Nov 23, 2022

Change Management — The Key to Continuous Improvement & Transformation

Learn how effective change management processes and DevOps lead to continuous improvement of your business processes and easier adoption of new technology.

Change Management — The Key to Continuous Improvement & Transformation

Meaningful organizational changes often fail in the long term. According to a much-quoted statistic from McKinsey, this happens to 70% of transformative initiatives. Interestingly enough, the root causes are usually the same — lack of clarity and commitment within the team. That’s why companies should establish the right change management process.

Managing change is also critical for software development. It’s common for a project to undergo all sorts of alterations during its life cycle. Organizations need a system to communicate changes across affected teams to raise their productivity.

How can this article help you? We’ll show you how to establish effective change management so it becomes easier to adopt new technologies, refine business processes, and improve development methodology. You can trust that these practices apply to all types of businesses and projects.

Let’s start by defining change management.

Why change management matters for organizations

You can't shorten your lead times, improve product quality, or innovate using the same old practices. Successful companies continuously introduce new technologies, experiment with workflows, and try different methodologies to succeed. But what matters most is how an organization deals with these changes. In other words, can you manage changes effectively so that positive practices stick?

Business change management is a systematic activity that helps companies transform their processes, embrace new technologies, and optimize resources. Its main goal is to help you continuously improve and achieve your business objectives. Change management can apply at an organizational level (tools, internal processes, and hierarchy aspects) and project level (initiating, analyzing, and resolving alterations). 

Most transform because they’re forced to, like when Covid led companies to adopt remote work virtually overnight. However, you can encounter several obstacles if the need for change isn't as evident:

  • Lack of clarity for employees. Gartner’s 2019 Changing Change Management survey found that over 80% of organizations manage change from the top down. But real change happens at the bottom, not in the C-level meetings. The leading organizations rely primarily on their workforce to lead transformations.
  • Resistance from teams. Employees might oppose the change if you don’t communicate the goals clearly. It may be because the new tools are simply inconvenient or unnecessary. Resistance is also the natural reaction if your changes come across as authoritarian decrees.
  • Insufficient incentives. Yes, you must have long-scale objectives for your initiatives. But having smaller goals is also critical in change management. Achieving short-term goals along the way creates a feeling of progress for the senior management and drives your employees to pursue the next change. 
  • Company culture. Organizational shifts are a considerable hurdle for long-standing workers who are used to doing things a certain way. You need the right tactics and time to prepare some of your employees to move forward.

Improving your work is just as crucial as doing actual work. And we want to show you how you can effectively foster change and adapt to new technology.

Why change management matters for organizations

Significant transformations, be it the adoption of cloud platforms, development methodology, or software, require substantial investments and may cause employee resistance. A complex project developed by multiple teams is another critical situation when change management is needed. 

Let’s see how you can enhance your business change management to boost the chance of success for your initiatives and projects.

1. Analyze the business benefits of new technology

Successful transformation begins with an understanding of your current situation. Companies with poor change management can purchase expensive technology without understanding their workflows, resource utilization needs, or security requirements. As a result, their employees resist adoption, which often renders these tools pointless.

Any significant change should follow an in-depth business analysis, which should help you answer the following questions:

Senior management is often cautious of large shifts. So, you will benefit from implementing new technologies or functionalities gradually, starting with those that enhance your business the most using minimal resources.

2. Involve employees in change management

You should co-create transformation initiatives with your workforce rather than force them to change. According to Gartner’s Changing Change Management survey, such inclusive principles increase the chance of a successful change by up to 58% and decrease the implementation time by around a third.

Ask employees for feedback through surveys, polls, and open dialogue sessions. Larger organizations can assign managers to specific teams or departments to collect employee opinions faster.

It’s a good idea to launch pilot programs on a limited number of your personnel before organization-wide implementation. For example, you may appoint selected teams to test a new reporting tool to collect first-hand impressions. This can help you understand if it’s as helpful as you predicted.

Transparency about changes improves employee engagement by 38% and increases their intent to stay with the company by nearly half. You can create implementation teams to convey the company's challenges and the ways new technology can solve them to your employees.

3. Train and upskill your employees

Many companies mistakenly assume new tools are intuitive for new employees. This may be the case for a developer or an HR leader, but not necessarily for middle managers and regular staff. 

Companies should provide employees with opportunities to upskill and reskill for new technology. Many enterprise-grade platforms come with training modules and online manuals. But if this is insufficient, you should invest in training sessions or even create a proprietary knowledge base.

Transformative shifts may require hiring subject matter experts to help your company adapt to workflow changes. Larger companies can train team leaders and appoint mentors to instruct other employees.

