Managing Business Change when Implementing New Software > Change Management  > Managing Business Change when Implementing New Software
How to Manage Business Change when Implementing new Software

Managing Business Change when Implementing New Software

This guest blog is brought to you by Wendy Garcarz from The Wendy Effect, change management specialists,


When businesses want to introduce change they are careful to make the right choices. It may be a computer programme, a new way of processing invoices or taking a new product to market, they want to choose the right solution.  Many business leaders feel that if they get this bit right, change will happen smoothly and completely but this is seldom true.  The system implementation is the easier part of change, the more difficult element is getting the workforce onboard and getting them to adopt the changes as part of their normal working day.  The most common cause of change failure is peoples resistance to change.


This simple guide has been designed to make you aware of the key elements of change that need to actively be managed so that change is adopted smoothly and quickly becomes “business as usual”.


Change occurs as a process, not as an event. Business change does not happen instantaneously because there is an announcement, a staff meeting or even a go-live date. Individuals do not change simply because they received an email or attended a training programme. When we experience change, we move from what we had known and done, through a period of transition to arrive at a desired new way of behaving and doing our job.

By seeing change as a process and breaking it down into distinct stages, you can plan your approach more effectively to ensure your people successfully adopt the change to how they work.


Understanding Change as a Process


The easiest, most basic approach to understanding change as a process is to break change down into distinct, understandable elements. The three stages of change[1] provide a powerful framework: Unfreezing: preparation for the change, Change: implementing the change and Refreeze: adopting change as normal practice.


Unfreeze Stage


The leaders in the business need to:

  • Give a clear description of the benefits of the change and the risks of not changing. These need to be consistent messages given by all senior people in the company
  • Be clear about why the change needs to happen now, without a sense of urgency change can limp along and fizzle out
  • Complete a readiness for change assessment (see template on pages 8-9) so that you know where to focus your efforts and resources to get the best results
  • Appoint a leader of the change and create a change team of key people to design and implement the change plan
  • Build into the transition plan a communication strategy of key messages, target audiences and timescales.


Change Stage


The leaders in the business need to:

  • Implement the plan and ensure everyone is clear about who needs to do what and when
  • Train/coach the change leader and the change team so that they can lead by example
  • Communicate expectations of the change process, standards and any quick wins as progress reports using as many channels and opportunities as possible
  • Address any resistance as it surfaces through communication, training and coaching


Refreeze Stage


  • Remember to celebrate successes along the way, recognize those who are performing well and going the extra mile to make the change work
  • Assess progress across the company and make adjustments as required
  • Communicate and acknowledge benefits and gains to the whole workforce


Your Transition Plan


A great way to start this process is for the senior people in the company to come together and answer 5 crucial questions:


  1. Why is the change needed now?
  2. What is the change and what will it do for the business?
  3. Who will the change affect and how?
  4. How might they react to the change?
  5. What will happen if change does not take place?


The answers to these questions will provide the transition overview, discussion should agree 3 or 4 key goals of the change.  You need to record any assumptions you are making about the change and identify any associated risks.  This forms the basis of the transition plan.


Transition Overview:

In this template, instructions are included in italics. When you have completed the template and no longer need the instructions, delete them.

Provide a brief overview of the transition goals, any assumptions that the plan is based on, and any risks that have been identified that could severely limit your ability to complete the transition on schedule.

















The transition team:

List the members of the transition team, providing the name of the person who fulfills each roll.

Transition Role Who

Transition Team Leader


Project Leader


Transition Specialist


Project Team


Database Administrator



Who is responsible? When is it Due?

Transition planning meeting  to create a transition plan with all the stages involved




Test the readiness of the company and its workforce for change



Establish a communication plan that outlines the messages that need to be conveyed and the channels to be used for the communication.


Develop a matrix of skills, knowledge and behaviours  needed to successfully implement the change


Conduct a gap analysis with all staff to identify key people and knowledge and to highlight gaps and develop a training plan and schedule

Determine a timeline for the plan and highlight transition milestones


Determine roles and responsibilities (during and after transition)


Training Needs

Based on the estimated skill levels, and some knowledge of the skill levels of the production support staff, estimate the training needs. List recommended knowledge transfer activities. List any courses that will be required, and include a schedule of when those courses are offered.



Training Plan

Provide a training plan, including a schedule for completing any necessary course work, and for knowledge transfer activities.



Resources available




Method for monitoring progress




Controls for managing resources





Resistance to Change


When considering implementing any change in business careful thought should be made about the impact on staff.

There will be a mixed response to any change but the universal principle holds true that about 20% of staff will welcome change and want to get involved.  About 20% of staff will absolutely resist any change and the remaining 60% will sit on the fence until they can see the impact of the change before they make their minds up.


Mistake number 1 that many companies make is to place all of their efforts with the 20% of early adopters but the reality is they are so motivated by change generally they will go ahead and make it happen without any additional support.

Mistake number 2 is the rest of the resource is spent trying to convert the 20% of corporate concrete to be advocates of the change.  This is unlikely to work as those responsible for the change will have very little influence over this group.


Solution:  Spend time and effort communicating the benefits of the change with the fence sitters.  The quicker they get on board with the early adopters, the quicker everything moves forward and a critical mass of people will be achieved to give weight to the change.


Dealing with the Corporate Concrete


Resistance to change manifests itself in many ways, from foot-dragging and poor morale to petty sabotage and even outright rebellions. The best tool for leaders of change is to understand the predictable, universal sources of resistance in each situation and then build strategies to overcome them.


