Blog & News

SaaS Adoption and Effective Change Management

Written By
Brendan Bresnahan
Senior Content Producer

If there’s one thing that’s certain in a year filled with unprecedented uncertainty, it’s that change is never easy.

Even under the best of circumstances, enterprise organizations often find themselves in a constant state of flux when it comes to their business tools and practices. As a best-in-class talent management and talent acquisition SaaS solution provider to some of the world’s largest and most dynamic enterprise organizations, we here at Avature are intimately familiar with what it takes to implement, embrace and adopt change. With SaaS deployments becoming ever-larger and more complex – and considering 70 percent of digital transformations fail – the discipline of change management has never been more important.

From ROI, to morale, to strategic cohesion, change management greatly reduces the risk of failure inherent to operational change.

In fact, change management is so essential to the successful adoption of a new SaaS solution, we created a team specifically dedicated to guiding our clients through the rough waters of change. Given that we are all likely dealing with some degree of pandemic-driven uncertainty, we felt it prudent to sit down with Avature’s own change management expert, Jacklyn Giannitrapani, to learn more about the topic. We discussed the basic pillars and challenges of change management, as well as why a robust change management program is absolutely key for any Avature adoption initiative.

Enjoy!

The Change Management Basics

As a part of the Avature family for over six years, Jacklyn has had the opportunity to support our customers in a number of diverse and exciting roles across departments. It is this cumulative experience that equips her to effectively appreciate both the strategic and technical challenges that our clients face in each stage of their Avature journey.

“Change management is an organized approach to managing employee behavioral responses in the face of process changes. The goal is to minimize the disruption of business as usual by seeking to preemptively understand and address the issues that matter most to those employees most likely to be affected by the impending change.”

Jacklyn Giannitrapani - Change Management Team Leader

Jacklyn’s job as the change management Team Leader is to ensure a successful change initiative by addressing challenges as they relate to solution implementation and adoption, and to do so early in the customer journey – i.e., before adoption challenges become adoption issues. Product “adoption” implies that a customer has fully transitioned to their new platform, is actively using their solution and is able to derive tangible benefits from the new system.

Change management and adoption, although individually unique, have a symbiotic relationship in terms of the customer journey. Whereas change management is the strategy clients implement to facilitate a successful solution implementation, strong user adoption post-implementation is one of the key indicators change management teams employ to define whether or not a change initiative was a success.

Change Management and the Avature Customer Journey

Jacklyn’s team supports customers as they transition through their Avature journey. This journey consists of five stages:

  1. Scoping
  2. Pre-Implementation
  3. Implementation
  4. Go-Live
  5. Lifeline

These five stages involve a number of distinct departments – from Sales, to Consulting, to Training, to Account Management – and encompass everything from first contact to long-term solution maintenance. The main objective of Jacklyn’s team is to reinforce the principles of change management throughout the customer journey, underscoring the fact that successful change initiatives are cyclical in nature in terms of the preparation, implementation and reinforcement of the change.

“We focus our efforts on both implementation and go-live readiness. We work with clients as they prepare to collaborate with Consulting, then continue offering guidance throughout the implementation and go-live phases. Although my team also shares post-go-live success strategies with clients, our hands-on work is typically finished by the time a client's solution has launched.”

Jacklyn Giannitrapani - Change Management Team Leader

While no one stage in the customer journey takes precedence over another in terms of value and importance, Jacklyn highlighted the critical nature of what she calls client “readiness.” This refers to the fact some clients are often so eager to launch their new solution, that they fail to properly focus on building the necessary level of foundational readiness that is inherent to a successful adoption.

“What readiness really means is ensuring that our clients are fully prepared for each stage prior to moving forward with a change. We position our clients to both effectively design and configure their solution, as well as maintain user adoption post-launch. It is a holistic approach to preparation that many clients, unfortunately, tend to overlook.”

Jacklyn Giannitrapani - Change Management Team Leader

The Challenges of Change Management

While it goes without saying that no two change initiatives are the same, our team here at Avature has identified five of the most common problems our customers face:

  • Defining a clear goal
  • Choosing a framework and sticking to the steps necessary to effectively manage the change
  • Overcoming employee resistance and aligning key stakeholders behind a unified mission/vision
  • Acquiring the support necessary for a successful change initiative (i.e., financial resources, executive sponsorship, etc.)
  • Designing an inclusive solution that contemplates and satisfies the needs of all stakeholders

Of the five, one of the biggest challenges clients face is the resistance of their employees to change. And yet, this isn’t a behavior that is unique to SaaS implementations, but rather inherent to the fact that human beings are creatures of habit. Very often, it is only after-the-fact that we recognize the positive impact of substantive change.

