Change management to help you win the battle against Shadow IT

Shadow IT has plagued IT teams for a while now and employees won’t stop using multiple apps any time soon.

Despite this, change management can help to mitigate and identify risks and help with introducing new technology.

It’s our experience that many companies are actually in the dark about how many apps their staff are using and therefore where the security risks lie. There’s also no real way of stopping employees seeking solutions of their own. After all, they are now working remotely from different devices, so using a variety of apps like Google apps presents a quick solution.

If these apps become entrenched as part of a team’s process – like Google forms for data collection and surveys on the move – then technology change involving implementation of an alternative encounters a difficulty in getting people to adopt another platform.

Many IT teams are now working with the business to ensure appropriate guidelines are in place to ensure company data is as protected as possible. However, change management practices can help the business and IT teams to work together to understand the user landscape and communicate the benefits of any applications and software that they want to be adopted, company-wide.


Central to change management is knowing the employee landscape – how people work, team culture, and how this aligns to the business and IT strategy. Interviewing people and having ambassadors for technology change within teams can help IT keep their ears to the ground. For instance, when faced with Office 365 implementation, IT is prepared with the knowledge of the business it needs to persuade people to work in the new way, and where the advantages for teams might lie – all vital to an effective communication strategy. Discovery work will uncover how people are currently working and what they are using – all necessary preparation for introducing something new.

Take a look at our blog post, What Tools Do IT Managers Need to Successfully Manage Change? for other tips on integrating change management into your IT projects.

Communications with impact

Once IT knows how people will need to change to adopt new practices it can talk confidently about the comparative benefits of new technology. Crucially, it can also confidently address any areas of concern via communications. We’ve seen security top the bill of IT communications in recent times. High impact awareness campaigns rely on educating people and making it clear what IT policy is. Change management approaches to communication enforce this in a number of ways:

Identity, theme and vision – all made cohesive through a set of branding and core messaging

Use of a change network – the formalised structure of people who can convey the messages from IT within their teams is fundamental to reinforcing behaviours introduced by communication. From line managers setting a practical example, to business leaders confirming company-wide policy with the reasons behind them.

For more ideas on compelling communications take a look at our blog, Compelling Communications – the Key to Successful Business Change

Ongoing measurement

Change management requires that any new IT is measured for adoption and subsequent benefit to the business – as well as identifying shadow IT that poses a threat to business objectives of any change like Office 365 implementation, being achieved. Change management helps IT to align the transition to new technology with an eventual business goal, measuring lag and lead indicators along the way. Benefits realisation is about the end benefits, not deliverables or capability outcomes. A new system might go live successfully, on time, and without technical hitch, but if people continue to use their own applications instead of the new ones offered by the IT team and the business, have you really won the battle against shadow IT? Change management process helps to keep IT and the business focused on whether people have adopted the new to deliver the intended business benefit.


We frequently post ideas and tips on: change management, learning and communications, PPM, employee engagement and culture.

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October Business Change Digest

In this edition:


Starting a business change programme? Avoid the common pitfall.


Jay Dixon joins the team as Business Change Director.


The latest from the Afiniti insights blog.


Spotlight by Anthony Edwards

You’re about to start your business change programme, but where’s your burning platform, and can you fight the fire?

Someone recently asked me ‘what’s the one key thing you would advise leaders embarking on a business change programme?’

This is a really big ask, There are so many elements to discuss and debate – each ‘change’ has different drivers, each industry its own nuances, and each company its own culture and all these elements play vital roles in shaping any programme.

Thinking about the past 15 years’ or so, and my experience helping clients in oil and gas, transport, logistics, pharmaceutical, and finance; There is one stand-out piece of universal wisdom I’d pass on to any client, which is to start at the beginning.  It sounds obvious, but let me explain.

Start at the beginning, and take it step by step

In my experience many organisations find themselves starting their change programme by creating the vision and strategy, before they’ve sufficiently ‘set the stage’.

Planning a business change programme can feel incredibly daunting. Time and again leaders are under pressure and already behind the curve – budget approval came through later than anticipated and the programme is running behind schedule and not completely formed, but there’s pressure to plough-on regardless.  It’s at this point that you need to take a step back and say ‘stop, let’s start from the beginning – together.  Let’s set ourselves up for success.’

