Many IT organizations are adding new technological capabilities to improve their IT service delivery and support capabilities, but these organizations are often focused on technology implementation at the expense of the related people change. The latter is an important success factor for new technology delivery, and overlooking it can adversely impact the new capabilities’ use – in both end-user volume and capability depth terms. To help, this blog looks at where “technology change” projects often go wrong and how organizational change management is key to unlocking the full benefits of the technology (or process) change.
A good example of technology change issues and mistakes
In the IT service management (ITSM) world, IT self-service is one of the highest-profile and easiest-to-highlight technology changes that failed to deliver against expectations.
In the last decade, the IT self-service portal was considered the “must-do” ITSM technology implementation – offering IT organizations cost savings, faster issue resolution and service provision, and better employee experiences. It sounded too good to be true, but were these benefits actually realized?
The short answer is “no.” Way back in 2017, a comprehensive Service Desk Institute (SDI) IT self-service survey and report looked at the level of IT self-service portal success, finding that “…the number of organizations that have realized these benefits and have achieved the anticipated return on investment (ROI) are few, less than 12%.” ITSM.tools research in 2021 found an improvement, butonly “…one in five organizations (21%) reported that the expected ROI for their IT self-service investment was achieved.”
What went wrong with IT self-service?
Hopefully, things have improved further since 2021, but many IT organizations will still state that they haven’t received the IT self-service portal adoption levels they wanted (and expected). However, the low levels of employee adoption (and use) are the symptoms rather than the root cause of the organizations’ failure to realize the anticipated benefits of IT self-service portals.
The SDI report isolated what differentiated the IT organizations that succeeded with IT self-service from those that didn’t; these factors included:
- Having the right motivations, with the focus on cost-savings alone unlikely to work
- Focusing on end-user demand, i.e. what employees are wanting
- Designing with the self-service “customer” at heart
- Providing support channels that improve the IT support experience.
These factors align with the need for organizational change management.
What organizational change management entails
For ITSM practitioners, the organizational change management guidance introduced in ITIL 4 is a great reference for understanding the need and how it helps. ITIL 4 describes the organizational change management practice as follows:
“The practice of ensuring that changes in an organization are smoothly and successfully implemented and that lasting benefits are achieved by managing the human aspects of the changes.”
So, organizational change management relates to the people aspects of technology and business change. As in the IT self-service example, most technology or process-related changes also affect people because they affect the traditional ways of working. This understanding is vital for ITSM improvement and why organizational change management is the missing jigsaw piece for improvement success.
The IT self-service example is also a good way of demonstrating what organizational change management entails. The new IT self-service technology was going to enable “better, faster, cheaper” IT support. It was implemented to time, cost, and spec, but the promised benefits didn’t materialize because employees didn’t use the new technology as much as expected.
Here, the absence of organizational change management tools and techniques meant that employees didn’t buy into the change or see the personal benefit (the “what’s in it for me?”), and the potential resistance to change was left unaddressed. The combination of these issues meant that employees weren’t sufficiently positioned or motivated to “do things the new way.”
How organizational change management helps with change
The use of organizational change management reduces or removes these issues through:
- Focused change communication, including the why, what, and how of the change
- Ensuring the involvement of the people affected by the change (and from early on)
- Using proven techniques to address the “fear of the unknown” and minimize employee resistance
- Offering appropriate education and training to those affected by the change
- Ultimately gaining employee buy-in.
Details of how to best use organizational change management tools and techniques can be found in the ITIL 4 organizational change management guidance.
Why organizational change management is important to ITSM improvement
Much of the ITSM improvement your organization will enact in 2024 and beyond will be people-related. It might not seem this way at first, perhaps through process optimization or the addition of automation and AI-enabled capabilities to improve IT and business operations and outcomes. However, whether it’s a changed process or the addition of new technology, the improvements will change the traditional ways of working. Thus necessitating organizational change management to help ensure that the people aspects of the change, and the potential issues, are adequately addressed.
Failing to invest in organizational change management will leave your ITSM improvements open to similar issues to those highlighted in the IT self-service example. While the technology (or process) might be fit for purpose and its implementation successful, the level of employee acceptance and adoption will likely be lower than expected (and needed). Organizational change management really is the missing jigsaw piece needed for successful ITSM improvement.
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