In the last few weeks in two different scenarios, I have encountered organizations that were discussing their efforts to shift from a paper accounts receivable environment to an electronic accounts receivable process. In those discussions, the approach being used for “change management” was being contemplated or reviewed. The conclusion being reached by both groups was that with what the solution provider offered relative to training support supplemented by their internal training organization they had “change management” covered.

What is wrong with this assumption……change management does NOT equate to training!

In fact, if a receivables management solution provider has already been selected and change management hasn’t even been considered until this juncture, they are already behind.

Once the need to make a shift from paper to electronic accounts receivable is determined this is where the change efforts should start. Who knows the most about what works and what doesn’t work? The individuals performing it! By involving the team in coming up with ideas and potential solutions for how things can be done differently, you just engaged them in the change effort. Remember, change management isn’t something you “do to” an organization; it’s something you “lead them through”.

By waiting until it is time to train the teams on the new technology before any thought is even given to how the change is going to impact the organization, serious risk is being introduced into the potential for the project’s success. This is supported by The Executive Center of Excellence’s research, which sites multiple sources, which conclude that 70% of all company technology initiatives fail. The primary reason for the failure is not the technology but the lack of effective change management.

Much like the technology deployment follows a project plan, the associated change management efforts must follow a similar approach. Accounts receivable transformation efforts require a strategic plan and roadmap for transition of the human infrastructure that follows a complementary timeline to the technology deployment. Training on new processes and on the new technology is definitely a key component of that plan, but it does not equate to the entire change management initiative.

An effective change management plan has to be devised at the onset of the accounts receivable transformation effort and include as a baseline the following key components:

  1. A mechanism for enlisting feedback from the organization that establishes an easy to use two-way communication approach that is leveraged extensively throughout the project and beyond
  2. Ensuring there is constant communication regarding the project status, the expected outcomes, and the opportunities the initiative presents for the team – a void of information can sabotage any effort
  3. Assessing the differing personalities within the organization and defining action plans for each of them to ensure they have a clear understanding of future state
  4. Articulating clearly the “WIIFM” – What’s In It for Me – for each workgroup and the individual involved.

Organizations actually need more tactical hands-on management and direction during a transformation effort than normal. As a result, just like there must a project manager with specific expertise in how to drive a successful deployment of the Receivables Management System, the company must also invest in the change management expertise and planning necessary to lead the organization through the change. Without managing the change associated with the shift to electronic accounts receivable, the company is destined to fall into the pool of organizations who invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into a system that now sits idle because the organization was not “prepared” to embrace it.

So don’t make the mistake of believing that because you have a robust training effort to take the organization through once everything is decided and deployed you’ve checked the box on change management. In that scenario, you have failed leading people “through the change”.

Are you planning on implementing an organizational change? How do you plan on managing change?