So what should you be doing before you start strategising?

Preparation really is the key when it comes to change, so it’s no surprise that there are a number of models and methods for building and leading change programmes – and we can use elements from many of them. One I return to time and again is Kotter’s 8-Step Process which breaks the job down into logical, and most importantly, sequential steps.


Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model for Successful Transformational Change

Source: Kotter and Cohen, The Heart of Change.


Step 1. Create a sense of urgency – Nail the ‘Why?’ and ‘Why now?’

For change to stick it really helps if the whole organisation accepts it and understands the drivers – especially if change has been attempted in the past and already had a number of false starts.

For this reason Kotter encourages us to start the change programme by creating a sense of urgency, so that we are not only focussing on the ‘why’ change, but also the ‘why change now?’

You need to develop a clear and compelling story – a way to articulate the common goal behind which everyone needs to align. The story needs to not only be socialised, but shouted from the rooftops, so everyone can understand why this change is taking place and get behind it. This sense of urgency, communicated by the leadership team, builds, spreads and fuels itself, and there you have what Kotter refers to as your burning platform.

It’s also worth noting that, at this stage it is crucial to sense check that your reason for change will be obviously compelling to everyone involved, not just the leadership team.  It may seem crystal clear to senior leaders, but once you start communicating about the change, and you go two or three steps out into the business, the people may not have a clue what you’re talking about!  A good question to ask is, if the story is not clear, does the responsibility for clarification lie with the reader or story teller?!

It’s equally important that all members of the leadership team can articulate this sense of urgency.  People need to receive the same message whether they ask the project team or their own management hierarchy, It is your senior sponsors’ responsibility to ensure that they’re all aligned.


Step 2. Create a guiding coalition from across the organisation

You’ve created the sense of urgency and now you need to shape a team who can continue building the momentum and lead the change programme.

Consider who will be strong and effective at leading the change on a daily basis – you’ll need influential people around the table, from a variety of different backgrounds.  These people will become key to embed the change later on.

Once you’ve formed your guiding coalition you need to check that the common goal is anchored in the benefit outcome  – and that you’ll be able to measure your success against this. Then you’re in a position to start creating the vision and strategy for the change programme.


One last thing

So you’ve nailed the ‘why’ and you have your guiding coalition ready to get started on your business change programme.  One final thing to consider:

Is the organisation currently ready and capable of change?

To be in the optimum position to be ready and receptive to change – your key business capabilities such as leadership, culture and competency should be functioning at a certain level.  If any one of these is out of kilter, you’re not giving yourself the best chance for the programme to succeed.

Afiniti’s 6LeverTM change readiness assessment tool measures where you are now against six key capabilities and outlines any gaps which need to be addressed, and what needs to be done to accelerate change and make it sustainable.



Take the Change Readiness Assessment now and find out if your organisation is ready for change.


I’d love to hear any experiences you’ve had with ‘setting the stage’ for business change.  Do you think there are any other pitfalls senior leaders should be mindful of when embarking on a business change programme?

Afiniti news: Jay Dixon joins the team as Business Change Director

Previously a Managing Partner at James and Carmichael Consulting (JCC), Jay has over twelve years’ consulting experience under his belt, as well as a background in operations and supply chain management where he started his career after graduating from Leeds University .

Jay is settling in to working life at Afiniti, so it seemed a good time to sit down with him and have a chat about his career to date, his areas of specialism and what he’s enjoying working on so far at Afiniti.

Read the full article.

Insights roundup: The latest from the Afiniti insights blog


If you’re thinking about cyber security, you should be thinking about behaviour change.


communications tools that last


Four ways to create communications tools that last.



Afiniti vBlog: Afiniti’s top tips for creating user-generated content.



You can’t make me change

In my last blog, I wrote about London buses going cashless, and how that change was pushed through, even though 67% of people who responded to a consultation were against it.

This made me think, how do I, myself, react to change?  I’m a Change Practitioner!  Am I more open to change than most?  Would I be in the 33% that were for cashless buses?  Do I embrace change?

