Podcast: Change Management Explored with Michael Hopkins

Michael Grace, RPI Consultants Tech Pro Unicorn, talks all things Change Management with Michael Hopkins, RPI’s Change Management Consultant. The discuss the practical application of Change Management on large technology projects and why it these services are getting renewed attention.

Transcript

Intro/Outro:

Welcome to the Tech Pro Unicorn Podcast, brought to you by RPI Consultants. A podcast about the magic of digital transformation through technology. Each week we’ll cover topics related to ERP, RPA, business transformation, leadership, healthcare, and unicorns.

Michael Grace:

And welcome back to another episode of Tech Pro Unicorn. Today I am joined by Michael Hopkins. Michael Hopkins is with RPI Consultants. Michael, could you introduce yourself and share with the folks what you do?

Michael Hopkins:

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, Michael. As you said, my name is Michael Hopkins, I lead our change management practice. A little bit of a new practice for us, something we’ve been developing over the last 18 months or so. We’re excited to bring some new services, bring in new perspective, especially to these larger projects that we’re doing around V11 cloud suite migrations.

Michael Grace:

Awesome. Well thanks for taking the time, I appreciate it.

Michael Hopkins:

Thank you.

Michael Grace:

So, change management is just a consistent buzz word in the project management community, right? And over the last few years it’s taken on new life with some organizations that tout themselves as a change management certification organizations and such, so we’ll touch on that as well. But for the audience could you share a little bit about what change management really is?

Michael Hopkins:

Yeah, absolutely. So for us, so our background and our expertise is helping large companies through these large software projects. And so change management for us is really figuring out ways to invest in people and in communication to help ensure that the project that we’re delivering is successful. And so we kind of talk about it, and a lot of change management folks talk about it this way, it’s the people side of change, right? It’s the processes people, the side of any sort of project. And so our change management is really focused on how do we build up why an organization is doing this project, which we call value propositions, and then communicating that out to the user base. So as it becomes time to test software, do training, and eventually go live, hopefully we’ve created a pretty good foundation of why folks should be interested in this change, why they should go through the effort, and get ready and then actually adopt change.

Michael Grace:

Awesome. So people tend to be, when you look at projects and you, especially like a cloud suite project or any real large project and you’re trying to cut costs, seems like change management is where people kind of look. And they’re like, “Oh, we don’t really need change management.” But you kind of do, right? Like you said, otherwise you go through a project checklist essentially of tasks, and you kind of leave the people behind. And then you have all this resistance to, you know there’s that saying, you can do the project with them or you can do the project to them. So I think change really brings them along on the effort.

Michael Hopkins:

Yeah, absolutely. And it is one of those things that’s kind of easy to say, “Oh, that sounds great. Let’s include it in scope.” And then once you get inside of a project, your timeline starting to pinch a little bit, costs are starting to move a little bit. It’s an easy thing to look at for sure. And the way that we like to talk about it with our clients is that the true change management is really the most effective when it comes from internal. And so the way we approach change management on these projects is not taking a lot of the heavy lifting on ourselves, which is why generally speaking or relatively, there’s not as many hours assigned to change management as there is to let’s say, project management or any of the other tasks associated with the project.

Michael Hopkins:

But what we hope we’re doing is creating a foundation or a framework to be able to go back to our clients and say, “Hey, this is what an effective change management program looks like. This is how you should build a change champion program. These are the communications that you should be thinking about. This is how to get out and get in front of your user base to make sure that they know these changes are coming.” Ultimately every organization and every culture is different, and it’s really hard for someone coming in from the outside. I could be the best change management consultant in the world, but without having truly worked in and around your people, I’m not going to be able to speak the same language. I’m not going to be able to speak the same values that your people can.

Michael Hopkins:

And so, like I said, we really tried to encourage our clients to recruit leaders within their organization, onboard departments like organizational development, or even internal marketing groups or external marketing groups to help create some of these campaigns and help create some of these structures where they’re actually delivering the change management themselves. And in that sense, in terms of a project cost, our true change management services and what gets built starts to become, not nominal, but is much more focused on how the organization can empower themselves.