“Whether professionally or personally, we build routines in all walks of life in order to provide ourselves and the ones we love with stability. Once we find that stability, it is often difficult for us to accept change. Most often, we fear it.”

Jacklyn Giannitrapani - Change Management Team Leader

The first step in overcoming employee resistance is to design a solution that contemplates the needs of the people who will use it. Employee resistance is more behavioral psychology than rocket science, and it is only when an organization fully understands the worries and anxieties of their workforce (i.e., by engaging in open and transparent dialogue) that they will be able to address them in full. As such, Jacklyn and her team recommend to our customers that they frame and develop their change management initiatives through an employee-centric approach. Her team aims to ensure that our clients consider the needs of those employees that will be most impacted by the change, and that they do so from the very beginning of the process via open dialogue with group ambassadors.

“The goal is to build an environment that stimulates a smooth and positive solution transition - one in which employees look to be early adopters rather than resisters. Project management teams that fail to give a voice to the concerns and worries of their workforce will find successful change management an uphill battle.”

Jacklyn Giannitrapani - Change Management Team Leader

The Primacy of Executive Sponsorship

Although a successful solution adoption ultimately depends on achieving widespread employee buy-in, it always begins at the top of an organization. Most employees want to feel like they are part of the bigger picture – the future of the organization if you will. It makes sense then that executives are best positioned to address the challenge of buy-in by answering the questions most frequently asked by employees:

  • What’s in this for me?
  • How is this important for the company?

Executives need to understand what is important for their employees, how their work will be impacted and what they really care about (i.e., a stakeholder and impact analysis). Once these questions have been answered and fully addressed, department heads can further stimulate buy-in and peer advocacy by making the initiative fun and exciting. Gamification is a useful tool, as rewards and recognition help promote positive behavior and incentivize both learning and adoption of the new solution. With resources dictating to a significant extent the success or failure of any change initiative – from a comprehensive budget to properly staffed and trained project management teams – executives are well-placed to facilitate adoption success.

“In the end, effective executive sponsorship should provide the change initiative with the necessary resources to build a strong foundation and ensure that expectations are met. Executives must put employees in a position to succeed while also promoting the need for change by effectively communicating with all relevant stakeholders.”

Jacklyn Giannitrapani - Change Management Team Leader

Change Management Misconceptions, Best Practices and Wrap-Up

While Jacklyn and her team run into a number of change management misconceptions in their work with clients, the most detrimental misconception is the subtle – but insidious – idea that change management is a luxury with a finite end date.

“Many clients mistakenly endorse the notion that a change management strategy is nice to have, but not essential for a successful implementation and adoption. Many clients also believe that the initiative will eventually expire. I cannot emphasize enough that this is wrong. A successful change management initiative is cyclical in nature. The framework we employ empowers clients to prepare, implement, reinforce and sustain change at scale. Once a client finalizes their implementation, launches their solution and partners with their account manager, the same process can be leveraged again whenever a new requirement or change request appears.”

Jacklyn Giannitrapani - Change Management Team Leader

In regards to best practices to help overcome both challenges and misconceptions, Jacklyn recommends the following:

  1. Create an initial project timeline broad enough to contemplate not only the system build and testing phases, but how best to prepare end users for launch
  2. Know what you want to measure (i.e., define the metrics that will determine success)
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate (i.e., keep all relevant stakeholders informed and educated at key stages of the change initiative)
  4. Develop a robust training program and ensure users attain the necessary skill-sets to leverage the new solution
  5. If managing a global deployment, be mindful of cultural/language differences
  6. Develop checklists to help guide you through each stage of the project
  7. If it makes sense, select a test group (i.e., solution-based, location-based, business unit-based, etc.) to pilot the technology prior to a full-scale launch

With our conversation coming to a close, Jacklyn succinctly summed up the difference between getting change management right and getting it wrong in our post-pandemic digital age.

“If you successfully prepare and manage change, the change will stick.”

Jacklyn Giannitrapani - Change Management Team Leader

Share

Share