Why Effective Business Change Management is Crucial for RM Projects


In a previous post, I discussed the importance of having an executive sponsor for your Records Information Management (RIM) project. Establishing an executive sponsor is the first key step in an effective business change-management plan. In this post, I will talk about the other things you need to consider.

Engage People to Improve Adoption

RIM projects will affect people in your organization. The impact may vary by organization, and different areas within your organization will experience the change in unique ways. Documents, emails and electronic content have become mission critical, and we need to create, save and access that content in intuitive ways that make sense to us. Users have invested time and mental energy into understanding their current system (be it a shared drive or other content repository). Sure, the right tools can certainly help with this, but if you do not engage your organization's people as part of a business change-management plan, you run the risk that user adoption of the new program will be low, and you will fall short of achieving your compliance goals and requirements.

RIM projects have an added challenge of being outside of an operational or core business function. For most staff, records management, if done at all at an operational level, is something 'extra' they have to do because it is what head office says to do. Today's RM technology solutions can help reduce that 'extra' work that staff feel they need to do, but there is always some impact. RIM program managers have to work that much harder to roll out a new RIM program because the benefits of the changes are not easily identifiable by end users.

The objective of your project's business change-management plan is to identify specific steps your project will take to mitigate the effects of your new RIM program on the people in your organization, and to increase the overall adoption of your program. If you already have business change management as part of your overall project and program management culture, fantastic! But for those who don't, perhaps this post can help.

Effectively Adapting to Change

Here are ten things that people need to effectively adapt to change:

  1. Understand why the change is needed
  2. Know what’s in it for them
  3. Receive plenty of lead time
  4. Be involved in decisions affecting their workflow
  5. Be listened to and have feedback acted upon
  6. Receive clear instructions
  7. Receive support during the learning period
  8. Have someone to call if they need help
  9. Know how the new way differs from the old ways
  10. Receive reassurance

These needs must be considered when preparing an effective business change-management plan, and your communications about them must be clear.

RIM project impacts to staff may not seem like much compared to the impact of implementing organization structural change or a new HR or Finance system; however, people have invested time and energy figuring out how to work effectively with the status quo. Now we need the people in the organization to buy-in and follow the new business processes in order to be successful.

Identifying and Communicating Change

Here is an example of typical changes a RIM project may introduce:

  1. People may have to change where and how they save their work, possibly including emails
  2. People may have to provide more than just a file name when saving a document. What is the additional metadata and is that information readily available to the end user?
  3. Some files may now be 'locked down' based on corporate retention policies.
  4. Some files may now get deleted based on new disposition policies.

Your new system will need to address these impacts and your business change-management plan can help communicate any anticipated impacts to staff.

Sample case: I spoke with one large organization whose roll-out program was stopped dead in its tracks because a key business area did not agree with the corporate disposition policies. The business area did not want anyone deleting their stuff — corporate policy or not. In this case, an executive sponsor may have been able to influence that department or broker a mutually agreeable solution. And a business change-management and communication plan would have uncovered this issue much sooner in the process and perhaps given the project team time to deal with it.

Understand the type of change that will affect each stakeholder area and make sure you provide people with the support they need to adopt the change through a business change-management plan.

Elements of an Effective Change-Management Plan

So, what are the components of an effective business change-management plan?

  1. People – Identify Who’s Involved

Identify the people or groups who are going to be affected by this change. Who are the stakeholders and at what level are they affected? The classic stakeholder tale is of the chicken and the pig. Both are stakeholders in a bacon and eggs breakfast, but the pig is committed while the chicken is merely involved. Understand the level of impact on your stakeholders and treat them accordingly.

The people who are going to help your project effect the change in the organization include an executive sponsor, possibly a management steering committee to make scope, budget and resourcing decisions, and finally a stakeholder advisory committee.

The stakeholder advisory committee is a key group for a RIM program roll-out because the project usually affects people across the organization.  The responsibility of this committee is to provide two-way communication between the front lines of the organization and the RIM project team. This is not a group of managers; instead, it’s more like the senior administrators representing the different areas of the organization. They know what is really going on in their areas. Perhaps you have an existing Departmental Records Administrator group? This could be that group. If a group like that does not already exist, ask line management in your stakeholder areas to provide representatives to this body for the duration of your project.

Keep this group well informed and task them with passing this information to their areas. Solicit and document feedback from this group along with what the project is going to do about it. Be accountable, transparent and escalate unresolvable issues to the steering committee or executive sponsor if necessary. These people are the front-line records management focal points within the organization. Staff will look to these people first for advice and guidance about the new program. If the stakeholder advisory group is excited about the change and has the resources available to help them respond to their staff’s questions, you are well on your way to a successful roll-out.

Document the key roles on the project along with the stakeholder groups that will be affected by the change. Document the size of the stakeholder groups and the impacts that are expected. Outline the mitigation approach for each stakeholder. I encourage you to use the Stakeholder Advisory Committee members for initial input on these questions.

  1. Process – Defining the Approach

You have identified all the key players, and now it's time to outline what you are going to do. How are you going to:

  • Generate project awareness and support,
  • Respond to resistance,
  • Prepare staff for changes, including training,
  • Provide post go-live support, and
  • Solicit input and consultation?

Once you have some answers to these questions, you can start to prepare a communication plan. Your communication plan is one of the key parts of your business change-management plan and will likely describe:

  • Key audiences
  • Known challenges or opportunities
  • Communications goals and objectives
  • Key messages by project phase
  • Strategies and tools
  • Communications schedule and timelines
  • Evaluation and measurement

Look at the communication tools or tactics that are available to you. Here are examples of some tactics you might consider:

  • Email messaging to all staff
  • Memos to administrators to cascade communication to departments
  • Learning session(s) or Open Houses
  • Demos or mock-ups for specific departmental scenarios
  • Presentations at department staff meetings
  • Presentations to corporate committees
  • Contests or project catch phrases/slogans
  • Project pamphlets/bulletins
  • Project intranet site, possibly including wikis blogs or discussion boards
  • Quick reference desk cards

Sample case: On one project I was involved with, an important company event was each Friday afternoon around 2 pm. Almost everyone in the company came down to the cafeteria because there was free popcorn from a classic antique popcorn maker. The company had about 500 people, and the weekly popcorn had become part of the corporate culture. So guess where I was at 2 pm for several Friday afternoons with my table, balloons, laptop and project material ready for show and tell? Be creative and if you can, try and make it fun.

At the end of this process, you should have a complete communication schedule that lists each communication event along with:

  • Audience
  • Project Phase
  • Key Message
  • Tactic
  • Owner/Timeline
  • Measurement

Upfront Planning Improves Chances of Success

If you think developing a business change-management plan is a lot of work — you're right. You will need resources and support from your executive sponsor in order to prepare and execute your plan.

Do the work upfront to prepare a good business change-management plan for your RIM program and execute it with assistance from your executive sponsor. Give your RIM Project team the best chance at completing a successful project.

Excellent business change management resources are available on the Web that may offer a different approach than what I have described. I have simply discussed the types of things that have worked for me. The key message is to consider adding business change management as component of your RIM project.

Including business change-management processes in your project will not guarantee a successful roll-out; however, you will achieve much greater user adoption, and your project will have a much better chance of achieving its overall goals.

Have more questions about change management processes or how to optimize your RIM projects? Contact us to speak with our RM and SharePoint experts. To evaluate the current state of your RM program, you can also download our free RM Program Health Checklist here:




Tagged: Records Management, Collaboration

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