Managing Change Part 2: Building Technical Considerations into Your Change Management Strategy

By:
Russell Duncan
Dec 9, 2020

In part one of the Managing Change Series, we discussed the importance of culture, the message, and people as part of a successful change management strategy. But for a strategy to be fully effective it must include considerations for the technical processes and systems involved. This includes creating plans for testing and deploying client software, managing user desktops including the update/release cycles, and processes for communicating these changes to users and stakeholders.

In this article we discuss how to build technology considerations into your change management strategy in the context of a new document management system (DMS) to ensure your success from the start.

Design & Build

Implementing a new DMS in any organization involves numerous configuration decisions that will make up the final design of the system. An effective strategy will seek to make these decisions in a systematic way by:

  • Identifying the key stakeholders (users, admins, support, or anyone who has an interest in how the technology may be used or implemented) and include plans to seek their input.
  • Understanding and documenting the stakeholder’s requirements and needs. For example, the design phase of a DMS implementation would seek to discover how users work with their documents (through interviews or other discovery methods) by answering questions such as:
  • Which systems are you currently using and why?
  • Are there any special security needs for your digital content or other data?
  • Are there any retention policies or requirements to consider?
  • What are the common types or categories of documents that you work with in matters?
  • How do you collaborate with external parties (clients, opposing counsel, courts, patent office, vendors, etc.)?
  • Is there any metadata or tagging that would be beneficial for tracking the status of a document or searching for it later?
  • Identifying constraints of the system and your organization
  • What is this technology capable of doing? What can it not do?

This information is then used to design and build out your new DMS system. In a NetDocuments implementation, this includes designing cabinets and workspaces, database tables and custom attribute fields, security permissions, and client software or desktop configuration.

Another important consideration is integration points such as connections to time, billing, or accounting systems; records management; enterprise search; identity providers; etc. Make plans to involve stakeholders for these systems in your implementation to ensure a smooth transition.

Test & Deploy

Once you have an initial design, it’s time to put it to the test. This ensures the system design will fulfil the objectives of the organizational change initiative and meet users’ needs.

When creating a test plan there are three key steps:

  1. Coordinate with other updates, upgrades, and installs. Are you rolling out Windows or Office updates at the same time? You should make plans to test these products alongside each other.
  2. Identify a group of people who can test the software. These may be end-users and/or more technical help desk personnel. Ideally this group would be a cross-section of skill levels among all roles or teams.

  3. Develop a list of tasks for the testers to perform. These can be as simple or complex as you like. For example, you may have users log in, perform a search to locate a document, then open and edit the document. You might also design the tests to simply verify that certain default settings are in place.

Not only should the software itself be tested, but the user experience should be tested as well. This ensures that the software functions as designed and more importantly satisfies the user’s desired workflow. This is done through user acceptance testing (UAT), in which users experience the system in a simulated—yet realistic—scenario to determine whether the design is acceptable. Prior to UAT, you must identify:

  • What edge cases exist that may reach the limits of the system?

  • What basic or essential tasks do users need to perform their work?

  • Does the design fit in with the larger change management goals or objectives? Do stakeholders know how these technical changes will be supporting the overall objectives?

  • Coordinate with user representatives, user experience or desktop experience team, or help desk personnel. Have a plan on gathering and handling feedback from users during testing.

  • What exactly will be tested? Specific features, workflows? Will you be measuring speed or performance? Ease of use or accessibility? Or the way a particular configuration has been designed?

The information gathered from these tests may be used to fine-tune the design of the system, user experience, and training. Often it will surface issues, errors, or limits that users are likely to encounter in addition to difficult concepts that will need to be targeted in training sessions.

Managing Client Desktops

A major part of a technology implementation project is testing and deploying software to client workstations. A change management strategy should seek to ensure this process is as smooth as possible. To avoid any hiccups ask yourself these questions:

  • What exactly needs to be installed and where?
  • How is new software currently installed for users?
  • What is required for installing the client software?
  • Will that process be required to change in any way to accommodate this new technology?

The answers to these questions should be incorporated into your planning and testing. But it’s important to recognize that the desktop deployment phase, especially for on-premises software, will rarely be conducted only once. As new updates or upgrades are released, you will need to repeat many of those steps which is why establishing, refining, and documenting those processes are critical. Note that when utilizing cloud-based software almost none of these steps will need to be repeated as updates are pushed automatically to the application—greatly streamlining the change management processes from a technology perspective.

Whether using on-premises or cloud software, vendors will typically publish changes prior to releasing an update or upgrade. Staying up to date on the product’s new features or known issues will help you review each update before it is rolled out to the users.

For example, NetDocuments provides Update Notes for the installed client software applications it supports, to which you can subscribe, review, and determine what is relevant for your organization. Some important considerations whenever a new update is on the horizon are:

  • Will any downtime be required?
  • How often is each component updated?
  • What are the components that will be updated?

You’ll also need to put into place a plan for how this new software will be supported going forward, asking what escalation channels exist and if there are additional technical resources required to adequately support the technology.

Communication

To be effective, a change management strategy must include plans for ample communicate to users and among all stakeholders.

The key is to keep users learning. This may include new features, known issues, work-arounds, etc. These can be compiled from the vendor’s release notes, UAT test results, and other feedback from users. Your change management strategy will be more effective if you can correlate this information to your organization’s broader objectives. For example, a new email filing feature may support your objective of complying with email capture and retention requirements.

This learning can happen in a variety of places and times. You’ll want to blend on-demand support with live sessions and make the information accessible and digestible for users. Use brief targeted written instructions, short videos, and unstructured Q&A sessions, with some structured training on occasion.

Lastly, get buy-in – find champions and advocates in every team or department who can lead out in adopting the new technology and act as go-to resources for their colleagues.

Balancing Change Management Strategies

While change management typically focuses on user’s behavior, high adoption rates will never be realized if users consistently experience the pains of a poorly designed system. Indeed, your change management strategy will have been successful only when you have arrived at a final design that has been tested, deployed, and communicated to all stakeholders.

It's important to focus on your firm’s specific problems, and how they are being resolved from new tech, to foster a positive perception that increases user adoption from the start. Additionally, harnessing the power of your firm’s superusers (the people who will interact with your system most often) by continuing to tap into their user experiences and takeaways to continue to optimize your systems.

Changing work habits isn't easy, but with the right system, the benefits far outweigh the growing pains. Ready to take your first step toward a DMS implementation? Affinity Consulting can act as your partner to help you accomplish your project objectives, while helping your team adapt quickly to their new technology solutions. Learn more here.

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Article written by Russell Duncan at Affinity. Russell provides consulting, training, and support for NetDocuments document management system implementations. He began working in technical support at NetDocuments in 2010. He gradually assumed the management of their support website and knowledgebase resources. After completing a degree in instructional design, Russell transitioned into a position overseeing the training and support for the NetDocuments partner network, which he did for two years. Since joining Affinity in 2018, Russell has been using his expertise of NetDocuments to provide consulting and training to law firms and corporate legal departments.

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