Change is a constant in the day-to-day lives of operations (ops) professionals. And every change brings risk. Lost data, broken automations, and a lack of user adoption are all potential pitfalls of making significant changes. And those pitfalls can easily impact revenue, the very thing ops teams are supposed to optimize.
Poor change management is often the underlying cause of failure in major technology projects. Incorporating change management best practices allows you to mitigate the risks of updating or modifying your systems. Not only does it reduce the likelihood of errors, it also provides a framework that removes hiccups and misalignment within ops teams.Ãƒ”šÃ‚Â
HereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s the low-down on change management and why itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s vital to keep up with the fast pace of todayÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s revenue-generating organizations.
What is change management?
Change management is used broadly in business and organizational operations, and its meaning can vary.
How Sonar defines it
At Sonar, we think of change management as the process through which you enact any significant modifications to the tech stack that go-to-market (GTM) teams use. Because so many teams rely on Salesforce as the centerpiece of their tech stack, most changes revolve around it. We understand first-hand how a lack of visibility into the dependencies of key fields, forms, and objects in Salesforce can lead to costly errors. Implementing change management protocols can completely eliminate those risks.
What it means for teams operating in Salesforce
Change management is essential for teams using Salesforce. The CRM is powerful and complex ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ and endlessly customizable. But itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s also ripe for errors. For Salesforce users, itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s the center of the tech stack, with other systems relying on it for data that drives automations and empowers GTM teams to better connect with prospects, leads, and customers. Salesforce change management enables ops teams to improve results and mitigate the risks of change.
For executive leaders and human resources,
change management is the process of preparing employees to adapt to change successfully. For example, when one company acquires another, change plays a significant role. When that happens, employees need communications and training to understand how it impacts them and if they need to adopt new practices, tools, and programs as part of the new company structure.
In other parts of the organization, particularly IT and ops, change management is the systematic approach to implementing change while minimizing disruptions and downtime. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s the utilization of people, processes, and technology to prepare for and execute changes within an organizationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s tech stack. User adoption is one component, but change management encompasses the broader scope of planning, implementing, and measuring the success of change.
How change management affects organizations
The better an organization is at change management, the more effective their change initiatives are:
of organizations with excellent change management programs say their projects meet or exceed objectives, while only 15% of those with poor change management programs report success.
with excellent change management programs say their projects stay on or ahead of schedule, compared to only 15% of those with poor programs.
of those who excel in change management say their projects come in on or under budget, while only 49% of those with poor programs meet budget objectives.
The research shows that even those with fair or good change management programs significantly outpace poor programs in every key area. Following established protocols for planning and executing change enables teams to be more efficient by getting it right the first time. This means they can spend more time assessing the impact of their change project and moving on to the next strategy.
What are the key concepts in change management?
What makes for excellent change management? It starts by embracing the concepts that set the foundation for any effective change management program.
Change management relies on meticulous planning.
It can be tempting to overlook the planning stage of a change project. But failing to plan can lead to poor user adoption, unforeseen errors, and lack of alignment between key stakeholders. Poor planning can also cause roadblocks in the execution of the change project.Ãƒ”šÃ‚Â
Implementing change can stress ops teams that are already juggling a heavy workload, and it can bring existing process and communication issues to the surface. The planning stage allows you to work out all the kinks upfront:
- What changes are you making, and why?
- What are the roles and responsibilities of the team overseeing the change?
- Who should be informed about the change project, and when?
- How will you measure the success of the project?
Upfront planning can save a tremendous amount of time on the backend. And since risk mitigation is a key reason for implementing change management, the plan is vital to maintaining control over your project.Ãƒ”šÃ‚Â
To reduce risk in the planning stages, your change management plan should include Change Intelligence, which is an awareness of the impacts of your change. Normally, making operational changes is a guessing game. You have to rely on your memory or outdated documentation to determine how your planned changes will impact your data, systems, and automations. Change Intelligence tools empower you to prepare for the downstream impacts of your changes, which greatly reduces risk.