Michael Grace:

Awesome. So do all engagements have change management kind of built in as part of the approach and methodology?

Michael Hopkins:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean the fact that we’re sitting here talking about change management is novel in the sense that enterprise technology projects are just getting larger and more complex. And so we’re having to talk about this in a more purposeful way. That’s why we’ve put together a change management program, that’s why we put together the structure of services to embed, or what we call integrate into our normal project delivery. But the truth is change management happens all the time, and it’s always happened on our projects.

Michael Hopkins:

A lot of times that gets covered in an area like project management, but you could even extend that to thinking about how are functional leads deliver training to end users, that’s also change management. And so I think there’s always been a layer of, how do we effectively get people ready to use a new system, to adopt a new process, to get used to a new organizational structure? That’s always been there, but it’s the size and the scale of projects now that’s put a bigger emphasis on it. And ultimately when you’re paying this much money, you’re spending this much time to put in these huge, huge systems, you need to get that ROI. You need to hit those KPIs you want, otherwise it’s really not worth it. And so ultimately that’s why change management is such an important conversation now, though it’s always been around.

Michael Grace:

Well, you’re leading in really nicely to the next question that I was going to ask was, how important is change management? I mean if we just ignored change management, what would be the result if a client just said, “We’re not doing any of that change people, touchy feely stuff. We’re just going to slam in this cloud suite implementation and folks are just going to suck it up.”?

Michael Hopkins:

Yeah, the consequences are, I think are fairly obvious. You’re going to have folks not following process. You’re going to have folks specifically doing work outside of the ERP, which means all those pie in the sky sort of ideals that you wanted out of a large cloud suite ERP implementation like visibility, process intelligent, identifying bottlenecks, being able to go and hold users accountable for the work that they’re doing, all that goes away. And so that’s very real and that’s very quick and obvious.

Michael Hopkins:

I think the things that are harder to measure, those consequences are things like users just generally not wanting to use the system right. What does that mean when a user decides, I’m just going to send this email and talk to this person instead of following the process inside of the ERP? Well first of all it’s slower, right? You’re not going to have visibility, all the things that we’ve talked about. But on top of that it’s just generating a culture where the teams are not trusting the organization or trusting the leadership. Cloud suite in particular, any cloud-based implementation, any enterprise technology is supposed to ultimately make everyone’s job easier. But it can’t do that unless everybody’s going in the same direction. And so those are, I think there’s tangible and there’s also the harder, more ethereal consequences of what happens.

Michael Grace:

Awesome, that makes total sense. And I think it’s why we chose to build it into the methodology, at least at the most basic of levels that folks can even add on to. But there’s another term that’s kind of a buzz word that folks throw around too, organizational change management. Which sometimes to me seems bigger than a project, right? You hear customers go, “We have an organizational change management need.” And I’m like, “What does that even mean?” You help the group understand what organizational change management means?

Michael Hopkins:

Yeah. So the way that we kind of talk about our change management, the integrated change management that we deliver, is really focusing on the change against the people, processes, and technology that live around the implementation we’re doing. Right now we’re an implementation partner, that’s what we’re doing, and we’re going to help you manage the change around that. Organizational change management is a much bigger concept and it is a much bigger project. And that’s why you see these huge consulting firms, that’s what they want to go deliver. And it’s these multi-year sometimes engagements.

Michael Hopkins:

Because what they’re doing is, they’re going and they’re measuring, what’s your organizational structure look like? What’s that org chart look like? Who reports to who? Who is sitting down with users and saying, how many minutes are you spending doing this function or this process? Comparing that to another user, finding averages, figuring out if you implement this one change into the ERP, into the software, is that going to adjust this by 10 seconds? Is this going to adjust it by 20 seconds? And that’s important work, and I think that there is a lot of benefit and there’s a lot of efficiency to find when you really commit yourself to an organizational change management project.

