Successfully Managing Change

Marie Toomey
The driving force behind organizational change is often the ever persistent demand to keep up with industry standards and deliver an excellent product or service.

Whether the change is a new system, process or even a whole organizational structure affecting the department, country or the entire company, most of us have witnessed the introduction of a significant initiative. Some key questions are:

  • Was the implementation successful? If not, why not?
  • How do we judge its success?

Faithful+Gould assists many of our clients with the management of cultural change, drawing on our experience developing and implementing electronic Project Management (ePM) and Asset Management systems. The “people element” of change demands a strong focus and is one of the most important aspects to address for a successful implementation.

A Daunting Undertaking

Managing the introduction of a change in an organization can be a daunting undertaking; a mandate is received, the project execution plan written, the project team assembled and deployment is ready. Project planning documentation is vital preparation for what is likely to be a challenging project. Nonetheless, managing the change requires a specific focus on a far less predictable element – people. A focus on the organization’s staff is the key to a successful implementation.

Change, change….and more change

Implementing a new ePM system, a system which houses numerous project management processes from costs and schedule to risks and issues, is no small effort. The system implies a shift from how project managers and other staff members currently work. You may hear them protest, “But I am happy with my spreadsheet!” Of course they are – they know that tool inside and out, and have been using it for years. Many staff members will be opposed to yet another change, since they may have seen numerous IT systems introduced in close succession. As implementation experts our aim should be to ease the pain of transformation with targeted communication as the fundamental enabling technique.

The Power of Communication

Considerable effort is required to provide user buy-in or acceptance – it is usually not in the company’s best interest to invest in a system if the users do not want to use it. Securing buy-in starts from the beginning of a project by identifying key stakeholders. Understanding who is affected by the change and why, as well as how they feel about this will help to nurture interest, dispel distrust and eventually gain overall acceptance of what is introduced.

Measuring Success

Measuring success should not be an afterthought, as it is a useful tool for gaining user buy-in. To measure the success of an implementation, the desired benefits should be identified early on. It is likely that management-centric benefits were identified during the business case phase, establishing ROI targets early in the process. For instance, the benefits for a new Asset Management system might be an improved ability for management to monitor warranty periods and also increased visibility of an asset’s remaining estimated useful life to help plan for necessary future investment.

However, in order to answer the end user’s “What’s in it for me?” question, it is effective to articulate benefits of specific relevance. With our Asset Management system example, facilities management staff (the end users) would perceive value in the ability to draw from an existing asset library, which would reduce data input and free up time for more important tasks. Informing staff at the end of the project phase of the achievement of benefits originally identified is a powerful mechanism to increase interest and acceptance.

Incorporating Existing Processes

Successfully managing the implementation of an ePM system requires an in-depth analysis of the organization’s existing processes. An ePM system brings the opportunity to standardize those processes, so that information output from the system will eventually be comparable between departments, regions or even countries. This is normally the greatest source of change during the implementation, as processes are the essence of staff members’ daily tasks.

Faithful+Gould has recently worked with a confidential mid-stream energy client on this precise matter. The company operates in the West, North East, Petro-Chemical (NGL’s), Atlantic Gulf and Canada, and provides key natural gas services including interstate natural gas transportation, gathering and processing. Since the regions were not unified in the systems or processes that they used, the Faithful+Gould team recommended assessing the client’s existing processes across the organization. Faithful+Gould provided recommendations on the standardization of these processes, before eventual configuration in Oracle Unifier.

Faithful+Gould facilitated workshops within the organization, suggesting process improvements to align existing processes to industry best practice in all twenty of the functional areas which include project controls and field execution.

...with the inevitability of change for business innovation it is important to work with staff to address concerns...

A key challenge has been to provide the organization with suggested process improvements which are applicable to all regional operating areas. Our team has used effective stakeholder engagement and business change techniques, such as the identification, measurement and reporting of program benefits, to engage the business leaders and their staff in these discussions prior to configuring the processes within Unifier.

Effective stakeholder engagement during this phase is imperative to staff feeling involved in the change process. Users will be more likely to accept the new system at a faster rate if they are consulted on how they currently perform tasks.

As explored in this article, with the inevitability of change for business innovation it is important to work with staff to address concerns and for the organization’s leader to clearly communicate the benefits of the new process to staff.