Poor communication is often the cause of failed change initiatives.
Whether the communication failure occurs between members of the team leading the change project or with leadership or users, communication issues often lead to mistakes and frustration. Consistent, reliable communication must be a central aspect of any change management program.Ãƒ”šÃ‚Â
According to Gartner, the accelerating pace of change within businesses creates what they call ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…“change fatigue.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â Nearly three-quarters of employees impacted by change report high levels of stress. That stress leads to disengagement, errors, and performance issues.Ãƒ”šÃ‚Â
So, what does that have to do with communication? Change fatigue is often a result of feeling caught off guard. When users feel like they know whatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s coming and why, theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢re more likely to feel comfortable with change. If the change has the potential to create headaches for users (such as the sunsetting of a popular feature or tool), communication is even more critical. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s better to rip off the band-aid, so to speak, so users donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢t feel left in the dark.
A change management project isnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢t complete when modifications go live.
Measuring and monitoring the impact of the change enables you to understand whether users are acclimating to it. It also allows you to demonstrate the value of the change to the business as a whole. Failing to measure and monitor the impact of change is a missed opportunity, as these insights are critical to informing future change initiatives.Ãƒ”šÃ‚Â
To help define which key performance indicators (KPIs) you should track for your change management project, take some cues from the way IT departments track and measure change. Some of the metrics they track include:
- Communication effectiveness: How are users interacting with your communications? Are they opening your emails? If so, can you track how long they keep them open to determine their engagement? You can also survey them on the effectiveness of your communication.Ãƒ”šÃ‚Â
- Training effectiveness: Do users feel like your training prepared them for the new changes? You can use surveys, feedback forums, and even aptitude tests to measure training effectiveness.
- User adoption: Tracking adoption rates can be as simple as pulling utilization reports from your systems or checking to see if automations are running correctly. It all depends on which changes were made.
Once your changes are live, your KPIs will let you know if you made the right modifications and whether you made them correctly. Leveraging the insights from your KPIs will allow you to iterate and improve your change management practices moving forward.
Change management should be a part of any significant update to your tech stack.
You should also implement change management as part of your regular release schedule. Following release management best practices helps funnel user requests and minor ad hoc changes into a regular process. Aside from your regular releases, you can also incorporate change management into major projects, such as:
- Salesforce data migrations
- Changes to custom objects
- System upgrades
- GIS and contact information field or format changes
- Workflow and process integrations or updates that impact users in multiple departments
Additionally, any changes that require user training or lead to potential downtime should follow change management protocols. Learn more about when to implement change management and why it should be a part of every significant update to your tech stack.
What is a change management plan?
Effective change management comes down to planning. From the prioritization of changes to the communication plan to the KPIs you use to measure your change project, everything should be incorporated into your plan. Ideally, your plan is centralized in a location where all stakeholders have visibility into it. Use this Tactical Timeline For Change Management Template, so you donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢t have to create your plan completely from scratch.Ãƒ”šÃ‚Â
Creating this plan is the first step you should take in implementing your change management process. Without the plan, you risk misalignment and miscommunication among your team.
How to know itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s working
As we mentioned before, your change management plan should include KPIs that you use to measure the effectiveness of your strategy and execution. In addition to establishing the KPIs, youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢ll also need to determine how youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢ll measure them, at which frequency, and who is responsible for maintaining that data.Ãƒ”šÃ‚Â
Perhaps the easiest way to gauge your effectiveness is to talk to users. Are they frustrated by the changes? Do they understand why they were made? If the changes caused some disruption for users, are they experiencing any lingering impacts?
Another way to monitor the effectiveness of your plan is through your teamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s internal alignment. Was everyone clear on their roles and responsibilities? Were all team members in agreement (or at least understanding) on why certain changes were prioritized over others? Discord amongst the team leading the change project is a clear sign that there are gaps in your planning.