Michael Hopkins:

It’s just that doesn’t necessarily support the specific implementations that we’re talking about, in the sense that they really shouldn’t be done at the same time. If you’re talking about doing organizational change management, I think it would be our recommendation that you would really want to spend time doing that immediately before or immediately following a large technology project. Because you would want to capture a point in time to say, if you’re doing it before, this is where we are now, this is where we want to gain efficiencies. And that helps you identify and during your implementation to say, all right we have to focus here because this is where our biggest inefficiency are. Or following an implementation to say, hey we’ve created these new processes. We’re going to go measure how effective users are coming from a legacy process into this new process. So it’s something that I think is important is just needs to probably be divorced from the idea of in the middle of an implementation.

Michael Grace:

Awesome. Yeah, the change related to changing the business process is often more complex than the configuration type of activities, right? The design, not to downplay the implementation, but the design of an actual system, the configuration, the testing, the iterations of testing and such. Sometimes actually getting customers and clients to give up how they’re doing it or that business process, and change that process or change, especially when it goes beyond their department out to their customer base. Whether those be external to the organization or not, getting them to make those types of changes is often outside of the scope of what we do typically on a project, but often necessary to produce the best result.

Michael Hopkins:

Well, I would even argue that it may be outside the capacity of most of these users to do both at the same time. Getting to know a new piece of software is challenging enough, right? We spend months going and designing, configuring, and delivering new implementations or new software. And pulling those users along is challenging enough. And so on top of that challenging user to think about, well how do we really get business done? And should we be changing the way we think about how we serve our internal or external customers? Or how we provide A, B or C? That’s a lot. And so I think that that does have to be considered that you want to be able to look at your end user and give them a roadmap, and give them something that is in their eyes digestible.

Michael Grace:

Awesome. Yeah, execution versus pomp and circumstances is kind of a hallmark of RPI, right? I always say we give you enough fluff, but then we really give you that executable strategy that makes a difference.

Michael Hopkins:

Yeah, I liked the way that you put that. My tendency has always described things as start small, build big. And so same sort of concept, right? Like what can we do that’s actually actionable, that can actually get wins on the scoreboard, or can actually make a little bit of progress so that’s what we can build from? Because you start creating these massive scopes and these massive concepts that really should be five to 10 year roadmaps, that’s a hard thing to wrap around and actually get started on.

Michael Grace:

Yep. So the whole space of change management I think had a little bit of lag behind the whole formalization of project management as a career path, as a body of knowledge, as a subject area. I think people started formalizing PMI and the PMP, and they started getting all this methodology, and that ridiculously large book from PMI about how do we do projects, right? And then they started to say, oh well wait a minute, there’s really that same body of knowledge, profession, career, field of study around change management. And from that emerged, you would think it would be tied to like PMI, but it isn’t. A separate group emerged called Prosci that seems to be the leader in the space around certifications of change practitioners. If you look for change management jobs, very often they prefer, they require, or they prefer somebody to be Prosci certified. Is it true you’re just not a good change professional if you’re not Prosci certified?

Michael Hopkins:

To me it’s similar in concept to the PMP. I think that Prosci has a lot of really incredible fundamentals, foundations that a change management professional can use, like tools in a toolbox. And I think the PMP has a similar concept, they teach you a lot of fundamentals and a lot of best practices that you should be able to take into a project management environment, and apply in order to be a bit better project manager. And there’s a lot in Prosci that is totally worth understanding, and learning, and knowing. But I think that the big key for us, especially as an organization who’s really focused on software implementation, is how do you turn around and use those fundamentals and those concepts to create executable activity? To go and deliver something that actually has an impact on the end of the project?