4. Implement a change request management process

Companies often miss many procedural elements of change management in software development. A change request system can help all relevant stakeholders initiate, assess, and manage project modifications. Here’s how it works.

A team member creates a change request document with a proposal to improve something, alter technical requirements, or fix a critical bug. The document should state how the change will solve the problem or improve an internal process. It also helps if the initiator can estimate the time and cost of the change.

Stakeholders assess the validity of the proposition, the possible risks of introducing or ignoring the change, and the way it affects other processes. Based on the review, the change request can be rejected, reworked, implemented, or escalated to upper management.

5. Divide development into smaller batches

It’s easier to manage the change in smaller increments. Companies that incorporate DevOps practices (more on that later) tend to split the code into modules and develop in batches. This ensures that the code modifications are easier to integrate, test, and deploy into the development pipeline.

In time, companies should move from monolith software architecture towards modularity. This requires you to decompose systems, databases, and computing resources into loosely coupled, independent components called microservices. Doing so facilitates changes in services, as errors in one won’t disrupt the entire system.

6. Break down organizational silos

Silos, or independent business divisions, are certified innovation stoppers and agility killers. They can happen in startups and large enterprises, but the bigger the company is the more harmful they are. Let’s explain why briefly.

A siloed team doesn't want to collaborate unless it benefits itself. It affects information sharing across the company and, more importantly, prevents teams from forming trust. Productive change management is virtually impossible if the operations team doesn’t report a bug to the developers out of fear of repercussions.

Here’s how you can break down silos in your company:

  1. Create and maintain a detailed organizational chart with a list of departments, employees, roles, and relationships between them.
  2. Assign administrators for each team to facilitate cross-team collaboration. They will organize meetings to foster creativity, convey current challenges, and prioritize tasks.
  3. Incorporate secure software to let your teams easily share information, access documents, manage tasks, and track changes.
  4. Design shared metrics that prioritize collaboration. Silos often happen because different teams measure performance differently, but incorporating meaningful DevOps metrics can unite your teams under common goals.

Corporate culture is pivotal for transformative changes. Unengaged leaders think that the company culture is whatever is written on the website but don’t see what’s happening on-site. The next section will tell you how DevOps changes mentality and processes for the better.

Change management with DevOps — a perfect union?

DevOps is more than just tools and practices for development and operations teams. It’s a culture of the ongoing collaboration, cross-function, and continuous improvements — key aspects of successful change management. 

GitLab's 2021 DevSecOps Survey shows how DevOps drives organizational change and efficiency. Over 62% of responders say it enabled them to transform roles in the company. For example, operations teams started instrumenting and refining the code for the infrastructure they must maintain. Roughly 84% of developers in the survey said that DevOps helped them release code faster. In 19% of cases, 10 times faster.

On top of that, DevOps emphasizes reasonable change management in software development. According to Accelerate’s 2021 State of DevOps Report, top-performing teams are 6,570 times faster at implementing, testing, and delivering code changes than low performers. Effective practices also help elite DevOps teams to have a below 15% failure rate for changes, whereas low performers have to fix about a third of changes.

Change management can be automated and enhanced with DevOps practices, such as:

  • Continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD). These tools check for bugs and dependency issues in code releases, ensuring only validated changes are deployed into production. It also reduces friction between team handoffs, thus decreasing change lead times.
  • Information-sharing platforms. Data sharing is an important component of breaking silos, as we mentioned before. Make sure your teams have a secure platform where they can access documents and communicate.
  • Change tracking. You must document all changes in the technical documentation, test cases, and project plans. Advanced logging software can track minor alterations to alleviate some of that work for your team.
  • Source code management. Incorporate version control systems and collaboration tools to help your employees review changes you make in core code and databases. Notably, elite teams that exercise change management have 3.4 times more stable systems than those that don't.

Adopting DevOps doesn’t automatically hasten your deployment frequency. Some businesses still use cumbersome change management processes within the DevOps framework. Besides, introducing too many practices can actually complicate your workflow. 

Our advice is to adopt these practices wisely. Focus on those that let you deploy changes on demand, get quality feedback immediately, and act on it to improve.

Managing the change for continuous improvement 

Today’s world of constant change requires a well-oiled change management process. Successful transitions are those that encounter little to no resistance from your teams. For this to happen, you should make the goals of any transformation initiative clear from top to bottom. Even more, senior managers should actively involve employees in decision-making.

Your software development efficiency relies on your team's ability to communicate and manage changes. The best way to achieve this is to incorporate proven DevOps practices, break down the organizational silos, and deploy code in smaller batches.

ALPACKED can refine your organizational and project-level change management. Our DevOps as a Service program will help your teams adopt the latest practices and technologies to hasten development velocity. We also can incorporate the correct change request procedures to let you deploy changes on demand. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to learn more.

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