The modern business organization lives or dies by its ability to respond to change. It must embody a spirit of adaptation. However, most humans resist change. The introduction or modification of an Information System is one of the most far-reaching changes that an organization can undergo, especially when these changes are accompanied by, or driven by, business process changes. To reap the full benefits of a new system, management must find ways to overcome dysfunctional behaviors brought on by the implementation of a new Information System. Experience has shown that resistance to change can be the foremost obstacle facing successful system implementation.
People’s concerns regarding IT and business process changes center on actual and perceived changes in work procedures and relationships, corporate culture, and organizational hierarchy that these changes bring. To address these fears, systems professionals and users must collaborate on the design and implementation of the new system. This collaboration must include the system itself and the process that will be followed during its development and installation. The change must be managed, but not directed. Rather, users must participate in the development and change processes.
Research and practice provide guidance to help us achieve successful change. A recent research study found that users who effectively participated in a systems change process were able to affect outcomes, and had a more positive attitude and a higher involvement with the new system. And, the system was more successful. 1 In practice, we find that successful, large IT change projects—especially those involving enterprise systems—must be driven by the business processes and managed by the business process owners. In these cases, IT assists with, but does not drive, the change process.
Technological change is not welcomed if it comes as a surprise. Users at all levels must be brought into the process early in the SDLC to encourage suggestions and discussion about the change. Users involved from the start and given a say in redesigning their jobs tend to identify with the system. As problems arise, their attitude is more likely to be, “We have a problem,” rather than, “The system makes too many mistakes.”
In engineering a systems change, it is crucial to consider the human element. Resistance should be anticipated and its underlying causes addressed. User commitment can be enlisted by encouraging participation during development and by using achievement of business objectives, rather than IT change, to drive the process. Potential users must be sold on the benefits of a system and made to believe that they are capable of working with that system. A policy of coercion will lead to substandard performance.