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IT and Organisational Change

For the majority of today’s businesses, constant change is a must. Improving business processes and adopting new technologies is simply what the market demands. The effects of these changes can be make or break, and properly managing them─especially those involving IT─is important for business success. David Stevens looks at how your business can best prepare itself for organisational change.

New IT strategies often involve a change in computing applications or platforms, and these changes can have wide-reaching effects on the way in which day to day business is done.

When adopting new technologies, an important aspect of making new IT systems and processes successful, is properly managing the organisational change that results.

In fact, whether the project is a new mail system, a CRM, ERP, or a fundamental business wide change to the whole of an IT system, managing the change process seems to be a critical element to a project’s success.

IT changes are not dissimilar to other major business transformations that cause organisational change.

The biggest and most commonly recognised barrier to organisational change is the human one. It’s well documented that in most organisations the majority of employees are innately opposed to change. They are likely comfortable and established in their current tasks and processes because they understand what’s expected of them and how to achieve it. Change is threatening because it introduces uncertainty. Employees can begin to fear for their status, workload, and competency in new responsibilities.


The phases of human reaction to change adoption are widely considered as:

*Shock (surprise and dismay that old methods will no longer be acceptable)

*Refusal (succumbing to a belief that change is unnecessary)

*Rational understanding (understanding the case for change, but being unwilling to carry it out)

*Acceptance (a ‘crisis’ moment where the willingness is found)

*Learning (the trial of new behaviours and processes)

*Realisation (an understanding of the new processes and their superiority to the old)

*Integration (the final state where the new behaviours are now routine)

When managing a change, it’s important to realise people will move through these phases at different rates (perhaps leaping steps altogether). The degree of IT change─whether it’s an addition to existing services or a fundamental alteration─and the specific culture of an organisation are two factors that will affect the speed at which employees progress.

Good leadership can accelerate the process. When it comes to IT change, employees prefer to be lead by two people: their immediate supervisor and the organisation’s CEO.

Communication and evaluation is vital. Explaining the logic of a change, and how its effects will be measured, helps to enlist employees in the change and improve their understanding of why it’s required and why it’s better. Often, the case for change can be illustrated by juxtaposing the likely effects of inaction, explaining what might happen to the organisation should the status-quo remain.

Well structured training for staff on new platforms is also important. Not only does this ensure staff are using new IT systems in the manner envisaged, but it also begins to build an informal pool of organisational knowledge amongst staff that can be drawn upon outside of formal sessions. It’s also another way to ascribe importance to the change and to enrol staff in the process.

One of the most significant dangers for IT change management is if high level members of the organisation’s leadership group become stuck themselves during an early phase.


If the change is a new ERP system, for example, and the HR manager believes the change isn’t necessary, then the project won’t advance, because it’s they who should be driving it.

One method for overcoming such obstacles is to ensure the change is being pushed by a group of individuals in the organisation who have the power to make it happen.

John Kotter, a professor at the Harvard Business School, argues the following steps are the key to successful change:

1. Establish a sense of urgency.

2. Create a coalition with enough power to lead.

3. Develop a clear vision.

4. Communicate the vision.

5. Empower people to clear obstacles.

6. Secure short-term wins.

7. Consolidate and keep moving.

8. Anchor the change.

For today’s organisations, the ability to properly manage and negotiate change is becoming an increasingly important indicator of success, especially in projects involving IT. But with planning, communicative effort, and an adherence to the idea that change is a necessary part of staying in business, the benefits of new technologies can be more quickly realised as your business strives to move forward.

David Stevens is managing director of IT company Brennan.

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