Do I heck!  I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to change, I can be really stubborn.  Worse, when I think that a change has been done badly, I can actively fight against that change.  I do this to punish those who have implemented it.  I’m starting to think that I may have a problem.

Do you remember when the banks stopped you getting into internet banking unless you carried around a key fob with you?  Did I embrace that change?  Not on your life!  I made it a point to use phone banking instead, with each call to transfer some money making sure that I went through to some poor person on the phone, to tell them in a disappointed voice, that I’d “left my silly big key fob thingy at home today”.

Do you remember when supermarkets brought in the do it yourself checkouts?  Did I embrace them?  No chance.  I lined up at the counter at any opportunity.  If I did have the misfortune to have to use one, I would sigh and moan while pointing at the flashing red light at any time that it failed to recognise that I had indeed, just put a packet of dishcloths on the bagging scales and asked for a lottery ticket.

When I talk to clients about change management, I always make the point that they need to think about the “what’s in it for me” for the customer.  I’m thinking now it may actually be more than that.  The change recipient (if as stubborn as me) needs to know that they have been thought about.  They then make an active decision to either accept or reject the change.

Personally, I need more than the fact that you’ve timed that I’ll get through the supermarket quicker, I need to know that you’ve thought about my benefits and my dis-benefits, acknowledged where things get worse, and taken me on the journey as to why I should change.

I, myself, have to choose change.  You can’t make me do it.

Forcing Change through

Sometimes change takes place whether it is popular or not. At 04:30am on the 6th of July, London Buses stopped taking cash.

Transport for London (TfL) ran a consultation period, and while 67% of respondents (customers) were against the idea, it was implemented anyway.

The changes mean that customers need to have a valid Oyster Card, or contactless debit card in order to use the bus.  TfL outlined the benefits of doing so as follows:

  1. Savings of £140m over ten years that would be re-invested into the network
  2. Customers would benefit from always having the best value fare
  3. Boarding times would be decreased, reducing travel time
  4. Increased driver safety for not having to carry cash

When I’m looking at a change initiative, I’m always thinking those two well used phrases “what’s in it for me” and “what’s in it for them”.  I think of change really embedding at the sweet spot where those two overlap.  With the change to remove cash fares, I see the benefit for TfL (not having to deal with cash, lower costs), but I don’t see the main advertised benefit (that of the saving of the money) as being for me, and certainly not negated by my perceived dis-benefit, ie, that my fall back option of using cash on a bus has been removed.

For the proposed changes to be implemented, they had to be approved by the Mayor’s office.  The Mayor’s office had concerns, but approved on the condition that TfL promised to do some things in mitigation of problems outlined by stakeholders in the consultation period.  Namely:

  1. A campaign to raise awareness of the impending change, both on buses and elsewhere, so that people knew it was coming
  2. An update to the technology around Oyster Cards to allow one trip without credit
  3. A review and reiteration to its drivers around its policy regarding vulnerable people
  4. A review of the number of “Ticket Stops” (locations, usually newsagents where Oyster can be purchased / topped up).

TfL budgeted £700k for marketing in year one and two of the implementation.  They updated the software to allow a trip without credit at a cost of £9m.  Drivers were reminded of their policy on vulnerable people and 19 additional ticket stops have come into the network.

Was this a successful change?  There is no doubt that you cannot use cash on London buses any more.  Were passengers encouraged to embrace the change?  Did TfL do enough in their mitigation?  Or was the change, in a way, forced upon passengers?

It would be fascinating to see, if consulted now, what percentage of passengers support the change.



Are middle managers seen unfairly during business change?

Middle managers often get a bad press but those of us working in business change know that they can be a big asset if involved and engaged the right way at the right time.

I was working with a client last week where the business is going through a large programme of organisational change.

One of the “middle managers” there deliberately made his own job redundant in order to better facilitate change in the business.

middle managers

This got me thinking:  This may only be one example, but why do we think of “Middle Managers” as blockers for change?  And was my experience a unique example or are middle managers unfairly maligned when it comes to the ability to change?

