Making changes to your tech stack is risky. When change management goes wrong, important data is lost, end users are frustrated, and revenue is put in jeopardy. At the same time, there’s no way to avoid change. Today’s revenue engines depend on rapidly evolving tech stacks, a steady flow of high-quality data, never-ending org changes, and the ability to pivot processes based on the insights that data provides. 

That’s a lot of pressure for ops teams to bear. But the right processes can help you reduce risk and implement change without fear of breaking something or losing users’ trust. 

What is change management?

At a high level, change management refers to the systematic approach required to effectively manage significant changes to an organization. Any part of an organization – from HR to DevOps – can leverage change management practices. Ops teams are responsible for implementing and overseeing change management best practices for the processes and technologies used by go-to-market (GTM) teams. With change management strategies in place, ops teams don’t just avoid risk, they also improve outcomes.

For example, McKinsey found that 90% of companies that successfully implement automation invest more than half of their budgets in change management and capability building. Small organizations don’t necessarily need to allocate this much of their budget to change management, but the data underscores the need for a focused, methodical approach.

The first step to successful change management

To be successful in change management, you need a strategy. The strategy should include how you will roll out the change, communicate it to key stakeholders, and ensure users adopt new processes or tools. According to a Statista survey, the most effective change management practices are:

  • Creating well-developed communication plans
  • Effectively executing communication plans
  • Properly identifying and measuring the intended benefits of the change

As you can see, communication accounts for two of the three best practices. When implementing change, it’s vital for ops professionals to set the strategy for how to communicate that changes are coming and how users will be impacted. To do this, think about your current methods of communicating to users. Ideally, you already have a framework in place as part of your release management process

But if not, ask yourself the following questions: Do you have regular meetings with the larger GTM organization? Do you meet with leadership? Do you send out communications via email, Slack, or the company intranet? Some combination of all of the above? Identify the best forum for delivering information about the changes you plan to make. Next, document what’s most important for each group of stakeholders to know. For example, the leadership team may only need to know how the change will impact reporting. Users, on the other hand, will need information about how their daily processes will be affected. 

The key is to provide enough information, at the right time, to give your audience a firm grasp on what is changing without overwhelming them with too many technical details. You don’t want them to tune out because you’re overwhelming them with details about metadata and object field properties. Putting it simply, your communications should explain why you’re making changes, and what’s in it for users. 

Create your strategy for effective Salesforce change management

Because Salesforce is typically the centerpiece of your tech stack, it’s critical to approach Salesforce change management with careful precision. One seemingly small change can lead to a costly mistake down the line. Even though Salesforce comes with its own native Change Sets, they’re limited in scope. And, if they’re not properly planned, they can fail. 

Whether you’re using Change Sets or alternative Salesforce change management tools, it’s important to start with a documented strategy. Use the following framework to create a change management process template to outline your strategy:

  • The scope and timing of the change
  • Which team members will be involved
  • Which users will be impacted 
  • Why the change is being made
  • How and when you will communicate to key stakeholders
  • How you will assess the effectiveness of the change

Creating this strategy is a crucial first step to minimizing the risk that comes with change management. With your strategy defined and documented, you can begin the process of making change with confidence. 

How Sonar can help you manage effective change management

Even with a well-documented strategy and change management plan, it’s possible that the changes you plan to make will lead to mistakes that you didn’t anticipate. That’s where Sonar comes in. As a change management platform, Sonar can help you see the impact of changes before you make them. Unless you built your company’s tech stack from the ground up, it’s hard to know the intricacies of every system and process you have in place. SaaS integrations can be imperfect. And even if you did build the tech stack from the ground up, relying on your memory to predict the impact of change is a risky proposition. 

Sonar provides you with Change Intelligence, which is total situational awareness of the impacts and dependencies that are necessary to confidently manage complex technology. With that intelligence, you can develop your change management strategy more effectively and efficiently. 

After you set your strategy, what are the next steps? 

With your strategy in place, it’s time to start implementing change. Take these next steps to complete the process: 

Work with an executive sponsor

The next step is to work with an executive sponsor who will help drive decision-making and ensure you have the proper resources to implement change. They will also play a key role in helping drive user adoption. 

Gather user feedback

Next, you need to gather insights from users about how the changes may impact them. Gathering their feedback will be vital to preventing surprises once your changes go live. They may have ideas or concerns that you wouldn’t have considered on your own. Plus, when users feel engaged in the process, they’re more likely to be accepting of the changes you make. 

Prioritize changes

After gathering user feedback, the next step is to prioritize your changes. Depending on the scope of the changes you plan to make and the feedback you get from users, it may make sense to roll them out in phases. The phased approach makes testing easier and will help you reduce risk.

Configuration and testing

That brings us to the next step: testing and configuring your changes. Ideally, you can do this step in the sandbox environment. But sometimes, there are restrictions on what you can accomplish in the sandbox. A tool like Sonar can be useful at this stage as well because it will give you insight into the ripple effects of your planned changes. 

User training and communication

Once testing and configuration are out of the way, the next step is to prepare users for the impending changes you’re about to make. Ideally, you’ve been communicating with them throughout the process. Now is the time to get them fully up to speed with the timing, scope, and impact of your planned changes. 

Deployment 

With testing and communication done, now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty: deployment. This is the most nerve-wracking part of implementing change, but if you’ve covered all of your bases, this process should go smoothly. Push your changes live, and get ready for the next, and final, step.

Monitor and support

With your changes live, the next thing to do is follow up with users to make sure that they’re not having any issues navigating the changes. This is also the stage where you should be measuring the success of your changes. What KPIs or metrics did you establish to measure performance when you set your strategy? Were there user adoption rates? Easier reporting? More seamless handoffs between teams? Spend the next few weeks monitoring how your changes are being received.

Three key takeaways for effective change management

Making change is a necessary, but often risky, part of working in ops. Embracing effective change management is the best way to calm those fears. Ultimately, it boils down to making three key commitments:

  1. Good change management starts with strategy

When you know which specific updates need to be made to your systems or processes, it may be tempting to dive in and make changes right away. But effective planning will serve you and your users well. Otherwise, you increase the risk of breaking something. Start with a plan.

  1. Have two-way communication with users

It’s important for users to feel like they’re aware of impending changes and that they’re comfortable with how they’ll be impacted. At the same time, getting their feedback will help you understand their perspective more clearly. 

  1. Set goals to measure success

You can’t know if your change management project has been effective if you don’t have a way to measure outcomes. Define what success looks like, and monitor your progress after deployment.

Change is inevitable. Adopting good change management best practices is key to scaling your GTM organization, processes, and systems without wreaking havoc. With these steps in place, you can continually improve and refine GTM operations while reducing risk and increasing user adoption.