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The Non-Technical Guide to Technical Change

In the whirlwind of innovation currently sweeping the business world, one crucial element often takes a back seat: change management. Any change, no matter how technical, needs managing to ensure deployment aligns with organisational readiness. But what happens when this balance is neglected? Organisations can come unstuck when technical teams, skilled in their craft but not used to thinking about the impact of the change on their people, find themselves faced with the challenges of implementation and, importantly, adoption. We hope this brief change management guide will help you.

Change can be disruptive and unsettling for your people at the best of times. But when it’s led by technical teams, the typical mindset of getting things done in the most straightforward way overlooks the importance of shifting mindsets and creating willingness to embrace change, something change management focuses on.

We see this regularly at Afiniti. Just recently, I was involved in a project in which a deployment tool had been replaced, impacting over 100 employees. Those employees received some documents and attended a one-time training session, but understanding the new process, why it was needed and, crucially, its benefits proved challenging for many. This caused unnecessary delays and heightened frustration between the teams. Fortunately, we were able to get them back on track, but how could they have approached the situation better?

Leading the programme with your internal change team or partnering with a business change specialist gives you the greatest chance of success. However, if things do have to be led by your technical team, you need to ensure they are employing some change management fundamentals. Enter the ADKAR model, a framework that equips leaders with the strategy, information, and enthusiasm needed to navigate change successfully.

While it is easy to outline the five stages of the ADKAR methodology, it’s useful to have a deeper understanding of how to reach each stage. So, here is our non-technical change management guide for technical change.

  1. Understanding and articulating the ‘why’

It is easy to get caught up in the technical details of a change without thinking about what’s in it for your stakeholders and why you’re changing in the first place. Technical teams may see a new tool or process as simply an upgrade or improvement without considering how it impacts the broader organisation and its goals. At the heart of any successful change lies a clear understanding and articulation of the ‘why’ behind it. The ‘why’ helps in connecting the dots between the technical advancements and the organisational objectives, which for a technical change often means reducing employee workload in the long-term. Intentionally building awareness of your ‘why’ will help people understand the purpose of your change and encourage them to support your vision and goals.

  1. Involving people from the start

Technical teams can often fall into the trap of only consulting fellow experts about their change journey. But when people at all levels are involved and listened to, it creates a sense of belonging and builds trust. This inclusive approach ensures that a wide array of perspectives is considered, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of potential challenges and opportunities. Engaging people from the beginning not only lays the groundwork for successful implementation and adoption but also fuels enthusiasm and desire for the change, setting a strong foundation for its progression.

  1. Crafting customised learning pathways

Technical change usually means technical training is required for users. This can often be supplied by the vendor, but might be a generic, one-size-fits-all approach, as we saw in the engagement detailed above. Instead, leaders should assess the unique needs and capabilities of impacted people, then build customised learning pathways to address their specific gaps and learning preferences. These may include targeted sessions, online resources, workshops or likely a combination of all the above, which will enhance comprehension and retention.

  1. Being transparent

Technical teams are used to working in the background to minimise expectations of disruptions by wider teams. However, change and communication go hand in hand, so when your programme is creating major organisational change, make sure to leverage relevant communication channels to be transparent about the what, why and how of the change. By openly sharing information about the change, its rationale and its implications, the teams leading it can mitigate resistance while building trust among people.

  1. Building a network

As mentioned, technical teams tend to work in isolation. But change champion networks can help cascade messaging, serving as catalysts for impactful adoption. A strong change network sees people from diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives converge with one shared purpose: to drive the change forward. They help the change initiative by inspiring and influencing others within their functions or user groups as they navigate their change journey. Or, to look at it another way, your people are going to talk about change programme anyway, but having a network allows teams driving the change to control the narrative.

  1. Quantifying impact

A technical project will focus heavily on key delivery milestones, but these mean very little if you’re not achieving your ‘why’. Therefore, it’s essential to keep track of change management as well as technical progress throughout your change journey. Create a roadmap that breaks the change initiative into manageable phases, tasks and timelines with set milestones and metrics to track them. And be sure to include regular checkpoints to ensure the change is steering in the right direction, which also helps create flexibility to pivot if needed.

  1. Celebrating wins!

Each milestone achieved, whether small or big, represents progress – and not just towards the final implementation date. By reflecting on the wins throughout the change journey, the teams driving it are not only acknowledging the work and dedication of their people but also reinforcing a culture of positivity and resilience. These wins provide motivation to keep moving forward, especially during challenging times. The key is to make these celebrations meaningful, ensuring everyone feels valued.

Each of the steps in this change management guide contribute to building awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement—the core elements of successful change according to the ADKAR model.

By aligning technical expertise with the principles in this change management guide, organisations can foster a culture of resilience, collaboration and adaptability, ensuring that they are well-equipped to navigate their change journey. Ultimately, while the approach to change management may vary based on the specifics of each project, especially when that project is highly technical, the overarching principles will always remain consistent.

If you’re interested in building your organisation’s internal change management capability, get in touch with our team and tell us more about your programme goals.

Yamini Patel
Yamini Patel
Yamini is an inquisitive and enthusiastic change consultant with around 4 years of experience in the technology and management sector. Yamini has worked as an application developer in the software industry and as a management consultant in the people and organisation space, and therefore understands the importance of people and technology and their impact in an organisation.
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