations by acknowledging that employees are working harder and develop plans to reduce their daily workloads.  Providing thank you notes, employee/team recognition, and other perks can go a long way in demonstrating how much the organization appreciates everyone working towards the “greater good.”

Change management is a critical component and must be completed in tandem with any new service IT system roll out.  From day one, change management should be a project budget line item and built into the project plan, with a detailed strategy, assigned leadership, and actionable implementation steps.  

Incorporating change management before beginning any new service IT initiative will assist service employees adopt and maximize the benefit of the new system and lead to success for the service business as a whole.