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Leading Change – How to conduct a successful transformation effort

In the US Presidential election of 1992, James Carville popularized the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid.” And in the case of change management, we can very well say; “It’s the people, stupid” Change management is not a new term. For over three decades, organizations have realized that the people side of a transformational effort is always the …

In the US Presidential election of 1992, James Carville popularized the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid.” And in the case of change management, we can very well say;

“It’s the people, stupid”

Change management is not a new term. For over three decades, organizations have realized that the people side of a transformational effort is always the most challenging component of the whole process. Studies by McKinsey show that in most organizations, two out of three transformation initiatives fail. The primary reason for this failure is resistance to change by the people affected in the process.

We understand that managing change is tough, but part of the problem is that there is little agreement on the underlying factors influencing transformation initiatives the most.

Ask ten managers to name the key factors critical to the success of these programs, and you’ll probably get ten different answers. That’s because each executive looks at an initiative from his or her viewpoint and, based on personal experience, focuses on different success factors. The experts, too, offer different perspectives.

At SirionLabs, over the years, we have learned that any significant software implementation project (such as contract management automation) requires deliberate change and adaptation management. Our philosophy is to formalize the “soft” side of an implementation and not assume that people will get there by themselves. The focus is to measure people’s adaptation of the new environment early on and throughout the initiative and to develop a fact-based perspective on the level of adaptation to the new environment. This proactive approach vs. the generally reactive approach towards people management has significant benefits:

  • Faster return on investment
  • Reduction in internal turmoil and early identification of resistance to change
  • Fact-based analysis and measurement of software adaptation, reducing reliance on subjective perceptions.

Five elements of success in change management

Our experience shows that companies must pay as much attention to the soft side of implementation as they do to the actual implementation. By focusing on the following five critical elements, they can stack the odds in favor of success.

  • Capability – Understanding client needs and their internal capabilities to absorb new technologies. This will define the level of training needed.
  •  Execution – An integrated project plan that accounts for a 360-degree view of technical implementation and change management is imperative. The project organization is governed by necessary oversight structure including the executive steering committee, management committee, and the implementation team make-up. If suppliers or customers are part of the implementation, their participation should carefully be considered.
  • Software adaptation by the organization – Referred, sometimes, as change management or the people side of implementation, this aspect is frequently overlooked even though it is a significant contributor to the success or failure of a project. The key is to assist and measure the organization in transitioning from general awareness to commitment to using the software.
  • User Proficiency (in the new environment) – Assessment of the training and ongoing support effectiveness to ensure user adaptation and proficiency.
  • Utilization – Assessment of the frequency and duration of software usage post-implementation.

SirionLabs follows a broad-based methodology to the client environment for adaptation management further outlined in Fig. 1 below;

Fig. 1

  1. Communications and engagement planning: The first step is to develop an engagement and communications plan with a defined calendar for the respective stakeholders. The primary goal of this activity is to get everyone on-board and ways to field questions from the wider audience. For this the subsequent steps involve developing appropriate messaging and an executive letter to the wider organization along with an internal, more detailed announcement to the stakeholders. For external stakeholders, separate communication lines should be opened explaining the rationale for the changes proposed and subsequent benefits to the suppliers/client.  A monthly communication should be maintained throughout the implementation and early go live stages.
  1. Current to Future state transition: Ahead of implementation, ensure the intended change is understood and supported by a well communicated business case. Start introducing the future state and align the introductory materials with the adaptation measures. Conducting internal and supplier meetings to identify areas/individuals who might not be open to changes or that may require additional attention is crucial at this juncture. Another important task is to integrate the introductory materials into training materials for ongoing reinforcement.
  1. Training and education planning: The third step is the effectiveness of the training and education delivered by the implementation team. At this stage, the adaptation consultant helps to facilitate training by providing guidance, insights, and assistance on individuals/areas resisting change. He/she assists to ensure that training materials reinforce the broader message on why the project is important and the benefits to individuals and the organization overall. Additionally, he/she administers adaptation measure testing at the end of the training sessions. 
  1. Implementation – Project organization and review process: Creation of an executive steering committee representing the interests of all affected stakeholders of the organization, can improve the likelihood of a successful long-term outcome of the project. During the implementation, and throughout all phases, it is important to continue to reinforce leadership alignment and ensure that the communication from the leadership to the various stakeholders is timely and effective. This is often ignored during later parts of the implementation. 
  1. Observation, analysis, reinforcement and knowledge transfer: Measuring adaptation at the beginning of the project, during the training sessions and post go-live, and then analyzing and evaluating the results are key. It is equally important to keep the implementation team and project executives informed of the results. This applies to both the client team and the suppliers.

Administering the observations and your analysis during the training process and during the first few months after go-live to assess user adaptation.

Implementing the above-mentioned activities helps move stakeholders on their journey from awareness to buy-in and then commitment to the change.  Objective measurements are key to prevent reliance on subjective statements and perceptions.  To this end, we have developed, in conjunction with data analytics experts, a measurement technique taken throughout and subsequent to the implementation to assess stakeholder adaptation levels to determine where the users are on the continuum from awareness to commitment at different stages during and beyond the implementation.

Post implementation, once the data is available, and later at less frequent intervals, we also review the metrics around software utilization and compare it to the abovementioned measurements.

In our experience, when these steps are followed, and objective data is diligently collected during and after the implementation, there is a fact-based assessment of the level of adaptation by the user community, and in the case of Sirion, also on the client or the supplier side.  This, in turn, results in a faster, more effective and higher level of utilization of the software, ensuring a timely return on investment for the client.

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