Project Management

Change Management - a critical IT skill


When I interviewed for my current position as the IT Manager for a small business with less than 100 users, I was asked very specifially how I would handle difficult employees.  Sensing a potential problem I clarified the question asking if they had experienced problems with employees not embracing new technology well.  "That's putting it mildly," was the response.  I was then able to describe some past situations where I successfully managed new technology rollouts.

I think we computer people sometimes overlook how dramatically it can and does affect our co-workers when we put new hardware or software into place.  Even something as simple as replacing or upgrading a multi-function printer / scanner / FAX unit can have traumatic effects on the poor executive secretary who only knows that she has to learn to use a new piece of software that is different from the one she used to use.  To us, it is just simple point and click.

How often do we step back and think about it from the user's point of view?  This executive secretary spends her whole day scanning contracts, revising proposals and printing photos of aircraft.  She is under a tremendous amount of pressure from her boss, the CEO to get these tasks done in a timely manner.  You and I may think of a 'timely manner' as being sometime today, but in her case he may literally be standing over her with clients in his office.  She needs it done now.

For the computer guy to come in at lunch and swap out her multifunction unit without hanging around to show her how it is different is just asking for trouble.  And yet we do it all the time.  All we care about is if it talks on the USB and if the software installed OK.  Is holding her hand while she figures out how to use it part of our job?  You bet it is!  You may have gone on to some other task but you can be sure you will have a frustrated phone call in just a few minutes.

My point is that we sometimes overlook this extremely critical soft skill of being able to help people manage change.  When we upgrade to a new accounting system we build into the contract x number of hours for training and initial support during the first week.  That's a major change and we know it's going to need special attention.  In a small organization like mine, I am the trainer on all the new stuff I put into place, no mater how insignificant it seems to me.

What do you think?  Are soft skills like change management just as important as knowing how to subnet properly?

21 comments
wp_doc_holiday
wp_doc_holiday

This whole idea shocks me. How could you just now in 2008 start thinking about change management. We instituted change management 20 years ago and continually improve the process. I continue to be amazed at how all the trade journals talk about problems that have been solved for years.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

But I must say release management is just as critical. Not to toot the ITIL horn, but ITIL really does save the business money and time...esp ITSM.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

All we care about is that it works on USB... No that isn't what we care about, it's providing our services in an everchanging environment at a lower cost. It's not that it's USB, it's that all of them can be managed and kept upto date etc with one operation, with little intervention. The days of IT types imposing new tech on the operation because it's sexy are long gone. In fact most of the drivers for change come from the business itself. It's the need to cut bodies, or increase productivity, that runs roughshod over the secretary. This is just some prick who got treated to a meal with a vendor, hiding behind us propeller heads. In fact I bet there were once two secretaries, now there's one and a big lump of kit paid for by shedding an employee. Lets not forget the real purpose of IT in business, to do more with less.

Phillip Williams
Phillip Williams

Any change should be documented that could come down to writing up a step by step.

recpro
recpro

I think its pretty right, If we will not manage the things, then who will do that for us. If we can render whatever help or support in the beginning, people will find it more appreciable and generous, rather than to find the faults & correct the things later on, and some times it is so late that it had already been done much harm already to them, to company and to us also.. Abhinav Mishra Recpro JAGPAR India. http://www.recpro-abhinav.blogspot.com

No User
No User

Just like everything else. I'm ready for an occupation change. How about Manager of out sourced jobs to India. Sounds like it would have GREAT job security. I hope it would have less hours and more pay too. No personal offense to you intended.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

The IT Staff would know all there is to know and constantly be learning new things. But in reality depending on what it is you do exactly things are different. As a Consultant training users on New Hardware is relatively easy and the most important thing after actually setting it up right. But Software is a different story. Personally I do not want anything at all to do with Clients Accounting Packages mainly because I don't want the responsibility or run the risk of being accused of passing on information about one Client to another. The reality is that I need to not only access these programs on occasions I also need to setup and configure them so that remote users can input data into the Main DBase. So things like Passwords and other Normal Security Items need to be known even if I immediately forget them the moment after I shred the paper with the information on. But with all new Hardware I always configure it exactly the same way that the previous bit was so there is no confusion. Something as simple as replacing a NB with a new one with the exact same Software Load will cause a lot of confusion to many people. Recently a new NB was supplied to a CEO and he didn't want anything but the new unit put on his desk and then I had to leave as he was busy. 20 minutes latter he was on the phone wanting to know where his Data was. But even after that was transferred across he couldn't open Word from 2003 as it was different to his old setup. Yes he had a shortcut on the desktop and still went into the Start Menu to Open the different Office Apps when he had something on the screen. But he couldn't find the Office Folder on the Start Menu on the new unit so it was different. :D After that incident he was willing to let me have access to both NB's so I could make the new one look like the old one and I haven't heard from him since. With any Problems at least. Some people don't want to be helped and complain when what they want happens. Of course new software to do different/new things on new hardware is a problem but I allow time to train the users on this. Though to be honest never enough time is ever available. Col

