If your company wants to remain successful, change is essential and inevitable. Businesses must react to technological advances, government regulation, the economy, competition and other factors. Every change presents a new opportunity to increase efficiency and build the organization.

What Does a "Change Agent" Do?

While there is no specific job description, here are eight tasks a technology Change Agent might perform:

1. Analyze the forces of change and how they impact an organization's vision, mission, strategy and principles.

2. Establish the reasons for change. Question the extent to which changes are reactive or proactive.

3. Identify and understand internal and external variables that will have an impact on the process.

4. Define specific project goals and establishes what will not change.

5. Create a "change message" that expresses the need for new technology (the discrepancy between the desired goals and the present situation). The message should reflect where the organization is now, where it wants to be, and why the end goal is necessary.

6. Target areas of resistance directly by structuring positive and negative incentives. Find ways to gain participation from resisters by giving them "ownership."

7. Communicate with employees on a regular, structured basis. Provide a feedback loop, as well as the time and resources to deal with change related issues in the project.

8. Develop metrics and measure the success of change. And of course, find ways to improve performance and tune new systems.

As an owner or manager, you can respond to change two ways: You can acknowledge the need and be the master, or resist and fall prey to the unrelenting push of innovation. High performers treat change as a positive force for progress, and thus implement new computer systems and programs. However, once a decision is made to bring in new technology, the trick sometimes involves getting people to use it.

Bending the Status Quo

Some people see change as chaotic and fight it. Managers who don't recognize that aspect of human nature set themselves up for disaster. The most efficient technology in the world can result in failure if your staff and customers bypass it, ignore it, or don't use it effectively.

Common complaints heard from end-users of new technology include:

  • "The new system works great, but it is costing us a lot of business."

  • "Our customers and staff just don't like using it."

  • "Now that I've learned to side-step the new system, things are back to normal."

If you hear comments like these at your company, you've got a costly failure on your hands. To prevent that scenario, managers should study how proposed new technology will affect staff members and customers, and include change management strategies in their project plans. That's why, if you want to get a new system up and running, you may need help from a professional technology consultant or "Change Agent."

Helping Ensure Success

A Change Agent's first priority is to analyze the new technology and develop a strategy. Questions that need to be answered include: Is the change incremental, encompassing, or disruptive? What is the company reacting to? Is this the right technology change and will it be effective? What is the company's state of readiness?

Next, the Change Agent determines how new technology is going to be introduced by answering questions such as: Should management use a "top down" directive style or develop a "bottom up" participative approach? How should the company communicate the need for change across the organization? Are the right people included in the process?

Finally, quality of life questions must be addressed including: What is the impact on personal lives in terms of overtime and stress? What kind of training is needed? Is the organization moving too slowly or stalled by too much planning? Is the staff suffering from change fatigue because too much is being introduced too fast? Is there resistance to change or fear of the unknown? To what extent is resistance justified and how can it be corrected?

As you can see, a Change Agent can help ensure the development of new technology that is successful. Keep in mind that systems implementers and application developers have well-tuned management skills. They are aware of the areas of potential internal resistance and often make good Change Agents. So, the next time you meet with a consultant or systems implementer about new technology, put change management on the agenda.

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