In a landscape wrought with changing business priorities, competitive pressures and a desire to innovate on demand, organizations are forever grasping for a new ‘silver bullet’ to achieve rapid results. More often than not, that comes in the form of new technology, whether it be the implementation of a new Portfolio Management Tool, a CRM or Service Management Software, SAP or Oracle, these implementations will turn your organization upside down. But it’s not the technology itself that’s the hard part – it’s the organizational change required to ensure strong, successful adoption, and demonstrate a positive impact to the organization as quickly as possible. What follows are 10 Tips to get you from the starting line to a successful implementation.

  1. Thoughtfully plan your kickoff. Your kickoff meeting sets the tone for the project. Having the executive sponsors speak to the importance of the change and what benefit the organization will gain through the new system will establish a platform for preserving culture, timelines and established budgets. For example, if your company, and therefore, your people, value their customers, your guiding principles might include: we delight our customers; we are collaborative; we drive for excellence. These types of statements will be the truing mechanism for all decisions and approaches the team takes toward the fulfillment of deliverables.
  2. Build a team. Establish a project team with clear accountabilities. Strong leadership with a clearly stated vision embraced by the organization will feed the project plan and motivate the team to support each other’s efforts. If possible, provide your team a designated space – a team room where the project team can gather to hash out and resolve issues – somewhere they can hang/display important documents that keeps the team focused, enthusiastic and on track.
  3. Engage a change specialist. A seasoned change specialist will be experienced with the critical elements surrounding change and communications planning. They will establish clear communication goals, timelines and accountabilities as they relate to all affected project groups. They will implement a customized, structured and comprehensive approach to change management and communication or said another way, educate, train and communicate every stakeholder by ensuring that changes are smoothly and successfully adopted, implemented and sustained to achieve lasting benefits.
  4. Fortify commitment. Committing to a systems project involves doing what is necessary throughout the stages of system development, installation, and use to assure the problem is understood and the new system indeed solves that problem.
  5. Deal Effectively with Resistance and Skeptics. Providing a solid business case for the change allows people to more fully understand how a change that benefits the organization may also benefit them. Often changes that organizations must implement do not initially appear good for the individual. Leaders who make a personal, authentic connection with the change and clearly speak from the heart will more easily gain support. Few things aid change better then straight communication, authenticity and to the extent it is available … clarity. If clarity doesn’t exist, be honest about it and let people know when more details will be available. Two-way communication provides opportunities for employees to ask the “real” questions and share their concerns; this will assist in reducing resistance. Make sure these types of sessions are built into your plan.
  6. Engage employees. Your change specialist will recommend ways to encourage participation throughout the implementation. Engaging employees during the process helps dramatically in reducing resistance and enhancing adoption. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that people inherently do not like change, especially those who have been using a system and processes they have figured out and perfected over many years. By having impacted employees participate in the development of the change you will increase adoption and reduce resistance exponentially.
  7. Recruit a pilot market that is willing, eager and able. A newly introduced technology will not succeed if user adoption is low. Pilot programs offer organizations the ability to roll out new technology in small numbers before attempting large-scale implementation. In doing so, you can define best practices when using the new solution; identify kinks, challenges and on-boarding issues as well as document lessons learned before full implementation.
  8. Gain credibility, then scale. Once you have advocates in the organization supporting you, your credibility inevitably improves — moving forward post-pilot, fear will slowly diminish, but not without continued reaffirmation of successes throughout the implementation. Strong, regular communication is critical to maintaining integrity.
  9. Mitigate risk. Ensure that a high-level plan is in place to address any major obstacles, including resistance among various departments and any anticipated push back related to the implementation that could be avoided.
  10. Define a set of guiding principles. The organization’s beliefs and philosophy should guide what the project team does, why it does it, and how. These principles can be rooted in the organization’s values and culture. For example, does your company, and therefore, do your people, value their customers? If so, guiding principles might include: customer service is our first and foremost concern; we are collaborative; we drive for excellence. Guiding principles will be the truing mechanism for all decisions and approaches the team takes toward the fulfillment of deliverables.

As a general rule of thumb, applying the right mindset, the right structures, and the right principles can go a long way toward ensuring the success of almost any endeavor. And while IT systems implementations bring their own unique set of challenges, the tactics above can help to significantly alleviate the acute change issues that often arise.

**Joan Walker, Principal at TayganPoint Consulting Group, also contributed to this article.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2015 TayganPoint Newsletter – Q4.