Change comes big and small

Carter Holt Harvey's switch to Windows XP on the desktop and 2000 on the server is having an impact on the jobs of support people.

Carter Holt Harvey’s switch to Windows XP on the desktop and 2000 on the server is having an impact on the jobs of support people.

New tools in Windows 2000 such as Microsoft Operations Manager have meant that more installation, server and OS management can happen centrally rather than remotely. This, says Craig Bunyan, technology and operations manager for CHH IT arm Oxygen Business Solutions, has changed the support model and meant retraining for some staff.

But technology affecting operating procedure is one aspect of the multi-faceted world of managing change within your company.

Widespread organisational change usually occurs as a result of major activity. A merger, a move into new markets overseas, a dramatic loss of income or the start of a new programme like TQM or re-engineering may necessitate changes in people’s jobs, processes or policies. And it’s rarely easy.

Even smaller changes, such as the introduction of new technologies like CRM software, portals or knowledge management systems, have broad implications for how a company does business and so requires new ways of people thinking about, and doing, their jobs. Effective change management is often cited as the most important factor in a successful implementation. Training is essential, particularly if end users now have to input data in a system whenever they interact with customers.

Oxygen practice manager Chris Rutter says change management is also about change control within a project — essential to avoid issues like scope creep — and assessing the impact on an organisation at the end of a change cycle. The CHH upgrade programme, termed xpedite, involves replacing Windows 95 on 5000 desktops and laptops with Windows XP and Office XP, and Windows NT on 110 servers with Windows 2000. The 220-staff that Oxygen uses change management principles based on the UK-derived ITIL framework. Oxygen projects are typically monitored by a change advisory board, which may consist of a solutions architect, an operations manager and a security manager, among others. A change manager coordinates.

IT projects are too often not well scoped, says Bunyan, and controlling change is sometimes not rigorous enough, resulting in changes to the original character to a project. Having said that, Bunyan believes the IT industry has in general enthusiastically taken up project management disciplines in the past five years.

Dr Darl Kolb, a change specialist at Auckland University’s business school, notes that many organisational initiatives come from offshore, often in the form of cyclical business trends. Kolb argues for some customisation to the many established and new change programmes — the use of language and scaling down to our generally smaller firms, if nothing else — as overseas-driven change means managers are often dragged along as unenthusiastically as their employees. While bringing groups together is the hardest bit, argues Kolb, resistance to change (and possible subtle sabotage) is too often rooted in arguments such as “This is being driven from offshore”, “There’s a hidden agenda here” and “I’m too busy for this”.

Jeremy Kedian, manager of the educational leadership centre at the University of Waikato, quotes Charles Handy in saying that “We are all prisoners of our past”, but says if long-term employees in particular are party to the planning stages of change, less “selling” of the idea has to be done later by management.

Resistance from staff and customers is predictable, say Bunyan and Rutter, but can be lessened by involving long-term staff in the planning stages, real communication and monitoring feedback, and selling the plan in a large company through events like road shows.

But change for the end user needn’t always be so arduous or disruptive.

“Change is completely different to what it used to be,” says Pivotal Australasian head Helen Robinson. Installing a CRM package such as Pivotal’s should have minimal impact of the business and people’s working lives, she says, particularly if it’s done in four- to six-week chunks. Those in other departments then observe that change as a positive and welcome it.

The Warehouse’s Stationery operations had few issues with managing change because it was creating a business from scratch. This meant that its installation of a customised version of Pivotal CRM was “entwined” with its business processes, says IS&T manager Claudia Vidal. The company linked Pivotal to its new B2B website and call centre in 2001.

The relative newness of the company, which opened with one store in 1991, meant that it could “make a story of what we wanted to achieve”, says Vidal. This approach, including staff as “actors” in a story, meant Warehouse Stationery could avoid jargon and not have to battle fixed attitudes. Much preparation work was done on the business plan, training at the stores and listening to feedback during trials. Try for open communication, says Vidal, as nobody has a whole picture of any company. The company employed a highest-level cross-functional team to oversee it.

Proof of successful change at Warehouse Stationery? The 39-store company’s “phenomenal” growth (sales up 25% in the past year, a profit rise of nearly 300%) is plenty, she says.

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Tags change management

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