Best Practices

5 best practices for building a successful change management program

Published Apr 3, 2024
Don't let resistance derail your progress.

The winds of digital transformation continue to sweep across industries, prompting organizations to embrace new technologies and processes. While these advancements hold immense potential for improved efficiency and productivity, the human side of change can often present a significant hurdle. Employees accustomed to established routines and familiar tools — even if they are clunky and even painful manual processes — may feel apprehensive or resistant to learning new ways of working. 

Which is why these sweeping initiatives often disappoint their stakeholders. Studies show — including those from prominent universities — that the failure rate for digital transformation projects ranges from 66% to as high as 84% in some industries. Their conclusion? One of the most effective means to avoid such failures is to adopt a rigorous change management program. The question is: What steps do you take so that your change management program is enough to ensure digital adoption and prevent derailment of your critical digital transformation initiatives? 

Before diving into best practices, let’s establish how these are all connected:

  • Digital transformation: The ongoing process of leveraging technology to fundamentally alter how an organization operates and delivers value.
  • Digital adoption: The state in which users leverage digital tools (software products, apps, websites, etc.) to the fullest extent possible.
  • Digital adoption platform (DAP): A software layered on top of another software product to streamline the digital adoption process by facilitating user onboarding and proficiency with in-app guidance and support.
  • Change management: A structured approach to managing the human side of change initiatives, ensuring a smooth transition and maximizing user acceptance.

These concepts are interconnected. Successful digital transformation hinges on achieving high digital adoption rates. Digital adoption platforms (DAPs) empower organizations to drive user adoption by providing the tools and insights needed for a successful change management program.

Change management to the rescue: addressing the human challenge of change

Digital transformation initiatives often face resistance stemming from a variety of human factors. Employees (or customers) might fear the unknown, stress about their job security, feel inadequate or overwhelmed by new technology, or simply miss the familiar routines (regardless of how inefficient or painful they may have been). A lack of clear communication and inadequate training can further exacerbate these anxieties.

Change management serves as a strategic approach to navigating these challenges. It emphasizes the human impact of change and focuses on actively managing employee perceptions and behaviors. By implementing a well-defined change management program, organizations can create a more positive and productive environment during transitions. And they can end up with a happier — not just more efficient — workforce.

Now, let’s delve into the five essential practices that can help you build a winning change management program:

1. A clearly defined vision and goals

The first step is to establish a clear vision for the change initiative. What are you hoping to achieve? Once you have a defined vision, set measurable goals to track your progress and demonstrate the program’s success. 

How do you set measurable goals? Pendo can gather valuable user behavior data for existing systems and processes, making quantifying targeted goals based on the current work state easier. It can then do the same for features of the new or changed systems, and its analytics dashboard can provide insights into adoption rates for individual features or the new system overall, allowing you to measure the effectiveness of your change management efforts.

2. Stakeholder engagement

Identify all stakeholders who will be impacted by the change, from executives to front-line employees. While the need for leadership support for the initiative is critical, input from employees who will use the new systems is just as crucial. 

Proactive communication and engagement are crucial. Address concerns early on and foster a collaborative environment where everyone — especially employees — feels heard. The communication tools in Pendo’s DAP can facilitate seamless communication between stakeholders and users, promoting transparency and building trust throughout the change process.

3. An effective communication strategy

As mentioned before, transparency is critical to successful change management. Develop a comprehensive communication plan that keeps everyone informed throughout the change process. Clearly articulate the rationale behind the change, outline the timeline, and address any potential anxieties. 

To help with this transparency, you can use Pendo to create targeted in-app messages and announcements, ensuring all users receive consistent and timely information regarding upcoming changes. Let them know what is coming so there are no surprises when it is time to implement the change. 

4. Empowerment, onboarding, and training

Empowerment starts by including employees change motions from the beginning. However, as the change implementation approaches (and especially after it goes online), you must equip your employees with the knowledge, resources, and support they need to embrace the change effectively. 

Provide clear and concise training materials, user guides, and step-by-step walkthroughs. Consider leveraging a DAP like Pendo to integrate a library of user guides and walkthroughs directly within the new or changed application. This digital adoption platform helps employees get up to speed quickly with the new system or features (onboarding). It also provides them with on-demand access to resources they need to feel comfortable and confident using the new technology or process from Day One.

5. Ongoing support and feedback

Digital transformation is never a one-shot-and-you’re-done event. The change process doesn’t end with launching a new system or features. But once they go online, employees need to know they’re not on their own.

Offer ongoing support to users as they transition to the new way of working. Actively gather feedback to identify any lingering issues or areas for improvement. Pendo can provide users with contextual support via live or AI-driven support from within the app whenever and wherever they need it. Its user feedback features can collect real-time usage data as well as directly request and encourage feedback from users about their experiences — good or bad — with the change. This enables you to continuously optimize the change initiative and ensure a smooth user experience, not to mention keeping users engaged in the process for the long haul.

Make a digital adoption solution an integral part of your successful change program

Digital transformation often faces human resistance. Imagine rolling out a new CRM system that will digitally transform your organization but also radically change how your employees do their jobs. Despite the corporate vision and goals, such massive change is a scary proposition for many workers. 

A well-defined change management program, supported by a data-driven DAP like Pendo, can bridge the gap between the company’s need for digital transformation and the human side of change. By following these five best practices — clearly defined goals, stakeholder engagement, effective communication, user empowerment, and ongoing support — you can ensure a smooth transition, high user adoption, and a successful digital transformation journey.

Want to learn more about how Pendo helps drive successful change management? Get a custom demo here.