Why change management matters to operations
One of the many lessons learned from 2020 is agility is critical. When the pandemic brought normal GTM operations to a halt, ops teams had to quickly implement changes that made virtual interactions feasible and manageable. Those capable of agile change management had an edge.Ãƒ”šÃ‚Â
Even when weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢re not in the middle of a global pandemic, ops teams must constantly improve the processes and systems that support the day-to-day work of GTM teams. ThatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s why ops teams must be proficient in change management.
Marketing ops teams bring unique knowledge and insights that traditional marketing teams may lack. That knowledge makes them qualified to contribute new ideas to help marketing use their budget, resources, and tools more wisely.Ãƒ”šÃ‚Â
Similarly, sales ops teams have a unique perspective that allows them to bring new ideas and strategies to the table. Even as we recover from the pandemic, many sales interactions will continue to be virtual. Sales ops teams play a vital role in identifying and implementing the strategies that make digital selling successful. Marketing and sales ops teams that leverage change management can bring those ideas to reality and demonstrate their effectiveness.Ãƒ”šÃ‚Â
RevOps teams should be especially proficient in change management since they work with all of the various departments that comprise the entire GTM organization. They even sometimes work with teams outside of the GTM organization, such as finance. Because their work has the potential to impact such a diverse set of users, change management should be central to their processes.
Frequently asked questions
Change management is a method that enables you to minimize risk, encourage user adoption, and measure the success of any major change project. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s an approach that allows you to understand the people, tools, and processes involved in your change project.
Change management works by establishing and executing a well-documented plan. A key component of change management is communication ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ within the ops team and with users and leaders impacted by the change. Change management helps you establish processes and clear lines of responsibility for communication, technical tasks, decision-making, and monitoring the outcomes of your project.
Several platforms support change management. Deployment tools provide an alternative to SalesforceÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢s native change sets. API connectors and data migration tools make it easy to move important data accurately. And Change Intelligence tools like Sonar give you insight into the impact of changes before you make them.
To plan for change management, you must consider the many stages of your project. This Salesforce change management resource provides step-by-step guidance on what to consider as you create your change management plan.
Change management should be applied whenever you implement a significant change or update your tech stack. To implement change at the right pace, take an agile approach, breaking down changes into manageable chunks. If you need to pivot, you can do so easily.
Change management typically fails with communication. Oftentimes, users feel caught off guard by changes, and therefore unprepared to adapt to them. But when end users are invested in change, projects are 30% more likely to be successful. Early, clear communications and training are vital to meeting the objectives of the change project.
Change management should be evaluated through measuring KPIs and monitoring user feedback and adoption. Through this evaluation, you can iterate and improve your change management planning and execution.
Takeaway 1: Significant modifications require change management
Planning ensures youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢re making the right changes for the right reasons, key stakeholders are aligned, and users understand how theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢ll be impacted. Reactionary changes, such as user requests, should be funneled into a regular release schedule so you can systematically apply change management methodologies.
Takeaway 2: Communication can make or break a change project
Ideally, change management provides a framework that gives key stakeholders visibility into the change project. Communicating with and training users must be an important consideration from the beginning of the process. When users are aware of upcoming changes and know which new practices or procedures they need to adopt, theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢re more likely to adapt.
Takeaway 3: Change projects must be monitored and measured
When you push your changes live, you can take a break ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ but only a quick one. Your work isnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢”žÂ¢t done. The next step is to gather user feedback, track KPIs, and monitor your systems for unforeseen errors. This data helps validate the success of your project and inform future change initiatives.
Change Management in Salesforce is easier with Sonar
As the only Change Intelligence tool made for ops teams, Sonar gives you insight into the impact of change before you make it. With Sonar, you can see the dependencies of items right from inside Salesforce. Plus, Sonar automatically tracks changes, including who made them and when, so you have an accurate record to use for knowledge sharing and investigating broken processes. To reduce risk in your next major change project, learn more about how Sonar works.