Michael Hopkins:

Because we end up working alongside other consulting groups and we have a lot of visibility into other projects, it’s easy to hear one of the big consulting groups stand up and they can talk for hours about Prosci fundamentals. And what that means to resistance management, and what that means to training, what that means to communication. I think the thing that RPI has always been really good at, like you mentioned earlier, was how do we deliver something based on those fundamentals that creates value?

Michael Hopkins:

And so, we don’t, right now we’re working on potentially getting a few of our folks into Prosci to go get that certification, because we know that it’s an important checkbox for some of our customers. But for us it’s way more important for us to create a methodology that actually delivers value. So when we talk about a communication plan, when we talk about a change champion program, when we talk about user assessments and training assessments and readiness assessments, we have actual deliverables that sit behind those. It’s not a lecture or a presentation to the C-suite to make them feel good that we know what change management is. It’s actual tools that we’re employing during the project to generate value and to improve adoption.

Michael Grace:

I love it, I love it. The-

Michael Hopkins:

Prosci’s great. Prosci great, [inaudible 00:17:40].

Michael Grace:

Having raised a bunch of kids and having them gone through sports, this is a terrible analogy and I’m sure I’ll get some sort of feedback if someone actually works for Prosci and such, but I’m going to say it anyway because I’m a unicorn and you can’t touch me. I just feel like their certification thing is like, sign up for our three day, $4,000 class. And from that you get a Prosci certification. It’s like, oh you’re a gymnast and you want to go to nationals? Well you got to go to these three meets that each cost $250. It’s less about assessing whether this person is really a great change agent and more about give us $4,000, we’ll put you through this class, we’ll guarantee that you pass. And then you’re a change professional and your career will take this big jump, right?

Michael Grace:

It’s the same thing with the PMP. There’s lots of PMPs out there that I don’t want anywhere near my project. Just because you have a cert doesn’t mean you’re effective. And even for people that are effective, I might be a great change practitioner for client X, and I just might not be the right fit for client Y.

Michael Hopkins:

Absolutely.

Michael Grace:

It has to be a good gel; it has to be a good fit. And I think there’s somebody out there for everyone. So if the folks listening we’re like, wow, okay. What are the top three things? If you wanted to implement something meaningful around change on your project what would Michael Hopkins say? Or you should try to really focus on these three things?

Michael Hopkins:

Yeah. So first and foremost, and for those that are listening probably don’t know this, my background is in sales and marketing. So it’s not going to surprise Mr. Grace to know that to me branding and messaging is the first and foremost thing that you should be doing around any large project. We go so far because our projects are this big, to come up with a project name, a project logo, project color scheme. Those things are really important in terms of visibility and making sure that when people see a word document, or a PowerPoint presentation, or a SharePoint site, or a poster sitting up in the cafeteria, when they see something representing that project they know what it is visually before ever reading anything. And to me that’s really important because that’s what makes a user or a person stop and say, “Oh, I’ve heard about that, I recognize that logo.” I’m going to stop and look at this poster rather than just pushing it aside so that you can sit down and have your lunch.

Michael Hopkins:

And I think the branding and the logo is really good for visibility and recognition, but the meat of it comes with the messaging. And so like I talked about earlier, part of our change management methodology includes value propositioning. And this is what’s truly unique to every single organization is to go back and say, hey what’s your mission as an organization? Okay, so your mission is to provide better patient care if you’re a hospital. Better patient care and more support for caregivers, right? Okay, so now you’re spending all this money on this large ERP, you’re going to do a finance and supply chain, and you’re going to do HCM. How does this investment, how does this change that we’re doing, what does this project mean to the organizational mission?

Michael Hopkins:

And then actually putting in black and white what some of those value propositions are. Maybe it’s so we can hire nurses faster when we need them. That has a direct correlation to providing patient care. So I think that branding and that messaging is the most important thing. It creates a clear, consistent image for the project, and it tells the users, your employees, your internal customers why this is coming and why they should care about it. So that’s number one.

