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Re-imagining change management in the current climate

Paul Anthony Paul Anthony

As we all adapt to life under lockdown, firms are looking forward and re-imagining the way they will do business in the future. That means new change management portfolios, which need to be carefully managed to meet evolving needs. Barbara Moldenhauer asks how firms can keep up with the current pace of change and what lessons can we learn moving forward.

Business constraints have changed

Typically, businesses conduct and implement change management subject to a financial constraint – generally a budget reduction of around 10%-20%. In the current climate, the constraint itself has changed to include limited resourcing and minimal physical access to offices, data centres and other critical equipment. The current timeframes for new projects are also a lot shorter than in a typical change management programme and ongoing projects may become more time-sensitive or de-prioritised. Portfolio management teams must re-think their approach to keep up with demand and shifting priorities. 

Effective change programmes must balance agility and quality, which is tricky with such quick turnarounds. Under normal circumstances, change portfolios are actioning new strategic goals or regulatory updates, with long lead times for careful planning. Now portfolios are adapting services to meet the new operational norm, and long lead times are not an option. But these changes will have a long-term impact and programmes must be underpinned by good governance and continue to meet best practice to support operational resilience, promote customer satisfaction and support regulatory compliance. This will help businesses to continue to treat customers fairly, promote good outcomes and maintain reputational strength.

Is change management using data effectively?

Change management relies on good data and the right information needs to be available at the right time to prioritise or deploy change. While most firms have portfolio management systems in place, they are often fragmented and do not have accurate data at the level of detail needed. But change programmes need to be based on up-to-date information, especially in a fast-moving situation and management information may need to be more regular to reflect the pace of change and support informed decision-making.  

Are you using your data effectively? Read more about data analytics.

Change management must respond quickly

Customers, regulators and the government expect firms to respond quickly and safely to the coronavirus situation, which relies on effective change management, particularly around the use of technology. Successful change portfolios need to have a strong integration between the business change management teams and the technology change management team. This needs to be underpinned by robust resource management, such as human resources, test environments or office locations, to identify interdependencies and mitigate potential risks arising from them.

Change management should consider how the data flows for end-to-end change projects, where the golden source resides, and how to identify initiatives that need to be stopped or re-prioritised. Teams should also assess how that data informs decision making processes, and how easy it is to predict and plan for the expected outcomes.

What to do now?

To achieve this, change management teams should consider the following questions:

  • What data do you capture and is this data fragmented or duplicated across multiple systems related to change initiatives?
  • Is the data set complete and able to respond to different scenario modelling if multiple constraints are imposed on the portfolio?
  • Is it clear which part of the change portfolio is a regulatory or mandatory requirement, which may be time sensitive, and which are discretionary and can be re-prioritised?
  • Have key controls and governance requirements been considered when prioritising each project? Can they be clearly demonstrated for audit trail?
  • If human resources is a key constraint, what assurance is in place that the right subject-matter experts are involved in the decisions?

These are challenges firms face now, but in reality, they are many of the same issues that firms have always struggled with around change management, including agility and the effective use of data. The key difference is the short lead times and a greater number of constraints. Overseeing change management in the current climate will encourage people to think outside of the box and drive greater innovation. It is important to assess lessons learned and whatever works now will undoubtedly be adopted in the long term as a standard part of the change management tool kit.

Contact Paul Anthony for more information.

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