Evolving change management towards software value realization

Most digital transformations fail. As a global entrepreneur and former software implementation consultant for Fortune 500 companies, I know that a digital initiative doesn’t end once a platform goes live. Digital change has a huge impact on our employees, who interact with around thirteen applications thirty times a day to be successful in their work.

When trying to get employees to embrace new technology and tools, leaders say their biggest challenge is difficult-to-use applications with a high learning curve (68 percent). It is therefore not surprising that many employees’ responses to digital transformation follow a process similar to the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief. In the context of software adoption, we can think of this in terms of the associated Kubler-Ross Change Curve.

Employee resistance to digital change, which many learning, development and change management professionals face with every software launch, is derived from this model. Faced with unfamiliar software, employees react defensively with shock and denial, leading to frustration and depression, which inevitably coincides with a decline in productivity.

Ultimately, however, employees are forced to integrate this change (digital tools) into their work lives, and new efficiencies drive more sales, creating more positive feelings among employees — or not. According to Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve, within two days of training, 75 percent of the learned information is lost, preventing the user from helping themselves through difficult processes, which again leads to resistance. This is why meaningful software and process adoption cannot be achieved through change management that consists of one-off, isolated instances of communication and/or training. The one-time nature of these methods means that they do not meet the ‘forgetting curve’, or the reality that most people forget newly learned information within a week.

Organizations that cling to this outdated approach to change management are likely to have a dystopian experience with their enterprise software – a sense of frustration, inefficiency and loss as they see their employees stuck in the trap of depression and poor productivity – and never get out again. By the time an organization recognizes the problem, it may be too late to change course because people have already found solutions and rejected the software. It’s estimated that as many as 55 percent of the hundreds of SaaS applications that employees regularly bombard with go unused. It’s no wonder that, according to Gartner, 56 percent of organizations experience high levels of regret about their largest technology-related purchases. In fact, it is estimated that the average organization loses nearly $300,000 per year in annual licensing fees.

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How do organizations evolve from outdated change management processes to value realization? Driving meaningful software adoption requires a more modern approach that includes:

  • A superior user experience — Traditional training methods such as emails, videos, and quick reference guides fail for several reasons. First, they quickly become outdated over time, especially given the increased reliance on cloud apps that are released regularly throughout the year. Users undergo a significant amount of change to stay on top of new features, resulting in a huge impact on the productivity of both business users and IT as users ask for help staying up to date.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, the newest generation of workers does not want this type of training content. They want to be guided intuitively through the software, just as they do in their favorite and best consumer app experiences, which they expect to be increasingly smooth, faster and more reliable. When the user experience falls short, organizations often encounter significant resistance to the new software or process. On the other hand, guiding users through software step-by-step as needed ensures accelerated and seamless onboarding for new users, while providing self-help and guidance to existing users through digital upgrades and evolving business processes.

  • Easy identification and repair of problem areas — Traditionally, change management teams have required management buy-in for corrective action, but this approach is no longer sufficient. Instead, change management teams must be able to identify where problems lie and quickly resolve them through targeted content delivery (e.g. reminders, alerts, banners and information bubbles), addressing specific pain points in software for different user segments.

It’s about reducing human error and ensuring users get contextual help and on-demand training when and where they need it while using an application. By delivering helpful content where and when users are most frustrated and in need of support, organizations reduce the sharp decline in productivity because this approach aligns with users’ current expectations for an intuitive, self-driven experience.

  • Proof of Software Adoption — Not only is a new approach needed to help users learn tasks and new features, but there must also be a data-driven approach to software adoption: measurable proof points that document employees’ effective use of new technology. An organization cannot improve what it cannot measure. These organizations are spending millions on new software, and in today’s revenue-obsessed corporate cultures, you can no longer just “guess” what the ROI might be and assume that the organization is realizing value.
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Activities in various departments need to be tracked and analyzed to gain insight into whether and which users are embracing the software. At a higher level, there should be qualitative and quantitative data on whether or not digital adoption goals and business process policies are being met. Addressing the root cause – lack of user adoption – of the failure of digital change initiatives will impact ROI and business results. Organizations will see fewer support tickets, faster time to value, higher productivity, more efficient communications, better digital user experiences, less frustration and resistance, more accurate data, and an increase in reliable, data-driven decisions for executives.

As we face an economic downturn, lower budgets and continued digital transformation, CFOs and CTOs are being held to higher standards. They require tangible and beneficial results from business investments more quickly to help positively improve the bottom line. Without associated software value, they are potentially left with tens of millions of dollars in costs with no ROI to demonstrate.

People inherently resist change, and by going beyond traditional approaches to change management, organizations can reduce the jarring nature of change, making the decline in productivity less drastic and reducing the time of users ‘stuck in the mud’. Organizations should no longer consider change management complete once an application goes live and the trainers leave. It is then that users are on their own, and there are many pitfalls lurking on the path to meaningful adoption. Given the volume of applications employees have to work with and the pace of change, a new approach to change management is needed, one that emphasizes the user experience, inherently uncovers problems, and delivers data-driven value realization.

Photo credit: Creativa Images / Shutterstock

Krishna Dunthoori is founder and CEO, Apty.