People generally are resistant to change because;


  • They fear the unknown: can they do it, what will happen to them
  • Mistrust: they are part of a history that makes them question motives & behaviours
  • They lose control, influence or job security
  • The timing is bad….
  • They just don’t like change


By creating a change leader or change team they can be responsible for communicating the changes, engaging others and getting them involved with the changes.  To be effective at managing resistance, there must be an understanding of what is ultimately causing the resistance and an active plan to counteract those causes.


Fear of the unknown:

This type of resistance occurs mainly when change is implemented without warning the affected staff members before the change occurs. When change (especially what is perceived as negative change) is imposed onto people without giving them adequate warning and without helping them through the process of understanding what the change will include and how their jobs/work will be affected, it can cause people to push back against the change due to their fear of the unknown.

Solution: use your change plan to involve people and communication plans and progress.  Do this formally (team briefing, regular emails or a newsletter) and informally (posters on notice boards, a social event or meet in the pub) and communicate frequently and use a variety of channels so that all staff members are reached with the change message.



If staff members respect their manager because they have built up trust over a period of time, the team will be more accepting of any changes. If the manager is new and has not had a chance to do this, then mistrust can turn into resistance to change.

Solution: use a trusted staff member to be a leading figure in the change team and ensure they communication in an honest way, sharing what they know and being honest about what they don’t know.


Loss of job security/control:

This type of resistance occurs when companies announce they will be restructuring or downsizing. This causes fear among employees that they will lose their jobs or be moved into other positions without their input.  The anxiety that is created is very real and difficult to deal with because people may struggle to articulate it.

Solution: ensure there is a proper process in place and the company has taken good HR advice so that legislation is adhered to and people are treated with respect and honesty.  Sometimes a change will result in job losses but the impact on people can be softened if some consideration is given to how these messages are delivered and the quality of support given to people is good.


Bad timing:

The timing is crucial but sometimes this is an element of the change that the company cannot control.  If the timing is awkward then be honest with people and offer support to help them adjust.

Solution: Don’t implement too much change on people over too short a period of time.  They will need an opportunity to see a change through and consolidate before the next wave hits them.  Provide a clear vision of what the world will look like after the change, share the plan and tell them how the change will work and give some timescales too.  Answer any questions so that they appreciate why the change needs to take place now.


They just don’t like change:

Differences exist in people’s tolerance for change. Some people enjoy change because it provides them with an opportunity to learn new things and grow personally and professionally. Others actively dislike change because they prefer a set routine – these are usually the people who become suspicious of change and are more likely to resist.

Solution:  when presenting the change emphasis the things that will stay the same so that they have some familiarity to work with.  Once they recognize something that they can hang onto they may be prepared to consider the real changes.  They will still complain and be negative but patiently reinforce the familiar.


Being aware of the reasons people resist change will help you implement change with fewer issues.  It is rarely a painless process, but it can be a lot less painful for everyone when it is done with empathy and compassion after thorough analysis, planning, and relentless communication.


Change Readiness Assessment


Rate your companies readiness for change by completing the brief assessment.


Category Description Score
Business Environment ·       Is your sector undergoing significant changes?

·       Is the change driven by Economics?

·       Is the change driven by technology?

·       Is the change driven by customer demand?

·       Is the change imminent?

o   3-6 months

o   7-12 months

o   18 months-2 years

·       Rate the risk of staying the same (no change)

o   Low risk

o   Medium risk

o   High risk




















Companyculture ·       A strong hierarchy of management levels

·       Team based decision making

·       Individuals with personal accountability for their performance





Company climate ·       There is a willingness to try new things

·       Change is often slow and complex

·       Change is slow because there is a blame culture




Prior experience of change ·       Not really done it before

·       Have some change experience with mixed results





Category Description Score
Innovation ·       Company happy to experiment with new ideas & approaches

·       Easier to get forgiveness than permission

·       Company struggles with new things; red tape reporting to meetings/committees






Communication ·       Two way communication is common

·       Very traditional methods of communication used but staff do have a voice

·       Communication only top down






Final Score




If you scored 60-80+ you are ready for change, there are operational drivers that make change necessary and there is enough positive attitude towards change to make it work.  There is likely to be plans devised and implemented and there will be a high degree of ownership by staff to make the change happen.


If your scored 39-59 you may find change problematic, you will need to check a process is in place to create a change plan, appoint a team to be responsible for its implementation and measure progress.  Consistent and regular communication is crucial and remembering to celebrate success as you move forward is important to keep staff on board.


If you scored 10-38 change is going to be very difficult and needs an urgent look at all your systems and processes to identify what you have in place to implement a change plan.  It is critical that the process set out in this guide is followed if you are to successfully implement a change plan.


[1] Kurt Lewins 1947

The Wendy Effect - Change Management Specialists

Wendy Garcarz

Wendy Garcarz founder of The Wendy Effect


Wendy has nearly 30 years experience of managing change in organisations and has worked with large multinationals, SMEs and individual business leaders to successfully implement complex change programmes.


The key is to remember that it is your people that deliver the change.  A great system or process may be the starting point but if you fail to engage your most valuable resource (your staff) then change is likely to flounder.  Creating a climate where people feel supported to try something different and where they can develop new skills doe not happen on its own.  Leaders in the company have to create the right environment and I can help you do that


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