Intranet and digital workplace projects need change management in order to be effective and embed new ways of working. This article looks at change management recommendations pulled from a new DWG member research report.
Digital workplace projects, intranet implementations and in fact most launches of new technology tend to be intense affairs for those on the project team. I remember late nights testing, fraught tempers and last-minute panics when I was rolling out a new collaboration platform and a content-led portal.
The difficult thing is that after all that hard work building up to launch, there’s even more sustained effort required involved in trying to drive user adoption and, in turn, keep your senior stakeholders happy.
Like the work prior to a launch, change management efforts around using intranets or new digital technologies require energy, patience, perseverance and even a little belief. Changing the behaviour of users so that they work in new and different ways is absolutely not an overnight thing.
Actionable tactics and approaches
However, the good news is there are examples to follow of a variety of actionable approaches, tactics and interventions with which many organizations have experienced success.
I have researched and detailed some of these tactics in DWG’s new member-only research report entitled Change management for the intranet and digital workplace: bringing the organization with you. While I don’t think the findings or recommendations of the report are surprising, two things really struck me while I wrote it.
Beyond communication and training
The first is that change management is now much more about engaging with communities and networks of users than just communications and training, although these elements are still key. Changing behaviour means winning the buy-in and trust of users. It’s about hearts and minds.
Change management as a core tenet of project management
The second thing that struck me is that managing change can’t be purely focused on the period around a launch. It has to be there as a component right through the entire life-cycle of your technology or your intranet. Managing the change starts from the very moment you begin designing your platform. Getting user input into this creates engagement and advocacy, which is important further down the line.
Even well after launch, change management interventions need to continue and evolve to truly embed use and also to respond to the different ways in which users interact with your intranet or digital workplace.
8 recommendations for managing change on intranet or digital workplace projects
These two points sit behind the various recommendations of the report, which you can also find in the free executive summary.
Change management activity needs to be constant
As already stated, change management needs to happen over the entire life-cycle of a new platform, even during the design phase, and must not be an afterthought when it becomes “business-as-usual”.
Change management efforts change over time
The nature of the interventions you make is also likely to change. Clearly efforts are going to be more intense immediately before and after launch, and also evolve as users get more used to new ways of working.
Target interventions to engage different groups
Change management efforts need to be targeted to the needs of different groups. From senior management to super-users and different roles, targeted communications and training will have more impact.
Grow and leverage advocate networks in large organizations
Launching an intranet in a global organization is difficult for small central teams. Many companies have found leveraging the enthusiasm and energy of a network of motivated advocates to both communicate and educate their peers is a very successful tactic.
Give local autonomy to change management efforts where you can
If you are launching an intranet or similar in a global organization, you are likely to have to rely on local managers to help co-ordinate any change management efforts. Giving them some autonomy can help to keep these individuals engaged and also launch things in the optimum way.
Take a cross-functional approach
Getting other central functions involved, such as HR, training and IT, can gain valuable buy-in and also allow you to leverage other skills and perspectives, which can help your change management efforts.
Speak the language of the business and employees
Avoiding fluffy concepts and vocabulary, and focusing instead on how the new initiative or platform will help employees in their everyday work is key. Communications also need to cover the bigger picture – why has the organization introduced this?
Training is sometimes not regarded as important, but having targeted sessions for different groups of users, such as managers or super-users, can be highly effective. Training for end-users is often not possible because of the numbers involved, so a self-service model of access to training resources is usually the preferred (and more pragmatic) option.
Change management can be hard work and bringing the organization with you can feel like you are scaling a mountain, but I believe that by carrying out some of these recommendations the climb may feel considerably easier.
Change management is recognized as a critical success factor for most technology-related projects and is absolutely essential for any initiative requiring new ways of working and therefore a change in employee behaviour.
For teams launching new intranets, social platforms, or digital workplace initiatives, change management is a given.