Ensuring Technology Investment Delivers Change Effectively and Sustainably
Reuben Barry, Director & Head of Data Analytics at Ecovis, makes the argument for a dedicated project team to ensure successful technology enablement, adoption and buy-in around the business…
Across the professional services, it’s clear from some cursory research that there are many job titles containing the word “innovation”, a trend that has been emerging in recent years. Future-focussed firms have been seeking to formalise their efforts in redefining their services, adopting new technologies and ultimately staying ahead of the curve by appointing people dedicated to the pursuit of innovation.
At Ecovis we are one of many such firms that have done so for the last few years. Of a small number of defined areas of focus, one has been the effective use of technology in all areas of our service offerings both in terms of internal configuration and in terms of client experience.
So far, so normal! In taking our initial steps to make a range of improvements to our systems and processes, even the smallest changes informed us that we have a challenge to ensure adoption of the new at the expense of the old. We are all comfortable in successfully carrying out our work with known processes and familiar systems and it will take more than a simple instruction from “on high” to ensure that the “new normal” is adopted.
It is of paramount importance to obtain buy-in from the affected people in the business, in order to achieve this. We have set about achieving this through any of our change projects by involving people regularly along the journey of identifying the changes that need to be made, the problems in the way we currently do things and the benefits to be gained from making focussed changes. Being part of defining the solution will go a long way to ensuring that the solution gains traction when it is introduced.
This might seem straightforward to say but in practical terms, fee earners and those who manage fee earners rarely feel the freedom of time or mental space to turn away from client work in order to spend time on these things. We have found that the only way to achieve forward progress at an acceptable rate, while involving the affected people, is to have a dedicated project team whose role is to coordinate and manage the progression of the project.
In this way the change project is not just at the side of someone’s desk, timetables are set, budgets are monitored and adhered to, and (most importantly) people are held to account for what they have committed to delivering on the date they are to have delivered it. Even with this structured framework and approach in place, we’ve found the road to adoption is still beset by barriers and generally, they are presented in those cases where “buy-in” has not been effectively obtained from the people affected.
To that end, dedicated “pilot” phases are a valuable exercise, testing the intended new processes or systems on focus groups to gather the type of feedback that could be terminal to widespread adoption. We have learned through these processes on a number of occasions that it’s not the new system or process which is the biggest barrier to change, but the importance assigned to the adoption of the change by leadership.
If Partners and Senior Managers in affected teams are not supporting a culture of change and not driving the new agenda in the day to day approach, the intended change project is likely to fail or at least take much longer to become embedded than intended or acceptable. At the same time, these same people should make efforts to have their ears open to feedback. If reasonable gripes are dealt with effectively and quickly, once again people are involved in the process of embedding the change and barriers are quickly broken down.
We certainly haven’t cracked it yet, and there’s still plenty to do – but we know it’s worth the effort.