The very term “middle management” can evoke an image of someone reluctant to change, however numerous studies have shown this to not be the case.

Quy Nguyen Huy in his article in the Harvard Business Review back in 2001 discusses that middle managers have valuable entrepreneurial ideas, can leverage informal networks effectively, can stay attuned to employees emotional needs and manage the tension between continuity and change.

Thinking to my own experience, there is no doubt that middle managers shape key decisions, act as intermediaries between the front line and top team, and champion innovation and change.  Conversely, I can think of many examples where middle managers who are not engaged were poisonous for the adoption of change.

So if they’re so important, how do we equip middle managers for change?

At Afiniti, we get people ready for change by knowing them, involving them early, preparing them and delivering to them.  These levers are important for middle management too, but we mustn’t forget that as drivers for change amongst their own employees, middle managers also need to be equipped to know, involve, prepare and deliver to their employees.  They are both change recipients and change implementers.

This means we have to involve middle management in change earlier.  The change projects that I have worked on that have been most successful ensure that middle management have the time and the resources to guide their people through the change.

I think that most middle managers want to do a good job and need to be given the operational freedom to embrace and be champions of change.  Most won’t need to go to the extreme of making their own job obsolete (he was re-employed in another capacity, by the way!), but as drivers of change there is no one better placed to innovate from within and inspire people about the future.

From Training Gap Analysis to Competency Gap Analysis

Now that learning often takes place outside of the classroom and is more personalised, it seems that Training Gap Analysis might be on its way out – to be replaced by Competency Gap Analysis.

Training gap analysisA Training Gap Analysis is something that many Learning Consultants will be familiar with – a comparison between the current and desired levels of training undertaken.  The broader Training Needs Analysis then takes the results of the Gap Analysis and creates a training plan to bridge the gap.

We’re now increasing performing a different type of Gap Analysis for a client, a ‘Competency Gap Analysis’ or ‘Proficiency Gap Analysis’ as it’s also known.

What’s different about a Competency Gap Analysis?

Competency Gap Analysis involves comparing how ‘good’ or ‘proficient’ we are at something, with our required level, for an individual, team or organisation.

It’s powerful because, while training is one method that we can use improve competency, it’s not the only method.  It allows us to improve competence and performance through various learning approaches including:

  • Practical, on the job learning
  • Job shadowing
  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Collaborative and network based learning
  • Social, online and mobile learning
  • Personalised learning

As we have more methods available to us, we can create specific and tailored plans for each person to improve their competence.  A Competency Development Plan for an individual could include any or all of these elements, many of them outside the classroom.

Measuring results better

With a Training Gap Analysis, the emphasis is on whether training has been offered or is available or completed.  With a Competency Gap Analysis the emphasis is on the results (evidence that competence has improved).

Personalised Learning

There is another difference too.  Training is something that is provided to you, competency is something personal – that you have.

It puts some responsibility on the delegate and gives them some control and flexibility in how, when and where, they learn. Crucially it also means that delegates are more empowered to drive their own learning, rather than just attending a training course or completing a module. They will want to demonstrate that they have become better at doing something, more competent.

Spreading the Risk

Competency Gap Analysis also allows us to look at where, within a team or an organisation, competence is held.  Do we really need everyone in a team to be highly competent at everything or, can we just ensure that we are not at risk if someone leaves?  Should we re-distribute competence around the teams?  Evaluating competence allows us to focus our finite resources more effectively to reduce risk.

How do we judge competence?

If someone has a desired level of competence and they’re not at that required level, this doesn’t mean they’re incompetent!  Measuring competence is about measuring the processes that we have in place to enable people to improve.  It shouldn’t be used as a stick.  In fact, if we as an organisation have widespread, low levels of competence in certain areas, isn’t it beneficial for us to know about this so a plan for improvement can be made?

The move from Training Gap Analysis to Competency Gap Analysis seems to result in gains all round: the delegate gains a flexible, varied set of learning solutions, the organisation can measure success and spread risk and the consultant is able to offer a service suited to the fast pace of change and innovation in learning.

I’m curious to know – are you looking at Competency with your clients?  How does it work for you?

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