5 Steps to Overcome Resistance to Organizational Changes in IT

Written by Joe Kozlowicz on Tuesday, August 30th 2016

communicate IT plans for overcome resistanceWhether you’re launching a cloud-first initiative or migrating to a new platform, change in the daily operations of your IT department can be difficult for everyone involved. Outside of the actual work at hand, you need to overcome the cultural challenges — and resistance can sometimes be fierce.

Your IT staff and other departments who use your infrastructure and applications on a daily basis may not see the strategy behind the changes. They might wonder why you’re removing or changing a working system. They might assume a hardware upgrade can solve aging infrastructure and the outdated business processes that go along with it. They might worry about costs, potential layoffs, or competition stemming from automation or a lack of skills to manage the new initiative.

These concerns and others must be addressed before they become a drag on morale or a hindrance to operations. Here are five steps to overcome resistance to a new IT initiative in your organization.

 

1) Get executives on board

Often, change comes from the top down. If you’re a VP, Director, or Manager, you might need to go further up the stack. Team leaders and department heads also must talk to VP and C-Level leaders in order to secure vital support for the initiative. This will likely require justification at a budget as well as strategic level. Be ready to communicate the business advantages of the initiative and explain how you will minimize the disruption to your team and the organization as a whole.

An enthusiastic executive on your side will help immensely in overcoming resistance and helping to guide you as you navigate the cultural and political implications.

 

2) Communicate early and often

Once you’ve settled on how the project will proceed – even if that means broad strokes – you need to begin communicating clearly with all involved parties: managers, employees, partners, and vendors. Explain why the initiative is happening, what it entails, the full scope of the project, why current systems will no longer work, and the timeline.

As an example, if you’re going cloud first, you might explain the goal is to try and become more responsive to the shifting IT landscape, it’s a good time because you are in need of a hardware refresh and licensing will expire on several applications, you’re going with ABC Cloud Provider, and it will allow more flexible IT budget as well as more hardware capabilities. You plan to move 75% of your applications to the cloud within the next three quarters.

 

3) Take it to an individual level

The overall business strategy of your IT shift might be apparent, but you need to get every team member on board, and that means communicating individual benefits and opportunities. Describe how the project might make some administration tasks easier – or be realistic if it will make them harder. Either way, opportunity should be there for the taking, in terms of recognition for exceptional performance executing the initiative, learning new skills and platforms, and advancing careers.

This step also involves communicating more of the plan and scope of the project. Work with team leaders and/or individual employees to lay out what they will do first, second, third, etc; how progress will be tracked; who they can turn to when they need assistance; and how your team structure and assignments will shift, if they will.

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4) Track and share progress

As your initiative is implemented, more questions will arise. People will wonder if the effort is worth it. They’ll ask if everything is on time and working properly. One way to assure them is to construct milestones and goals complete with review criteria and potentially bonus criteria. Another is to have a public tracking method, whether digital or physical (like a whiteboard or calendar). Keep invested parties like your sponsoring executive in the loop on how the initiative is proceeding and if it is achieving its desired outcome.

For our example of a cloud-first cultural shift, this might involve a close look at the move from capital expense to operational expense. Did you save the company money in the first months of the system going live compared to physical deployment? Did the infrastructure come online faster? Have you experienced less downtime since moving legacy apps to the cloud? Has your team been able to continue administration as usual? Have any of your staff picked up new cloud management skills? Highlight key statistics or wins in a public forum, and your next initiative will likely be greeted with less resistance.

 

5) Reflect and improve

Once your initiative is complete or mostly adopted by the organization, other parties may come forward and ask about it. Finance could request a report on the cost-benefit of your cloud migration, for example. Shipping and logistics might request to move their own systems onto your new cloud platform, but they want assurance of performance and security, first.

Executives might hear that you have faced a few hurdles, but the project was largely a success. They might take this further and ask how you can improve even further. Gained some efficiencies from cloud administration? How can you further streamline your systems administration? Can we reduce even more of our hardware? Are there any applications that used to be limited to on-premise that we can shift to the cloud?

Continuous improvement is the name of the game when it comes to agile IT, and many initiatives in technologically savvy organizations are pivoting towards a service-delivery model. Elements from this can be extrapolated to even the largest, most steadfastly traditional IT departments. Be ready to reflect, measure, and improve going forward to practice continuous improvement both on your original initiative and future organizational shifts.

 

As long as stakeholders and leaders identify the main pain points of an organizational shift beforehand, they can provide information and guidance and foster trust among the IT team. Much of this is common leadership advice, but it remains vital as technology continues to move at a rapid clip and significant operational shifts become ever more commonplace.

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