Change cadence: how to champion new technology without overwhelm

Co-authored with Tamara Fahey, Principal Consultant at Eighty20 Solutions

While change in the workplace is nothing new, it has reached a whole new level in the last two years. Many organisations have had to make changes in how they operate at a fast and furious pace due to the pandemic. As we shift into the post-pandemic phase, many workers can expect to settle into more familiar routines. But the breakneck speed of technology change is likely to keep challenging their capacity to keep up.

The technologies we use at work are being upgraded and replaced at a rapid rate. And with Software as a Service becoming more popular across the modern tech stack, both IT teams and workers are having to level up their skills far more frequently. According to recent research, the average employee in APAC is breaking new ground in their digital skillset roughly every six months, with the number of digital skills required from the workforce rising from 1 billion in 2021 to 6.8 billion by 2025.

No longer optional

As Microsoft 365 turns evergreen, technology renewal is no longer something IT leaders and teams can take at their own pace. This shift away from a scheduled path to upgrades and less need for resources to manage installation and patching has the potential to be liberating for an IT function. Instead of spending time on planning and executing a continuous cycle of upgrades, they can shift their attention to adding a different kind of value to the organisation.

This isn’t to say there won’t be demands on IT resources. But the emphasis has shifted from command and control to support and enable. Instead of masterminding the whole upgrade experience, both IT teams and end users are having to be more nimble and flexible in how they’re adapting to change. To steer the whole organisation through these seemingly small tweaks to technology with less stress and overwhelm takes a rethink of the whole change experience.

Too many moving parts

What definitely doesn’t help employees to get comfortable with constantly adjusting to new tech features and functions is being bombarded with releases in an ad hoc way. And yet with the number of initiatives most organisations are likely to have on their transformation agenda, employees are finding themselves impacted in all sorts of ways. At Eighty20 we’ll often see a segregated approach to rolling out 20+ projects. This can result in external contractors and internal projects overloading workers’ capacity for change to the limit because they’re unaware of just how much change they’re already dealing with.

1. Create a Roadmap

This is why the first step to limiting or avoiding change fatigue is having a roadmap bringing everything together. With tech transformation efforts spread across security, infrastructure, end point management, application services and more it’s vital to break down barriers that keep IT functions planning and working through change in siloes. It’s also far more efficient and productive for the whole team to be in the know on the bigger picture and vision they’re all working towards. This creates opportunities for skills and ideas to be shared across projects, helping the organisation realise maximum value from IT resources.

Guiding organisations towards a cohesive roadmap for levelling up their technology capabilities at the right speed and in the right order is the one of our foundational services at Eighty20. We can start from scratch to build a roadmap that’s aligned to strategic goals, or review an existing one to identify gaps and provide strategic support to ensure your transformation is heading in the right direction. Practical support to overcome obstacles is another way we can help, giving your IT team the extra capacity and know-how to tackle a critical project or stage of the transformation journey.

2. Support from the top and on the ground

In our engagements across organisations of all types and sizes, the support we provide to IT teams is always more effective when matched by visible commitment at the C-suite and business unit level. It’s been our experience that executive sponsorship and involvement for technology transformation is the real X-factor for success. In organisations where a technology change program really comes together, the moments that matter are when leadership instil the feeling in the workforce that all this change is going to bring them huge benefits. They can be part of a high performing team and enjoy life at work more which makes the discomfort of change worthwhile. Product sponsors can add their voice to this message, but it’s far more resonant and engaging when it comes from the top.

Executives should be ready to lead from the front and be the face of transformational change. Leaders cast a long shadow in their organizations and are effectively always on stage. Your organization simply won’t mobilize around the transformation unless they see the executive team’s personal commitment to its success.

The role of the executive team in a transformation, McKinsey & Company, 26 April 2022

Change champions at the business unit level are the other stakeholders who can keep messages around technology change clear and positive. One of the most common and pervasive concerns about change is people thinking they’re going to find themselves out of a job. They fear that new ways of working are a precursor to a restructure. Having access to change champions in their business unit to reassure them keeps their focus on opportunities change is creating instead of the risks.

3. Keep sharing the vision

Change champions are one part of an effective communication plan for bringing people on the change journey and keeping them involved. It takes a really strong internal marketing strategy and plan to engage your workforce with change without getting in the way of them doing their jobs. It’s a careful balancing act and takes time, commitment and cooperation across HR, IT and internal comms as well as from the C-suite and business unit champions.

As consultants, with plenty of tried-and-tested tactics for driving technology adoption, Eighty20 have best-practice approaches to share as part of our transition planning process. We can recommend the most effective communication channels, tools and training programs to suit your organisation and workforce as well as potential incentives to enhance engagement. And finally we can embed measures to check how effective communication is in driving productive adoption of new technology and tools. Checking in to make sure people are getting that uplift in productivity, performance and a sense of purpose closes the loop on the vision that’s been leading them through the change.

Looking for a way to tackle your digital transformation with confidence? Get in touch to discover how we can support you.