Avoiding Panic in Migrations and Change Management

Our CEO, Conrad Agramont recently announced that we were finally dropping all third-party vendors and moving completely to Dynamics at the end of the week. It wasn’t catastrophic, as we only have a few  non-Microsoft platforms in use. However, as head of marketing, I run one of those few platforms and hearing that I was loosing a marketing platform and CRM that I’ve used for nearly a decade had my heart in my throat. I was angry, confused, and more than a bit worried. Immediately I started calculating the work I would need to do and the things I would need to learn in a new platform. Likewise, our delivery team was concerned about their ticketing platform and what would be involved in training our entire team on a new platform while still completing our day to day functions.

Thankfully, it was a false flag. He was puling our leg, but did so to make an important point.

This is the experience of end users when they hear terms like migrations, moving to Microsoft 365, multifactor authentication, etc. Panicked, worried about change, and concerned that they will be coming into an environment where everything is broken and nothing works.

If you have ever worked in a legacy company with years of Excel reports, projections, and P&L with sheets cross linked together in a shared drive, you know what happens if even just the drive name gets changed. If not, trust me, it’s bad, and when finance has a bad day, everyone has a bad day.

Thankfully, it’s easy to curtail this panic, while also increasing adoption of new technologies. While it boils down to communication, it is more than just sending out a series of emails prior to the change.

Adoption and Change Management Stage One: Discovery and Buy In

Even before the decision is made to make a foundation change to your IT environment, there will be a process of getting executive buy in for the initiative. Depending on your organization and scope of the change, this may just be getting budgetary approval, or it may involve repeated meetings with key stakeholders to understand the risks and benefits of the change.

This is the ideal time to start communicating. Often the leaders you are working with will have their own concerns and motivations for their department.

Your new security and governance plan will complicate life for HR, but it will also give them incredible new tools to personal records requests and assuring employee confidentiality. Migrating to Microsoft 365 will also give them the eventual ability to automate onboarding and offboarding workflows and make their lives easier, more productive, and less error-prone. Focus on the positives, and pepper in the drawbacks. There will be some training needed for their team to learn how to properly use sensitivity labels, explain how the roll out will be done so that no one’s productivity will be impacted as they gain these new tools.

Put yourself in your stakeholder’s shoes. Better yet, ask them what they use, how they use it, and how you could make it better. Determine what potential challenges with their team will be, ask them about specific frustrations they have in the current system that can be improved. They may not be the most technically astute, but they know the systems they work in, probably better than you, and they have a completely different point of view of the technology than you do. This is particularly important with a migration trigged by a merger or acquisition where the employees may be already worried about changes to the organization unrelated to their technology stack.

Change Management Stage Two: Communication

Communicate early and often. Once the project is scoped out, let department leaders know the anticipated timeframe. Keep it in loose terms to account for timeline and schedule changes, but explain that in two to three months new capabilities will be coming to the environment. Provide a few articles or videos for them to read or watch, most will not, but your technically inquisitive team members will. We’ll talk about these champions in a moment.

At this point, you should already be looking at how you will train your organization on new processes required by the coming shift. Is it a simple upgrade where there are already tons of available resources on YouTube? Is it a highly customized solution that will require your own documentation specific to your organization? In the first case, things will be easy. In the second case, you will want to determine a specific training path, and enlist as much help as possible, both inside and outside of your organization.

Change Management Stage Three: Training

Personas

Looking back to discovery, remember the critical questions: What technology does a team use? How do they use it? What can be improved? With that in mind, determine the personas on the team.

  • Leadership Department and Team Managers.

They probably have needs around reporting, governance, and broader communication. They are also critical targets for spear phishing, and Business Email Compromise (BEC) Scams, and as such may require more stringent security features that will require additional training.

  • Information Workers
  • First Line Workers
    • Customer Support
    • Field Workers
    • Production Workers

How Should Training Be Made Available?

Live training can be in person or remote, but feature a live instructor who can engage with the groups, answering questions, demonstrating new workflows, and most importantly, gathering feedback and questions for the implementation teams. Videos are handy as they can be viewed at any time, making this option attractive for shift based workplaces such as healthcare facilities, manufacturing lines, and public safety roles.

Quick references are great for small changes, such as login procedures, changes to approval workflows. They can be insufficient for larger changes, and if there are too many guides, it can be a challenge to assure employees are reading them.

FAQs are a great long term resource, to help end users answer their most common queries, but like quick guides are largely insufficient for larger change management initiatives.

Microsoft Viva Learning is a powerful way to incorporate training directly into the places where your teams are already collaborating.

Where Should the Training Come From?

Many software platforms provide training with their services. Some include extensive onboarding with training from live instructors, others have limited video guides, and others offer full training academies like Microsoft Learn. You should evaluate the resources provided by your software provider and determine if they are sufficient for your organization.

In many cases when a software platform has lots of customization even if the vendor provided training is enough to understand the platform, it can be necessary to provide additional training, perhaps down to individual persona levels to empower your teams to use the software in the way that fits their needs.

Likewise in situations where entire academies are available for the platform, it makes sense to review the trainings and create individual learning paths for your different company roles.

Roll Out

When the roll out of the new software comes around, communications becomes even more critical. It is not enough to send an email saying, “Hey, Monday we’re moving to Dynamics.” In person meetings should be held with departmental heads to explain, timelines, impacts and support procedures. Each leader should have access to documentation with clear support and escalation paths, as well as important FAQs. This will not only reduce IT support on the day of the change over, but also increase confidence.  

It is important to leverage the difference between phased and cut-over implantations. With a phased approach, IT can focus on each department as the platform is rolled out. With a full cut-over for the company, it is important to expect heavier than normal help-desk workloads, and plans should be in place to reduce support calls by empowering managers to offer first-line support to their teams and as a central contact point for escalations.

Agile IT Helps you Avoid the Panic

All of our projects include walk-throughs and training for admins to explain how to properly work within the platforms we implement and deliver. We understand the panic that abrupt change can cause and we work closely with your teams to manage expectations and avoid uncertainty.

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