Iida Haikonen: Digital tools could enhance change management

Nowadays, a megatrend of digitalization is present everywhere, and everything possible gets delivered “as a Service”. Alongside my master’s thesis research, I figured out what implications this trend poses for change management.  

To approach the topic, I interviewed a handful of change management professionals. What could a digital change management tool look like? What features would they wish it had? How could the tool potentially benefit them? 

Overall, the interviewees hoped that the change management tool would have six characteristics: 

1. Usable

It is not a surprise, for sure, that usability was highlighted as one of the important characteristics. A valuable tool is easy to use and does not require you to fill in too many details at once, since numerous mandatory questions make the utilization slow and laborious, destroying the usefulness of the tool. Moreover, it would be desirable to have all change management tools in the same system. 

2. Instructing and Educational

A useful tool would include different templates, tasks, and checklists to guide and support change management. Furthermore, the tool could provide relevant theoretical background and research data alongside the tasks to justify why specific actions should get done during certain phases of the change. Consequently, the tool would also educate the user on change management instead of just offering directions. 

3. Systematic

It is essential that the tasks, templates, checklists, and theoretical frameworks are suggested at the right time and in the right order. Change management professionals hope to be supported by a tool that provides a systematic method for change. The tool should present the necessary steps for proceeding, give tasks for each phase, and guide to consider all crucial elements of change management, such as stakeholder analysis and communication channels.  

4. Modular

The tool should be modular. If the whole complex change gets approached as an entirety, it causes confusion, frustration, sweat, and tears. Instead, it should be possible to approach the change piece by piece, starting for example just with a preliminary assessment. One could proceed in their own pace and move on to the new relevant section when they want to. Thus, the progress would be focused, with the tool guiding to address only the relevant questions in each situation. Consequently, the tool would support also more complex changes by providing the way to begin the journey and something to take the bull by the horns. 

5. Modifiable

The interviewees remarked that the tool should be sufficiently personalized for the target organization to create genuine value. They hoped that the system could be configured by for example adding or hiding modules and highlighting the relevant aspects in the interface. Thus, the user could select different modules to fit the needs and maturity level of the organization. Even more value could be provided, if alongside the manual tailoring, the tool would be automatically customized based on the inserted data. The tool could generate recommendations of the methods, channels, actions, and schedules, and offer the right templates to be filled in the right situation. The system could also remind about the aspects specifically important for the certain type of change that the organization is undergoing, since different changes can require distinct approaches. 

6. Measurable

Lastly, change management professionals hoped that the tool would measure the change in different phases and regularly illustrate the impact that the change management actions have on the daily operation of the organization. Based on the results, they could plan corrective measures and moreover, the tool could generate suggestions and customize the content accordingly.  

If the tool followed these requirements, the change management professionals would perceive many potential benefits. According to the interviewees, such a tool could enhance change management practices by supporting the implementation, structuring the approach, and offering common system for all change management tools and tasks. Furthermore, the system would boost the collection of background information, improve the data quality, and enable the accumulation of baseline data to support future decision making and prioritization.