3 Questions, 3 Answers: Change Management When Introducing New Software

3 Questions, 3 Answers: Sofia Hassiotaki

Sofia Hassiotaki is IT Change Management Consultant at Accenture. Before joining Accenture in 2018, she studied phonetics and speech processing at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich and gained practical experience as a working student in the communications industry, among others.

What challenges do companies face when introducing new software?

✘ Duration of software implementation is underestimated

Many companies define a too optimistic go-live date, but time pressure during software implementation is a bad advisor. If you define the necessary milestones and deliverables during the planning phase, expectations will be met in the implementation phase and the process will be smoother overall.

✘ Scope of function is not clearly defined

When introducing new software, it’s important to be transparent about the feature setting. Employees who will end up working with the software usually know best what functions they need for their work, so involve them. After all, this involvement increases motivation to work with the new software and, as a result, acceptance.

✘ Processes are not coordinated

Companies often use the opportunity of a software implementation to improve their operational processes at the same time. In other words, there was previously no standardized process, which is, however, essential for the new system. Now it is important to clearly define the processes and check their practical suitability. Otherwise, there is a risk that employees will blame the software, when in fact the process itself still needs to be improved.

✘ Poor or no training on the new software

Avoid the mistake of assuming that the software is self-explanatory. Training should be a high priority in a software rollout because the success of a new software depends primarily on its users. Especially if the new system affects the entire operation, dedicated training for the individual areas is important. Avoid “one-size-fits-all” training and tailor the training to the skill level and individual functions so that each user can learn how to use the software and benefit from it. Also consider the format in which your trainings should take place. Especially in times of Corona, classic classroom trainings hardly take place anymore. Now it’s time to offer new solutions, for example through guided online training. Here, too, interactive and varied training is possible if you use appropriate tools and methods.

Which phases of the change process should companies pay particular attention to and why?

I know from my previous projects that there is no change without resistance. After the initial state of shock, it can happen that those affected unite against the change to make it clear that the announced measures are superfluous from their point of view. Such reactions manifest the fear of losing accustomed structures and parts of the familiar corporate culture. Especially in this phase, it is important to stick to the change. Get all the key decision-makers on board, but also the implementers. In my experience, allies are a great help, because these people are highly motivated themselves and are a driving force behind the change. However, you should also include critics and those affected in the process, identify the losers of the change and address them in a targeted manner. In this way, you give room for fears and anxieties, dialogue and joint reflection. A good way to address fears is to ask the following questions, which can be worked on in workshops:

  • What do I lose if the resistance is abandoned?
  • What gets worse if the resistance is abandoned?
  • What gets worse if the resistance continues?

The most important thing, however, is persistence and empathy. The participants are involved in the process at very different times, so each group also experiences different phases. The greatest difficulty occurs when one group is already in the phase of euphoria, while others are still in a state of shock. These discrepancies must be perceived and overcome, otherwise there is a risk of misunderstandings or even complete denial.

What three tips can you give companies for a successful software implementation?

✓ Do not dictate software from above

The new software should not feel like a forced introduction, but rather like a new perspective that employees can look forward to. Thank your employees for their commitment and involve them by asking about their wishes and needs. Establishing key users in the company is also a proven method. Key users are trained intensively and can answer questions about the software or provide assistance with problems. The key user concept offers the opportunity to subtly build up employee acceptance, on which the software thrives, through your own employees. Important here: Show your employees appreciation for their role and set time and realistic quotas for carrying out the role.

✓ A good training strategy is essential

Training is often the first touch point between end users and software, so think carefully about how you want to design it. Everyone knows how soporific training sessions full of presentations can be. Involve your participants in the training by working directly in the system. This way they can ask their questions directly and much more information will keep in mind. Also consider how many training sessions make sense. Is one session enough or should there be more? Are refresher trainings necessary after a certain period of time or after introducing a new feature? Should the training look the same for all groups? Remember: each person learns at a different rate. What works intuitively for one person may make another person despair. So, adapt the training to your participants. Likewise, adapt your training to the circumstances. Especially with the ever-growing trend – and pandemic need – for online training, a shift is needed. Keep the following in mind in order to make a training successful even virtually:

  • Encourage active participation by letting participants ask questions, discuss with each other, and share their experiences.
  • Bring interaction into your trainings by alternating between theory and practice. For example, form groups and send them to breakout rooms to work on something.
  • Apply icebreakers in your trainings. This can be done by giving participants a little quiz, motivating them to use a fun virtual background, or doing breakout exercises in between.
  • Use different resources like whiteboards, chats for Q&A, live polls, videos, etc. This will add variety to your trainings and keep participants engaged and focused.

And most importantly, don’t miss the opportunity for feedback! After each training, either anonymously or in person, ask your participants what they liked and what you can do better. This will ensure that you and your trainings grow.

✓ Leading by example

Don’t rely on your employees to use the software because they have to. Company leaders set the direction for employees. As a leader, be a role model and use the software yourself. This way you show that you stand behind the software and you can sense possible problems yourself. Also, communicate openly and honestly with users about important information, as well as problems, and participate in discussions. Also, explain why this software is part of the corporate strategy and give concrete examples of how this references the departments.