Michael Hopkins:

The second most important thing I think is creating a feedback loop. And what I mean by this is a lot of change management will talk about assessments, going out and doing surveys and focus groups with end user groups to see what are your challenges? What would you like to see in the new system? When you’re getting closer to go live we go out and we say, how well was training? Do you think you missed anything? Is there anything you want us to re-cover? Those assessments are really great and really important, and they do make users feel heard and understood. And from that you generate a certain amount of just positive capital, right? Positive political capital with those users.

Michael Hopkins:

But I think that that really falls short if you’re not taking that information and routing that back into, first of all, your project communications, and just into your project delivery. And what I mean by that is if you’re doing these surveys and you’re finding out from a large number of your users that they have questions around a particular process, I don’t know exactly from training, I didn’t understand how do I go and submit a job rec? I didn’t understand that. You need to turn around and put that into your project communications. So if your general project communications like, “Go lives coming, this is happening, get excited.” You should say, “And here’s the five things that you need to remember.” This is how you do a job rec, right? So first of all that makes the users feel heard. They see that show up in project communications which makes them think that they’re, first of all helps them understand what they said they didn’t understand, and make sure that they know that you’re listening to them.

Michael Hopkins:

The methodology part of it is being able to adjust or pivot pretty quickly to say that, hey, if we have a significant training gap based on these assessments, we need to sort of pause for a minute, and go back and maybe redeliver some of these services, or redeliver some of these trainings to make sure these users understand. Because right now they don’t. And if we go live and these users don’t know how to do a job rec we’ve got some serious problems. And we’re not going to meet our KPIs, we’re not going to find ROI there. You’re just going to piss these users off [inaudible 00:23:38]. So those are the two most important things.

Michael Grace:

Awesome. I asked for three.

Michael Hopkins:

Oh, all right. Yeah, sure [crosstalk 00:23:52].

Michael Grace:

To your first one about branding and messaging, because it’s funny we were just on a very large complex project, and part of it didn’t necessarily go that great. We’ll keep the client name out of it to protect the innocent. And so the second part of it as they kept going and such they said, “We want to change our brand. We want to change what we’re calling this piece of it so that we’re not tied to that piece of it.” And it was like the first thing they wanted to do. They totally had pride of ownership over the effort that they were doing, and they associated it with the brand and the messaging. They wanted their own brand and messaging to go out related to what they were doing, unhindered by previous messaging from the other part.

Michael Hopkins:

Yeah, which is great, right? That’s great for that group that is really taking ownership for it. I think you want to try and find a way to keep it all together, because ultimately it is one organization, one project, and you want to try and tie it as much as possible. And the benefit of it is that that organization that has a lot of pride in, that’s really excited about it, you keep them tied under the same brand and that’s going to be contagious. Culture is culture. Bad culture is bad culture, good culture is good culture. It’s all momentum. And so if you have a group of users that are really excited, people are going to want to join them, right? People are automatically attracted to you, I want to go where someone’s having fun, someone’s having some success.

Michael Grace:

Yeah, awesome. So we have a lot of interns, and we get a lot of BA’s fresh out of college, and they’re trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. Personally I do a lot of personal mentoring and career mentoring. And sometimes people are like, “I want to be a project manager. How do I ascend to the ranks of project manager?” And I’m like, mm-hmm. Is change manager, is that a viable profession? And what would be some recommendations that you would have for somebody who wanted to pursue something like that as a career?

Michael Hopkins:

Yeah. So right now I would consider change management a total opportunity, a total growth area in terms of a career path. And mainly because, here it’s you and me, we’re sitting here talking about this, right? RPI’s dedicated all this time and energy into developing a true change management methodology around these projects. Our customers are asking for it, our customers are starting to hire for it. But the truth is what change management looks like, as we’ve talked about throughout our conversation today, it really changes per customer, per organization, per demographic. And so that to me, my entrepreneurial side, my [inaudible 00:26:55] and say, well that’s nothing but opportunity. Because if somebody can walk in and say, “Hey, I’ve really dedicated my career, or I’m dedicating my ca