The Digital Transformation Project is like an iceberg – people see all the benefits and are very enthusiastic about the benefits. All the work is behind the scenes (or in the iceberg example under the water and not seen). Many times, executives and project managers are not aware of, or do not communicate the amount of work necessary to implement a project. Business users are normally very happy they are going to get rid of the old system with all its problems. They are excited about what the new system will do for them. Since they are not told how much work will be involved to implement the project, they are very happy since “Someone Else”, not them, will be required to do the work and suffer all the pain.
We know this is not true. We must realistically tell everyone that they will need to work on the implementation. We need to manage the change and now the enthusiasm starts to fade.
We must overcome the resistance to the new project. Everyone says they are for the change but again having done multiple digital transformations we know we have to look deeper. People are, in general, are resistant to change. This resistance can be based on misunderstanding, unintentional, or even intentional resistance to change. Consider that people have a wide range of fears ranging from not knowing what their place will be with the new system, to will they be able to adapt to the new system, to just general confusion about their specific (in some cases very specific) use of the new system.
The question we must answer to have a successful project implementation is: how will we remove resistance and bring everyone from enthusiasm for the new project to ownership of the project?
The company, up to this time has invested in its employees and they have invested in their individual processes, spreadsheets, access databases, etc. Now in addition to investing in the implementation of the project we must invest in the change management necessary to break through all the unspoken resistance. We need to communicate with them that they are still important, and we will be incorporating a lot of their processes into the new system but there also will be a lot of change for the benefit of the company to stay competitive and continue to employ the employees.
We also need to go through the steps to bring everyone to the point where the project can succeed. We know that business users won’t walk into the office the day before the project starts and say, “I am happy to do all my normal daily work and all the additional work to implement the new project.” No. We must help them get into the right mindset by adopting the appropriate organizational change strategies and explaining what the final organizational structure will look like. We must train the business users and provide the right assistance in the form of a project integrator, guidance and training, part time temps to help them with their workload, a good internal support team and proper management and leadership. Each of these can be their own blog post but at a high level we must help them through the process since this is very different from their normal day job. We must help and guide the users through the 4-steps of going from Enthusiasm to Ownership.
The 4-steps are:
Enthusiasm – This is the initial step where everyone hears about the great new system and what it will do when it is auto-magically installed by the techno-mages behind the curtain (that might be you). It is good to put a new system into place but if we never get past this step the implementation will never even be started.
Commitment – This is where everyone learns that there is going to be work and time requirements to configure, implement, test, and document the system. Everyone is still in favor of the implementation because specific workloads have not been assigned to specific people. An initial budget may be created at this time, but this is for ballparking the costs. Everyone sees a long implementation cycle and hours of work, but it has not been assigned to them and being normal users, they still think someone else will do most of the work. So, they say “Yes, count me in. I will commit my resources to get the project successfully ‘implemented’. But their team is already fully committed to daily production work and they will think about hiring temps down the road.
Buy-in – We have compromised on a start date, debated and received budget approval, selected the appropriate software and system integrator, created a project plan and assigned specific departments responsibility for specific functions. Now everyone sees the amount of work that is required, and we get pushback from many departments as to WHY they have to do the work. Can a consultant do it? Can the Temp do it? Can IT do it? Can the system integrator do it? This is where we must get buy-in from each department that, not only will they do the work, but they have the obligation and responsibility to make this project successful.
- Have appropriate staff to do normal production work and implement the project
- Make sure their SME’s are available for the initial design, testing, and go live
- Make sure their department knows when they are needed and set up their schedules accordingly
- Have a plan to have the appropriate organizational structure for the new system, new processes, and new procedures in place by the time the new system goes live.
Ownership – The individual business departments are working closely with the project team to make timely decisions, provide appropriate answers to a never-ending set of implementation questions, and Test, Test, and, TEST some more. They have solved the resource problems described in the buy-in section above. Maybe only partially but the reality of the amount of work and the amount of changes to make the implementation a success has be accepted by all (or at least everyone is moving in the right direction). There is never enough testing, but by working closely with the implementation team, setting up test cases, and going through those test cases, the business users are noting and fixing exceptions and errors. Real joy starts to set in when testing finds the new system is providing better information and answers than the legacy system.
There must be ownership by the business departments, not just enthusiasm, commitment, or buy-in. This is what is needed for a successful implementation. How to get here is different for each company. But the journey from enthusiasm to ownership is never a straight line and different departments maybe at different steps at any given time. The project team will have to work with each department to get them prepared so the overall implementation is a success.