Media companies today are working diligently to master the challenges of the digital transformation. Change is a constant companion in all areas of the typical media organization, and it is not uncommon for an IT project to be at the center of a change strategy. Technical specifications, budgets and schedules are meticulously prepared, but what about the “soft” factors that are often less visible but so very critical to success? Experience has shown that when a project (such as business processes changes) is thought through and designed holistically, the changes of success increase dramatically!
In the worst case, the need for change arises from external pressure or from potential threats to existing business models; in the best case, it is a logical step within a change culture that has already been established.
In both cases, analyzing the current state is an essential first step. However, what may at first seem like a “no-brainer”, can actually become a real challenge! After all, workflows and the tools used to execute them are mutually dependent, and certain activities may prove to no longer be necessary once the IT project has been completed.
Good communication is extremely important, even in this first step, so that concerns about prospective changes don’t derail potentially significant opportunities to improve productivity. Equally important is the recognition of exceptions and one-off situations in the workflow being carefully evaluated and not allowed to serve as barriers to sustained improvements. If “exception management” takes up too much effort in the definition of goals, significant opportunities to introduce major improvements may be put at risk.
Which brings us to the second phase of a change process: What do we want to change?
Define goals, specify procedures
Right from the start, especially in the planning phase, communication is the cornerstone of the success of any major project. Face-to-face discussions, the intranet, kick-off meetings, team building, etc. are indispensable tools to be deployed early and often. They help to establish goals more easily and precisely, and enable all participants to commit to a jointly developed and transparently communicated objective.
The formulation of goals (the change definition) and associated procedures can become a labor intense and time-consuming step, but the effort is certainly worthwhile. The more precisely, the goals are described, and how these goals are to expected to be achieved, the lower the risk that the project will unravel in the later stages, or that the overall benefits will be called into question. In order to bring the entire “house” along in the change project, commissioning consulting services can also be a sensible approach, particularly in the case of sensitive topics (for instance if Department X is to take over Department Y’s tasks in the future), then the perspective of a third, independent opinion often contributes to an effective and agreeable solution.
Assess risks, Plan for resistance
The greatest risk with changes to systems and processes is that nothing will work afterwards. Careful planning must be carried out and techniques and strategies developed to prevent this occurring. An equally significant and often underestimated challenge is the risk of reverting into old workflows and patterns with new technology and thus not giving change a real chance. For some, new things generate fear and resistance. A brief meeting to introduce the new technology and the processes is simply not enough. Fears must be anticipated and managed with training and coaching that is designed to be both practical and supportive. Everyone on the team, must be supported and provided with the tools to support the change.
Change is Fluid
Today, publishing houses and media companies in particular are in a state of permanent change; digitization has been the topic for two decades. Shaping change means planning, communicating, listening. This is not just a single project, but an ongoing task that includes evaluating feedback, recognizing and accepting some inevitable (and hopefully minor) setbacks and making corrections.
Only with when appropriate time and attention is given to these “soft” components does an IT project to change a corporate culture have a real chance to be successful. The technology is there, the infrastructure is there and in the final analysis, success depends on the people in one’s organization and failure to consider the needs of your team is a prescription for failure!
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