Ten tips for coping with change

Managing your IT assets as you would an investment portfolio is an excellent way to prioritize projects, cut costs, and boost ROI. But it’s also crucial for surviving disruptive events such as mergers and consolidations, or when phasing out legacy apps in favor of new ones.

“Companies with strong strategic portfolio management capabilities will be able to proactively and methodically address so-called disruptive technologies,” says Jeffrey Kaplan, a consultant at PRTM management consultants, and author of Strategic IT Portfolio Management. “With a proper portfolio management process there’s time to retool employees, plan the migration, and make good strategic decisions.”

There’s no shortage of software to help with the job. Portfolio management suites such as Artemis, Computer Associates’ Clarity, Pacific Edge Mariner, ProSight Portfolios, and UMT, recently purchased by Microsoft, offer a wide range of tools for collecting and analyzing data about IT assets and using them to automate workflow. In addition, many organizations create their own custom IT management apps.

But implementing a software suite isn’t enough, Kaplan says. Before investing in a solution, he recommends that CIOs and CTOs sit down with top management, make sure everyone understands what’s already in the company’s IT portfolio, and then hammer out common objectives for managing it.

Whether you’re shifting to a new technology framework or outsourcing key IT functions, implementing change can be unsettling for everyone, and not just those who may find themselves in a new job when the dust settles. Here’s how to survive and even thrive in the midst of disruption.

1 Spread the word. Big changes should never be a secret. Issue regular updates even when there’s little to report, advises Pam Butterfield, a longtime consultant and president of Business Success Tools. That will help minimize rumours and stem the flow of misinformation.

2 Speak with one voice. Employees need to hear a consistent message, even if it’s bad news. Stick to the script, and don’t say “I don’t know” when the real answer is “I know, but I’m not allowed to say.”

3 Encourage feedback. Create forums where staffers can ask questions and discuss their concerns. It’s better to have discontent out in the open than festering in the cube farms.

4 Train early and often. In most cases it’s cheaper and more efficient to train your existing employees than to find new ones. Training should be an ongoing process, not a one-time event, says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director at Robert Half Technology.

5 Don’t let knowledge walk away. You want your best employees to stay, even if their jobs don’t. Smart companies offer in-placement services that make it easy for staffers to find other opportunities within the organization.

6 Get the skills. If your managers don’t have the necessary interpersonal skills, bring in an HR or change management consultant to help make the transition.

7 Understand your IT portfolio. “You need to establish shared situational awareness, so everyone, including management, has the same view of what’s installed and how the new disruption affects it,” advises Jeffrey Kaplan, director at consultancy PRTM.

8 Think strategically. Only about one in five organizations plan IT budgets more than 12 months out, Kaplan says, but companies that take a long-term view of their portfolios handle disruption better.

9 Be realistic. More than likely, things will take longer and cost more than you think. Don’t expect everything to be back to normal in six months.

10 Think transformation. If you know change is coming, it shouldn’t be disruptive, says Michael Kogon, CEO of IT consultancy Definition6. “A security breach or a fire is disruptive because it comes as a surprise,” he says. “But if you’ve announced you’re adopting a telecommuting program to reduce office space costs and then you do it, that’s called a ‘plan’.

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