Here are some warning signs for change management when implementing a new process automation tool.
When companies look to implement business process management (BPM) and process automation tools, they do so to enable a better process, ensure better data quality, provide better visibility of processes or streamline resources.
While much of the focus of digital process automation is on introducing and implementing shiny new tools, it’s far more important to focus on optimizing the very processes these tools are meant to enhance first. After all, a bad process you automate is still a bad process. Consider the impact these process automations may have on employees, customers and vendors. Proper change management should address these gaps affecting our human counterparts should be addressed.
Organizational change management (OCM) is a structured process to help people adapt to tomorrow’s new reality. To be successful, company leaders need to capture the hearts and minds of all impacted groups.
As you implement new process automation tools, it’s important to look for warning signs indicating inadequate change management and address issues immediately. Below are five risks of updating process automation without a change management plan and some examples of what to watch out for.
1. Productivity declines as you announce change.
Whenever a company introduces a new process or product, it is human nature for the impacted groups to focus on the new project or shiny object rather than their daily work.
When you implement correct change management procedures, your impacted audience will understand why you are making these changes, their role in this change, and what they can expect next. When you clearly communicate the impact, your employees can better focus on their daily work.
2. Both passive and active resistance emerges.
In almost every implementation I have been a part of, the initial users almost always argue that they don’t need the new process automation tool and it is exactly like the one they are currently using. Even if this was true, the biggest impact comes from the improved process that underlies the tool.
With proper change management, you can manage these types of arguments early in the process to ensure stakeholders are aligned before the announcement to stop or address rumors and misinformation, which leads to our next risk.
3. Rumors lead to low morale.
Before my time at Centric Consulting, in one experience implementing a new process automation tool, several people within the company were either related or married to each other.
As a result, they literally discussed their struggles with digital process automation over the dinner table. Before the tool could show results, people started to have a negative stereotype of business process management.
Without a controlled message, the conversation can shift to focus on the few negative items (such as the need to use a certain web browser), and people can lose sight of the benefits of the process automation tool (such as better data quality and faster processing).
Because we didn’t have effective change management in this instance, we spent 25 percent of our time trying to quell the rumor mill.
4. People develop workarounds to avoid a new way of doing things.
For one complicated onboarding process, we received a request to alter some business rules from a downstream user group. After reviewing their request, we discovered what they wanted was already part of the process. After further inquiries, we discovered that this group had been going entirely outside of the new process and had rarely attempted to use the new process automation tool for the past year.
Without proper change management, the company lost a year of taking advantage of the improved process and having its employees gain valuable experience with the tool.
5. Companies don’t fully implement changes or cancel implementation due to lack of support.
During one process improvement project I was on, I spent about a third of my time convincing people the recommended approach would work and that we would have multiple releases. The company’s IT department had a trust issue with the business because of a failure to follow through on previous projects. We expelled a great deal of energy convincing people they would eventually get everything they needed quickly.
In the end, we convinced this group to adopt the correct methodology, and they have had two years of consistent quarterly releases. While there is a success story here, they could have saved a lot of time and effort by having proper change management in place.
I hope these real-life examples have provided some insight into the importance of proper change management while implementing a new process automation tool.
An earlier version of this article was originally published on LinkedIn.