CIOs, change management and data handling - the trifecta for success in 2022

By Lyndon Hedderly, director, customer solutions, Confluent.

We are at that time of year when everyone is starting to look back and think about what they could have done better so they can set themselves up for 2022. This includes CIOs as they begin to review what projects they need to implement to achieve their business objectives and revenue goals. One of the most common missed tricks this year will have been the lack of change management included in the rollout of technology implementations and initiatives.

The critical need for change management has been a subject of industry discussion for a number of years. Yet, it is still often sidestepped, forgotten or not given the right amount of attention. What that creates is a lack of engagement, results or even perhaps the technology initiative being cancelled; all of which wastes precious budgets.

Organisational change management is required whenever a business needs to change one or more of its main processes in order to improve effectiveness. It is clear that the task of managing change is a difficult one but CIO’s and technology teams need to understand that it has to be a key element of any project or rollout, especially with any initiatives to do with handling data.

The reason change management is so key for data initiatives is data often underpins key customer journey initiatives and backend operations. As customer expectations continue to change, businesses need to be able to tap into their data in real time wherever it is held to provide the right experience for consumers. The majority of employees simply don’t realise the true impact data has on the bottom line and customer loyalty. Many would probably dismiss it as something that just goes on behind the scenes and isn’t something they need to be concerned about. Through effective change management and education, CIOs will be able to show that, if data is handled in the right way and can link between all the different parts of the business, it will allow employees to meet the clear consumer expectations now set in this digital first paradigm we live in.

So where do CIO’s start when it comes to thinking about ensuring change management is part of any project rollout especially around data handling? There are various models and books they can refer to but there are three vital factors they need to consider:

1. Understanding who their target audience is

CIO’s shouldn’t just consider the tech team or developers within their business. It is important that the wider business understands why a particular technology project is being rolled out and what they can do or have to do to make it truly effective. In addition, CIO’s need to tailor the conversation and messaging around what the audience does or cares about and why this project is an important part of their day to day work. This is key in data initiatives, as you really want to make data available across an Enterprise.

2. Ensure employees have the opportunity to feedback

An often overlooked step in any change management rollout is the opportunity for employees to provide their feedback or thinking. Yet it is crucial to the long term success of a change. Instead of seeing change management as a simple checklist of one way communication, CIO’s need to ensure they are listening to what employees have to say. The feedback gathered might be helpful in adjusting elements of the rollout so the change becomes a permanent shift.

3. Don’t forget to show the results

When a CIO implements a technology initiative or project, no matter the size or type, the bottom line is to improve the performance of the business. So it is crucial to showcase the results and improvements happening to employees - and on a regular basis. And remember, the results should be tailored to what the employees and target audience care about. So both qualitative and quantitative results should be shown. This will all serve as a good reminder to employees as to why the project is being rolled out.

Many of the changes businesses are facing today because of the pandemic are changes that were mostly already underway including consumer behaviours. The global pandemic has simply accelerated the time frames. One thing remains crystal clear. New business models will continue to be heavily dependent on technology for the delivery of their products and services. This means that the projects CIOs implement to improve effectiveness around their technology stack are fundamental to the success of the business. With that, change management needs to be a core component of the rollout and threaded throughout, not just haphazardly added at the beginning or end.

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