Top tips for successful change management
Engineering change management can be a complex and involved process. There are many steps in the process, and involve stakeholders from both inside and outside the organisation.
Controlling and simplifying change requests is key to success. Visibility into each step of the process is also fundamental once the organisation has worked out a plan and begun implementing it.
As many stakeholders know, there are difficulties inherent in change management, including the use of older systems reliant upon inefficient manual and paper-based processes, which can inhibit controls and add costs. While many organisations began to move documents and files to digital formats years ago, there is still a surprising number that relies on older, paper-based processes, especially for invoicing and accounts payable.
An additional challenge is the lack of visibility into the entire change process, which causes significant roadblocks and slows down an effective change management strategy. It is difficult to judge the operational success of each stage in the process if there is a lack of insight, and progress is further hindered by inefficient workflows and lack of clarity on the correct version of files and documents.
Finally, poor integration of systems further reduces the effectiveness of collaboration and will also hinder change management strategies. If one system doesn't seamlessly integrate with another or there are workarounds put in place on legacy systems, information flow will likely be slow and more complicated than it ought to be.
Looking at these issues one by one, there is a significant case for a content services plan and stricter governance of files and workflows.
Digitisation of files and documents
Paper files are cumbersome, less secure and infinitely less manageable than digital files. While it may seem arduous to update archives to digital format, tools exist that can automate much of the process and make files faster to store, index and find, as well as make them more secure and actionable.
Intelligent capture can scan a file and automatically make the text searchable, which allows that text to become ‘live' data, rather than static text. This, in turn, makes it fundamentally more useful to the organisation and easily retrievable for staff.
Collaboration and workflows
Implementing change in a controlled manner is the key to an effective change management strategy. Fostering communication and proper collaboration between team members is critical to success, and having proper workflows and collaboration tools will streamline change management immeasurably and introduce the needed control over the process.
Ensuring team members are working on the most current version of a document seems like an obvious measure, but it plays a big part in the unity of a change program. When disparate departments and individuals across the enterprise are working simultaneously on a common part of the project, it is quite easy to have several versions of the same document floating between offices and people.
These may be edited or updated by one individual while someone else is making changes to an earlier version. Without proper controls over the process, mistakes become more likely, and the duplication of work reduces the efficiency of team members and the change program.
Increase accuracy and visibility
Visibility is vital to good teamwork and accuracy. A complete view of all relevant information allows for sound business decision-making and mitigates potential ‘black spots' in a change program where incomplete information clouds judgment.
The ability to accurately search for any information within the organisation — be it an invoice number, customer record, success metrics for a marketing campaign — is critical to fast and accurate work and again increases the likelihood that evidence-based decisions will be made at each step of the program.
Enterprise search goes far beyond the basic search capabilities of a standard engine, allowing employees to search at a very granular level across databases, in-house cloud storage, social media platforms, on-premise systems and external search engines — to find exactly what they require.
Proper integration of systems
File formats and data sources will not necessarily interact properly, making true interoperability and visibility very difficult. Change management often starts with ‘salient points' in a technology stack. In other words, looking for black spots and areas that are either slow, inefficient, not sharing data properly or lacking visibility. However, sometimes it is imperative to get systems working together before real change can come about.
Often it is legacy software that causes these issues. Large proprietary systems may still hold customer data from a decade or more ago, which is indispensable to a company — but not necessarily accessible or actionable via modern platforms that need to utilise it.
Business intelligence comes from activating all possible data sources and making informed decisions based upon the facts presented. However, if part of that data is locked away or not readily accessible, the system's efficiency is compromised.
Therefore, it is necessary to look at all elements of a technology stack and ensure that systems are properly integrated. Information flow and visibility must be maximised to ascertain where business improvements and change can be made. Before that can happen, improvements must be made to the actual information carriers themselves, the software platforms, and systems that store and deliver that information.
Change management is a vital part of business growth and success. Getting the fundamentals right before starting the journey will go a long way towards ensuring the success of any enterprise change project.