No User
No User

Where you start first is to find out who are you directing this to? The IT situation in companies are as about as different and plentiful as opinions. So the first problem that you run into is that although you present a picture that on the surface seems as if it should be a no brainer the IT situation is such that it's just impractical if not impossible to do it. If all IT departments were first off all more then one person and then well enough staffed that it is particle to conduct these type of activities then certainly it should be done. The problem is that most IT situations are such that folks don't have time to change their mind let alone kick back and consider all those fine things and then much less be able to deliver. How many times have you had to do things on the fly while multi tasking? Who gets training on that multi-function printer / scanner / FAX unit so they can pass it on to the user? The same for that new piece of software. How much software do you install and configure and to that extent support with out having either training on it or actually use it? It's very typical to have hardware, software and even some networking or specialized products that the IT folks don't use nor have a practical use for and have had no training on? It always starts with reality. Is the IT situation as such that it is both possible and practical to do these things? Are you familiar enough with the user's duties, responsibilities and situation in general that you can perform a seamless transition? My point is that although the suggestion makes sense most IT situations simply don't permit either that happening at all or on a consistent basis. I run into this all the time. What hard core IT work doesn't get done so that IT can do this? How many free hours should IT work? The bottom line is how important is it to the company? Is it important enough to situate IT so that doing this becomes practical? If it is then you should, simple as that.

alex.a
alex.a

Don't overlook preparation. Let the users know in advance what change will take place, what if anything they need to do (the less the better), and what differences if any they may expect. Remind them just before the change is rolled out. The help desk must be prepared to support the change. Ensure that they are thoroughly familiar with all aspects of it. All that said, the pet peeve closest to the top of my list (as others have pointed out) is the user who walks away when you're trying to help her. You think she's looking over your shoulder, and you turn to ask her a question and voila, she's not there! Right under that user on my list is the user who urgently summons you to fix a problem and then, when you arrive, says, "I'm too busy right now. Come back later."

earth2claire
earth2claire

Yes! Imagine if every service thought this way. We'd get way more done, and probably be a lot less stressed.

rick
rick

I agree with your point: ???My point is that we sometimes overlook this extremely critical soft skill of being able to help people manage change.??? I recall a study conducted by large consulting firm that asked CIOs what was primary reason why change failed. 80 percent said resistance! It is easy for people in technical positions (that includes finance and other rational disciplines) to simply miss the importance of resistance. My clients tend to be bright people who care about others, but their finely tuned lenses somehow don???t allow them to see the need for soft skills. The good news is that they can see the value of ???sft skills??? if you merely give them lenses to see the human side of the change. Thanks for a fine post. Rick Maurer www.changemanagementnews.com

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I am installing a printer during work times, and the user walks off, I am not going to hang around to show the user how to use it. Once they leave, it is their fault for leaving. And this DOES happen far too often. As a support tech, I had many a time where someone would be watching me do something, and then just leave, right before a reboot or other need for them to be there. Often I would hang around, but if I cannot log on to their system, and they left, the fix cannot be verified. I left a note and walked off myself. If they called back angry because it was not fixed, I just state that I could not find them. If I was installing/upgrading HW/SW, and they leave, well the help file is still there! If they are on the phone and cannot be bugged, I am not going to hang around till they decide that their call is ended either. As well, if it is just a printer or all-in-one and I cannot gain access to their system, I leave the disk at the printer and send an email to them for how to install it.

williamjones
williamjones

...is one of my pet peeves, too. I hate it when users walk away while you're solving their problem. If I don't need someone, or have nothing to show them regarding how they can treat their own problem in the future, then that's different. I'll tell people they can go get a cup of coffee. Regarding training, techs have a responsibility to make sure that staff are up to speed on the tools they need for their work. Part of being on the help desk is helping.

manoj
manoj

Handholding user/educating user IS the key part of any tech rollout. After all they are going to use it frequently not the IT guys. While it is important for IT people to know in-out of its operations, users must be trained well to use it prior to changing it. Normally in my case, i try to put the new devices such as advanced printer on show for two days before it made live.

malcolmw
malcolmw

What you guys are doing is a fundimental part of ITIL Change Management. Not doing it makes the IS dept very unpopular but doing it you can score some good brownie points not only with the users but the CEO as well.

kellywinkler
kellywinkler

so true that Change Management is a fundimental part - I cannot count the amount of times I get calls from clients (who I train on software applications) to assist them with working out how to use a new printer or scanner. Of course you all know whom I direct them to.... :)

shawn.fitzgibbons
shawn.fitzgibbons

"Are soft skills like change management just as important as knowing how to subnet properly?" more if customer service has any role in your job, then you know, or you should know, how important it is. it can mean the difference between phasing out your group or finding new slots for staff positions

Conundrum
Conundrum

I totally agree with you. Even the location of icons on the desktop matter to some people. If an icon has moved or even looks different, that is enough to confuse some users.

brian.nahodil
brian.nahodil

It is absolutely foolish to install hardware and walk away without any End-User orientation.

Neil Leacy
Neil Leacy

In the same way that most drivers haven't a clue as to how the combustion engine powering their vehicle works so it is with PC users. They like to be in their comfort zone that will get them from A to B in comfort and don't necessarily like change. If a change is necessary then I always take the time to talk to them first and explain, in as a none-techy terms as possible, why a change is necessary. I don't always succeed because some people will just go blank as soon as you suggest anything that will take them out of that comfort zone but it works the majority of the time. We know that working in the IT industry can be stressful but even the lowliest office worker gets stressed too. Talking through change will make them feel less stressed and we feel the same because they're less likely to think we're soul-less geeks and dorks from another planet. They might even think that we are actually a helpful bunch of nice guys. ;-) Cheers, Neil