How to Develop a Change Management Plan

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Any IT leader will tell you this: don’t go changing things without a plan. The truth is, though, that even the best laid plans encounter plenty of unexpected challenges. And, in IT, things are always changing. This means you not only need a plan, but you also need it to be reliable, repeatable, scalable, and adaptable. It’s a tall order, but the team at Evolve IP has some guidance for you.  

Read on to learn how to develop a change management plan. 

Step One: Define the “Change” That Requires Management 

Change management is a broad term that relates to almost any business process. In this context, however, we’re talking about change management for the tech department. This applies to change around the tech stack: hardware, software, etc.  

The first step in developing a change management strategy is to define the actual change you wish to implement. Ask yourself, “what is the trigger that will activate the change management plan you create?” Meticulously scope out and account for every consideration but be realistic. After all, not every minor software patch or update merits a full-scale change management process. Also, make sure every stakeholder is clear about what changes necessitate deploying the entire protocol. 

Step Two: Consider the Full Impact of Change 

This is the second step in developing a change management plan, and it is twofold. Change management impacts: 

  1. People 
  2. Processes 

It’s vital that you evaluate the impact of changes on these two factors. If you don’t, you’re going to confuse or frustrate the people who use the technology being changed, especially if they are caught unaware, and you’re going to risk disrupting processes. Both of these undermine your success. Here is how you assess the impact: 

It’s vital that you evaluate the impact of changes on these two factors. If you don’t, you’re going to confuse or frustrate the people who use the technology being changed, especially if they are caught unaware, and you’re going to risk disrupting processes. Both of these undermine your success. Here is how you assess the impact: 

People: Who Will be Impacted by Change? 

Start from the top down, in order of importance or level of impact, and ask, “who will be impacted by the change?” Then create communication plans based on your evaluation. Determine how and when you will convey the change management plan to the right people. With the hybrid office here to stay, also take into consideration how you will manage remote workers 

You then need to evaluate the full sequence of impact, spanning before and after the change. In other words, how will people be impacted at first, how will they be impacted during the change, and how will they be impacted after the change? That last step may alert you to a need for training post-change. 

Processes: What Will be Impacted by Change? 

In tech, we’re pretty comfortable breaking things and fixing them. It’s a core activity of the profession. But for the systems that run a business, the margin for allowable downtime is usually razor thin, if it exists at all. This means that you need absolute clarity from “go” on what systems could be impacted by change, and you need a plan in place to keep anything from deviating beyond what’s allowed. You’ll basically need extensive checks and balances and backups in place. 

Step Three: Create a Sequential Plan of Action 

Once all the due diligence is squared away, you can make decisions with full knowledge and with much better discernment. Now you’re equipped to create the actual plan of action. When it comes to change management, you have to work in sequence, because there’s an order to these things. It’s helpful to step back and take a 30,000-foot view, zooming out to comprehend the full change management process before you refine each task. 

Taking a phased approach is recommended: 

 

Phase I 

First task: timeline 

Second task: timeline 

Confirmation 

Cleanup 

Closure 

 

Phase II 

First task: timeline 

Second task: timeline 

Third task: timeline 

Confirmation 

Cleanup 

Closure 

You get the idea. It will quickly become apparent if you need to put things in phases, if your timeline is linear or has breakoffs, and how you need to time it. Gantt charts are effective for visualizing this to all stakeholders and project team members. 

Step Four: Get Granular on Change Management Tasks 

If the third step was to get “macro,” then the fourth step is to get “micro.” Once you’ve roadmapped out the change management process, you need to zero in on individual tasks. You’ll already know generally when they happen, but now you need to be sure each task is planned. Use a checklist like this to ensure you don’t miss anything: 

  • The task is defined 
  • The task is assigned 
  • The task is checked 
  • The task has an identifiable and measurable point of completion 

 All four of these components are absolutely essential to achieving your goals in a change management plan. Why? Well, on any given IT team, you may have a number of people who can do a certain task, or several ways a task can be completed. If you don’t first define the “what” and the “who” in context, you’re going to have a lot of spontaneous troubleshooting or decision-making conversations while you’re mid-change. This is not ideal. Make as many decisions as you can up front, and the whole process will run a lot more smoothly. 

Step Five: Do a Dry Run 

In tech, we’re no strangers to testing, and you shouldn’t just assume your change management process will work because it has been planned out and everyone has their marching orders. The only way to really find the bugs, gaps, or issues in a plan is to get in there and do it. Perform a dry run and simulate the change process in its entirety.  

It may feel excessive, but the amount of time you save by finding something out in a simulated environment – versus breaking something when it’s live and every second matters – is enormous. You may find nothing wrong and that the system is flawless. But it’s more likely that you’ll find room for improvement, both during the dry run and every time you manage the process in the future. It is better to find out the important stuff when the stakes are lower. Then you can rework, refine, and get back in the game. 

How Evolve IP Can Help 

Creating change management processes, then refining them until they’re instinctive, is essential for businesses to thrive in today’s always evolving technological landscape. Whether you’re upgrading to digital desktop services, a unified communications platform, or any other cutting-edge business tech, Evolve IP is the award-winning team for you. We are experts in change, operating already in the “what’s next” of emerging technology and bringing the best products and services to our clients. By integrating unified communications, collaboration, voice, virtual desktop, and contact center tools from leaders like Microsoft, Cisco, and VMware, and filling in the gaps, we are improving the user experience for both employees and customers, while centralizing technology management. So, no matter how locations, tools, and partners change over time, you have a robust and reliable workplace solution that makes the future of work better for everyone. 

Contact Evolve IP today to learn more.  

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