More than ever, companies that want to stay ahead of the competition, or even remain viable businesses in the years ahead, have to keep searching for ways to leverage the benefits of new technology.
That can be challenging, especially with the speed at which advances are being made in leading-edge tech like automation, machine learning and the now seemingly ubiquitous AI.
Think you can put off evaluating such technology for months or years? The truth is now is the time to get ahead of the inevitable digital transformation that will be brought about by AI and similar technologies. Consider, some 1.1 billion jobs could be transformed by technology over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum.
The way that innovations powered by these technologies are transforming businesses varies widely, but forward-thinking companies have already adopted tech to seize on the efficiencies that come from automating tedious tasks.
Others that have already waded into automation for one part of their business may be looking to expand the approach to other areas, or consolidate from separate platforms to a comprehensive solution.
While the promise of new technology often entices CTOs and other IT managers, it can take some convincing to get everyone else to buy into the need for change. And, make no mistake, for the best outcome everyone needs to be on board before a business gears up to install tech that significantly alters the way things have been done.
This is where change management strategy plays an essential role. Leadership has to ensure transitions that affect how employees work are handled in an orderly, planned out manner that limits confusion or workflow snags.
How a Change Management Strategy Can Help
Change can be frightening and anxiety-inducing for just about everyone–and often for different reasons.
Senior executives may be reluctant to invest in new technology if they’re not convinced that the benefits outweigh the costs. They may fear that a big tech overhaul will lead to distracting or costly glitches that could take weeks or longer to work out.
Employees outside the C-suite will often have their own angst over having to learn how to work within a new software platform, or may fear that a push into automation will cost them their jobs.
Many companies are still grappling with the aftermath of shifting their workforce to working remotely in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, that was a crash course in change management for many executives and IT managers.
A shift or deeper adoption of automation technology will likely not be subject to such a forced, breakneck implementation schedule. But a smooth transition will require a structured approach that ensures minimal workflow disruption and maximum ROI.
Ease your company's transition to automated technology by using change management strategies to:
- Address C-suite Concerns
- Communicate With and Reassure Employees
- Emphasize Training and Career Benefits
- Underscore Gradual Change
- Create a Change Management Team
- Analyze Data and Feedback
1. Address C-Suite Concerns
The first step to getting the chief decision makers to buy into an investment in automation technology is to be prepared to answer the important questions, such as: how much will it cost, when will the technology deliver an ROI, and what is the cost of not investing in this technology right now?
Decision makers may also fret about how much time it will take to get the tech installed, employees trained and whether the initiative will take away resources from other important projects.
The answers for all of these questions will be specific to your company, of course, but it may help to underscore that the true value of the shift to automation is an evolution the business will benefit from in the long-run, even if it means other projects are delayed.
Above all, you'll want to be able to give a concise description of how the investment in new technology will boost the company's profits.
2. Communicate With and Reassure Employees
To get everyone outside of top management on board with a shift to automation technology, stress clear and open lines of communication about which processes will be changing and how each employee's tasks will be affected.
It's also wise to address the major elephant in the room: will anyone be losing their job to automation? Anxiety that AI and other methods of automating tasks will lead to companies eliminating jobs has become more widespread as the use of these technologies has grown, and not without reason.
This is why it's essential to reassure employees early on who may feel their job is at risk, and emphasize that automation can often help protect jobs.
3. Emphasize Training and Career Benefits
Another way to ease employees' angst and get them to confidently embrace the changes ahead is to outline a detailed schedule of training and support they'll receive, with an emphasis on multiple training sessions as the technology goes through its installation phases.
Underscoring how the opportunity to learn new skills, especially in a field like AI, will benefit their career prospects can also go a long way toward getting employees to see the change as less of a threat and more of an opportunity.
Should they need further convincing, point to the data which shows that the number of AI-related job postings rose to an average of 1.9% in 2022, up from 1.7% just a year earlier. And for those who see many of their tasks taken over by a shift to automation, stress that the technology will free them from busywork, giving them more opportunity to do higher-value tasks.
4. Underscore Gradual Change
Change doesn't have to happen all at once. It pays to stay flexible on how quickly to move ahead with implementing or expanding automation. Some companies may have the financial capability and operational bandwidth to make a big shift, while others may find it more feasible to do it in small steps.
Consider whether it makes more sense—and is more likely to get a green light from the C-suite—to start with a gradual automation solution rollout, say in a single department like accounts payable, and then expand from there.
An example of this scenario could involve first automating invoices, which increases the likelihood of timely customer payments, and then later following through to incorporate tech that streamlines other AP workflow functions.
Need to make the process even simpler? Plan on using the technology to handle a small sliver of the workflow, and broaden slowly from there. For example, just automating expense approvals, and then the rest of the P2P process later.
Preparing scenarios for a gradual change and a wholesale overhaul will help cut through resistance and ease concerns about moving too fast, too soon.
5. Create a Change Management Team
Once the initiative is a go, there's still much to be done, from procurement and pricing to designing training programs and identifying how broadly and how quickly to work the new technology into the existing workflow.
Here's where assigning a change management team will help move the project from planning to implementation. The team's job will be to navigate obstacles as they come up and to keep the project on schedule.
It's a good idea to tap people from across departments that are going to be affected by the tech transition, which will facilitate feedback and problem flagging.
6. Analyze Data and Feedback
Ensuring that change is not only immediately effective but remains that way requires feedback from stakeholders "beta-testing" the new technology and processes alongside data that can shed light on how the technology is affecting the business relative to how it operated before the installation. This will be key in ferreting out glitches large and small.
Successfully Tackling the Fear of Uncertainty
Change management strategy isn’t something that you implement after the change has occurred. It's most effective as preparation for change that's coming, whether you're initiating the change or not.
Employing a measured, calculated approach that focuses on dealing with the fear of change will help you navigate the uncertainty and opportunity that the fast pace of technological innovation brings.
These change management strategies can ensure a smooth transition when you’re ready to adopt an automated technology solution like DocuPhase, which can seamlessly work within existing tech or function as a comprehensive platform for handling payments, document management and other tasks.