How to use data to build a business case for change management
By Leslie Ottavi and Heather Marks
Tangibly measuring change is notoriously difficult, which makes it challenging to articulate a clear business case for it.
Consequently, leaders responsible for driving change across an enterprise often face reluctance on the part of decision makers to allocating time and resources for change management as part of transformation projects. Instead, the people side of change is often considered late in the project life cycle, which intensifies change resistance, creates adoption risks, and hampers ROI.
Incorporating advanced data analytics and automation into the change management model is a powerful way to measurably demonstrate the value of organizational change management and convert reluctant skeptics into active sponsors.
According to a whitepaper published by IDC in 2021, while 83% of CEOs desire to create a data-driven organization, only 25% of companies surveyed actually are data-driven.
This represents a big opportunity for change managers because not only will data enable them to manage change much more effectively, but there is strong appetite for actionable data-informed insights among decision makers.
Align the change management and project life cycles
The first step in gathering the data necessary to tangibly measure the value of change management is to align the change management program with the project life cycle, so that change is strategically managed from end to end, starting at the onset of the project.
We can guess what readers are thinking: “Easier said than done!” Indeed, we have just acknowledged the resistance change leaders encounter with this very thing. Try this: identify just one project in which the change team is engaged in the collection of change impact information from the beginning of the program.
One of our favorite statistics comes from Prosci benchmarking data that shows a 93% correlation between effective change management and successfully meeting business objectives. Specifically, transformation initiatives are six times more likely to meet objectives if they are implemented alongside effective change management!
Our team frequently uses this statistic to convince program managers to bring us in early on a project. It's easy to see how aligning change management end to end with the project life cycle materially increases the value of change management, since change managers can use data gathered up front about change magnitude to inform and optimize change plans and their timing.
The value increases exponentially once this practice is scaled across portfolios and organizations across the enterprise.
Conduct a change magnitude assessment
In the data-gathering phase, first conduct a change magnitude assessment to clearly define at a high level:
what is changing
the magnitude of the change
who is impacted
Next, begin to clarify the change impacts at the depth needed to understand who is being impacted by what and when. This will help you more effectively orchestrate change plans with better engagement and decision-making along the initiative’s journey.
Determine minimum information requirements
Next, determine the minimum amount of information required by each type of stakeholder: what aspects of the program and its status do they need to know?
Consider the stakeholders at each level of the enterprise:
The enterprise is looking to understand key strategic change information holistically, across all organizations.
Organizations align to enterprise strategic objectives and goals, but they also have their own strategies and goals, and they desire to see change across their portfolios that are executing to achieve business outcomes.
Typically, organizations have multiple portfolios. As an example: transform the business, optimize the business and run the business.
Underneath each portfolio are the programs and projects that are executing to deliver solutions to achieve business outcomes.
Cutting across all of it are the end users who need to change how they do things in order to realize the desired business value.
Use an AI-enabled change management software tool
It quickly becomes unwieldy to manipulate so much data manually. Not only are minimum information requirements and change magnitude assessments and impacts collected, but change plans need to be captured and tracked, communications need to be drafted, scheduled and delivered, stakeholders need to be surveyed to determine how ready and willing they are to adopt the change at each milestone, and so forth.
Then, this data needs to be reported in an actionable way from multiple perspectives; namely, from the perspective of the different types of stakeholders mentioned earlier (enterprise, organization, portfolio, program, and end user).
This is an onerous task to do manually even for one project. When you consider that most change managers handle multiple projects simultaneously, this type of data gathering and reporting is simply unfeasible.
At iTalent Digital, we use Chama, the AI-enabled change management SaaS solution that uses advanced data analytics and automation to report on transformation initiatives from any perspective, at any level of detail.
With Chama, you can generate reports with the click of a button tailored to any stakeholder at any level of the organization, and you can show them change impacts and adoption readiness at any level of granularity.
This gives enterprise leaders a holistic view of what is changing and who is impacted across all organizations and portfolios, so they easily understand how the different initiatives overlap.
This view is not possible in a scenario where reports are generated in silos by individual program managers. Let’s face it: leaders don't have time to piece together disparate reports in varying formats.
Share insights throughout the project life cycle
Use the software tool to generate and share insights about change adoption throughout the program life cycle. The table below is an example of the types of change reports one of our clients generates at certain milestones, using Chama. This process and the reports generated can be customized to meet the needs of any given organization or enterprise.
Conduct change magnitude assessments at the onset of the project to generate insights about change impact and saturation at the end-user level.
Change risk assessments support data-driven budget and resource allocation in the project initiation phase.
Review change management activities at regular intervals, and generate update reports about change saturation, change deliverable status, and change road map status with information tailored to each specific stakeholder (enterprise leader, PMO, CMO, portfolio manager, end user, etc.)
At the conclusion of the project implementation, use the data to inform the transition process, key learnings, and ROI metrics.
Shift the conversation
Armed with this data and the ability to instantly generate tailored reports, change leaders can now have a very different conversation with decision makers.
Rather than discussing what initiatives are being implemented and what the change managers are doing, the conversation shifts to the stakeholder perspective, and they are now having a conversation about how to best align change deliverables with business cycles and how and when their teams will be impacted. At iTalent, we call this the “big flip” to the stakeholder view.
This level of clarity also empowers change managers to equip business leaders with more articulate and timely messaging, making it easier for them to champion the programs and communicate effectively with their teams.
When change leaders report on initiatives from the stakeholder perspective, they can clearly articulate how the transformation will benefit them personally. This alone is a game changer in terms of converting skeptics to evangelists.
Scale the model across the enterprise
Adopting a data- and automation-driven model to change management will likely meet initial resistance. But over time, business leaders will see its value as the model helps them make increasingly better decisions, and adoption will get easier as you scale the model across the enterprise.
Ultimately, this approach can transform the entire culture of the company to embrace change.