Smooth Transition: Smart Steps to Take When You Change Technology at the Office

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When the IT department implements change around the office, it can be challenging, whether you’re switching from Skype to Teams or changing up the way multiple teams handle file storage. Amy Babinchak, owner of Harbor Computer Services, directs her clients through a variety of new ideas and has found that the process goes smoother when you can identify a champion for the project.

“A lot of people might go ‘Interesting…’ and that’ll be the end of it, but there will be those one or two people around who will take a lot of interest in the new thing,” she said. “They’ll start asking you things and that’s how we spot the person who is going to be the champion. We’ll focus on them and build the solution around them.”

Whether you’re getting a client’s team on board with a big change or doing something new in your company, there's plenty you can refine to minimize resistance. From finding the person whose eyes light up at the idea of something new to pushing through when it feels like everyone’s pushing back, follow these tips for a smooth transition when you’re introducing new processes and applications.  

Identify ‘What’s in It for Me’
When United Airlines wanted to bring BYOD and Wi-Fi technology to every single person who flies the airline, project manager and CompTIA AITP member Silvia Prickel had to get IT pros, pilots, mechanics and 40,000 flight attendants on board with the plan.

“When you work on a project with a diverse group of stakeholders who have different interpretations of what success is, it’s quite a challenge to manage,” said Prickel, who supports 26 divisions as United Airline’s managing director of enterprise quality and release management.

The tech ops team, for example, didn’t see an immediate benefit to adding a satellite-connected computer to every plane just so people could check their email at 30,000 feet. To get their buy-in, Prickel convinced them that onboard Wi-Fi would require less work overall. Instead of 300 seat back devices to maintain, they’d now service just one computer in front of the cockpit.

“Make sure that each stakeholder understands the value that the outcome will generate for them, and put it in words they can understand,” Prickel said.

Roll Out Incrementally
When Prickel first announced the idea of onboard Wi-Fi, she got 150 people in a big board room and gave a presentation about how wonderful it was going to be. “When I looked out into the audience, I got nothing but deer in the headlights,” she said. “Needless to say, it did not work.”

She learned that to avoid fear, trepidation and lots of reasons why not, you need to roll out the idea of change in small groups or during team meetings. In those smaller groups, you can answer specific questions and build some of those "what's in it for me" moments. 

Clock Some Wins
Once people start seeing the benefits of the change, the process tends to go smoother, said Babinchak. At Harbor Computer Services, she and her team first look for an application or a shortcut that grabs people’s attention or solves a problem.  

“Try to get some small, early successes going,” she said. “Once you have that immediate success, other people will start to get involved and be excited about it.”

Build Confidence
Once Babinchak’s team has identified the first piece to grab people’s attention, they develop training around it, usually in 30-minute departmental and small group lessons.

“Then we really hone in and make sure that’s very, very successful. Then we’ll do another and another and kind of let it snowball from there,” she said. After you get a few of those small wins, people feel more confident about their own experiments. “Once you have their comfort level where it needs to be, then the project just kind of takes off.”

Keep Up Communication
Once the change is under way, maintain a continuous dialogue with all of the stakeholders throughout the entire journey, Prickel said. Information tamps down rumors and speculation, which can spread to top leadership and put you in the position of defending the rollout, which can be an exhausting runaround.

Push Forward
Remember, it’s always darkest before the dawn. When Prickel project managed the complicated Wi-Fi upgrade for United Airlines, the resistance was loud and aggressive. “Hostile, almost,” said Prickel. “People are just fighting with all their might not to make this happen.”

There can be extra resistance right before a change takes place, but once the change happens, people get used to it in a short amount of time. “Four weeks afterward it’s this is the best thing since sliced bread,” Prickel said.

For more tips on how to be a better manager, CompTIA AITP membership gets you access to curated, on-demand business and soft skills training videos and content. See all the options for on-demand training here.

Photo credit: Michelle Lange, Whack Publications