Friday, March 6, 2015

How IT Change Management Aims at Improving Customer Experience

 IT implementation with change management best practices - should aim at improving customer experience.

Digital is the age of the customer, being a customer-centric business is in every forward-thinking organization’s agenda. Corporate IT plays a significant role in digitizing every touch point of customer experience and sharpening key business capabilities. IT implementations are core to strategic changes today. However, many IT organizations fail to reach customers’ expectation fully. Did it achieve the original objective? Did the customer experience actually improve significantly? And, how sustainable is the change or would it break down? Has the entire organization embraced it well? What are the IT change management principles & implementation best practices?

IT implementation with change management best practices - should aim at improving customer experience. However, for many IT organizations, the one important aspect -customer experience, is missed or overlooked majority of the time. The focus always remains on technicalities of implementation and preparedness of business / user community gets forced to focus only at the end. the word "forced" is being used as user community get attention at the end as there is no choice but to go live on the system only with them. So what is really important is the design stage. If 80 percent of the time is a well thought through and documented activity, the implementation would be seamless.

Leadership sponsorship is critical in IT change management. Leadership involvement, particularly the leaders who really need the changes and have sponsored it, throughout the journey is low or sporadic- either due to underestimation of the need to be involved or overestimation of the executor's capabilities. Few communication activities don’t create that awareness, and change management is the day to day activity. So it’s important to build up an uninterrupted channel which will keep articulating about management vision and expectations from such IT initiatives. The channel should also enable training so as to make the change management process easier; to convert cynics to the project champions who are the best opinion makers. Of course, that helps organizations to embrace the change better. However, for many of the IT initiatives, such channels do exist as a formality or the deliverable but driven by a weak leader, so it becomes ineffective. It must be driven by a leader who has power, influence, and respect and to a certain extent he or she should be feared.

Set clear perspectives on how IT change management efforts affect customers and corporate brand. There should be enough collective experience in any organization these days on change management to take the changes with systematic steps and measure the results accordingly. But often all along implementation, the same business, and user community put its complete resistance as the majority of the time, management has not made clear about their intentions and goals while embarking on such IT initiative. In very few implementations, customers are making the effort to ascertain how a "day in the life" of any worker at any level (from labor to management) will be impacted due to this IT initiative. Apart from the 'normal' best practices, the following two aspects differentiate a successful IT change management effort from a failed one:

1). A Clear understanding of the monetary benefits the customer is going to realize the intended change. If a project is important and a game changer, the budget will come for it...

2). More importantly, take a serious awareness of the adverse impact (monetary as well as brand value) due to the failed change.

Pre-forecast, post forecast and track actual against the forecast. every aspect should have a measure. While some changes could be business critical, so without a measure the effort cannot be justified. At times, you tend to conclude that measures are applicable only in operation's world or sales and marketing world and so on; every project implementation should not just capture technicalities and high-level functionality, but also a measure of success and sustainability, keep in mind the long-term vision of the project. How do you measure the success of the change - you have to be honest about what’s going on, and should have the measures laid out beforehand to clearly indicate the extent to which the why the change needed is achievable (not just the milestones of the change project)?

Customer facing employees need to become customer experience advocate: Well, in a back-office scenario, the customer-facing employees will be better suited to handle problems/issues and suggest solutions to the satisfaction of the customers, since they will have a better understanding of the system and its capabilities. In today's world if you can think that a product, be it hardware or software, is a technical solution to a business problem on how to delight the customer, then you have achieved a great success of paradigm shift from the techies.

Some key principles for IT change management are:
1. Questioning: First question all structural inefficiencies; These lead to bad process which cannot be undone by automation (Customer, Product/Service, Organization, Market position...)
2) Keep the END in mind: Remember constantly that the tool and automation are not the goals - the operating model, structure, process, automation, and tools are all means to something else. If you forget this your requirement set will be sub-optimal.
3) Cost estimation: Then balance costs of the change to that of the post-change operating model. For example, if this exercise leads to a forecast that 'if we do not do this expensive customization then the cost of operation will be too high ...', question whether you have violated #1 or #2 ...If not, then question if you have placed the function appropriately or using the wrong tool!

IT is business, and the very purpose of businesses is to create customers. Hence, IT change management effort and project implementation are not just pure technical challenges, or for the tools sake, keep the end in mind and delight customer are the principles, the design is the one of the best practices, in order to improve IT performance, agility, and organizational maturity.


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