The key to effective IT change management

December 09, 2019

The willingness to accept and embrace change is crucial in any organisation, but it's a word that can strike fear into many. Whilst some people positively thrive on change, for others, it's enough to have them heading for the hills.

Paul Arnold is a Director at Change Management company Able and How. Writing for the Chartered Management Institute, he said, "Change can be the foundation of competitive advantage but, to be effective, a change management programme must identify areas of potential conflict, address the needs of everyone in the organisation and, crucially, bridge the gap between the aspirations of executives, technical project teams and the people affected by the change."

Embrace change

Understandably, switching over to a new legal IT system will have its challenges.  When a law firm has used the same system for a number of years, people become comfortable and confident working with it. Asking them to start again and venture into the unknown is something they may be highly resistant to.

With the right planning, leadership and communication however, there's no reason why a new IT system can't be welcomed and implemented with the minimum of pain.

Communication is key

Before you embark on a programme of change, it's crucial that your people know why change is needed. Communicate clearly your reasoning, how a new system will make life easier, and the ways in which it will benefit your firm.  With this knowledge, it's more likely that everyone will view the change positively and be willing to get on board.

Lead by example

For change to happen effectively, it's essential that Partners lead the way from the top down. In his article for The Telegraph, Doug Barlow, Client Services Director for IT specialist Wirebird, says that any change requires, "100% commitment from the senior management team to drive change forward into the business, so that it is incorporated into the culture, and employees are comfortable with the change rather than fearful of it."

Inspire and reassure

According to the University of Aberdeen, successful change implementation is also fundamentally affected by the quality of the change leadership team. That means it's crucial that your IT change management programme is led by professionals who can inspire, motivate and reassure those around them. They state, "As a manager it is your role to not only cope with and adapt to change positively, but to also support your team through the change process: from initial anxiety and disorientation, right through to peak performance.”

Continual support

Knowledge is power. Everyone within your law firm will need in-depth training to get to grips with the new system and should be given as much time as they need to absorb the information. The best idea is not to overwhelm, but to introduce training gradually, and reassure that ongoing support is available, even after the new system is up and running.

In order to facilitate a smooth transition and total buy-in, perhaps we can heed the words of Ken Blanchard, American author and management expert. He suggests that 'it is not change, but control that people resist. If we are able to motivate and meaningfully involve them in change projects, that reduces resistance."

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