What is Change Management Consulting and When Do You Need It?

Written by Dan Callahan

I'm the VP of Global Services at CGNET. I manage our Cybersecurity and Cloud Services businesses. I also provide consulting and handle a lot of project management. I wear a lot of hats. Professionally, I'm a builder of businesses. Outside of work, I'm a hobby farmer, chef, skier, dog walker, jokester, woodworker, structuralist, husband and father.

September 7, 2023

I was talking with a customer today, and she was describing the launch of a project to replace the organization’s Grants Management System (GMS) with another GMS. Toward the end of the call, she asked me if we provided change management consulting. I laughed. This made her nervous.

I was laughing because I had recently gone through an exercise to understand what I really do for customers. As I sorted through the different ways I have worked with customers, I realized that I was providing change management consulting. Not just software implementation or service rollout.

Sometimes You Do Not Need Change Management Consulting

I can hear you groaning. “Oh, Gawd! Now I must worry about change management?” Not so fast, Bucky. Freud supposedly said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. (OK, he did not say that.) And while I do not quite know what Freud meant, I can extrapolate the good Doctor’s words to say that sometimes new software is just that. Here are some examples.

  • You replace your on-premises Exchange Server with Exchange Online.
  • There is a new version of Adobe Acrobat available, which you deploy.
  • Your organization adopts Teams for its chat capabilities but keeps its Zoom subscription for video meetings.

Do you need change management consulting for any of these projects? Probably not. Why is that? Because there is little that is changing (see what I did there?) Email is going to look and run the same. Adobe Acrobat has some new features but is fundamentally the same program. Teams supports video meetings, but you are not planning to use the feature over Zoom.

And Sometimes You Do Need It

Allow me to state the obvious. Change management is about managing change. Change management consulting sounds unnecessary if you are focused on rollout of new software or a new service. However, are you really done when the software or service is rolled out? If your answer is, “no,” then you probably need some change management consulting.

Think about the GMS migration I mentioned earlier. Every Grants Management System is tied to a grantmaking process. Sometimes the process is highly elaborated, and the GMS has been customized to support that grantmaking process. At other times, there are limits to how the GMS can operate, and grantmaking staff have modified their process to work within the limits of the GMS.

As the organization rolls out its new GMS, there are points where the GMS does not support the grantmaking process. There are other instances where the GMS can do things that the old GMS could not, and folks want to redesign a part of the grantmaking process to take advantage of these new capabilities.

Who is going to work through these process changes? Some folks will resist the changes that the GMS promises. Who will help these people adapt to change and adopt the new system?

What is Change Management?

Thanks to Google’s Generative AI, I can tell you that there are 7 Rs and either 3 or 4 Cs of change management. OK… Here is a definition:

Change management is the application of a structured process and set of tools to lead the people side of change to achieve a desired outcome.

Some of these tools are decidedly not technical. Here are the items I would include in change management consulting.

  • Outcome specification. What outcomes are we looking for from the new system? Did we get what we wanted?
  • Stakeholder management. The more a system touches the organization, the more people that have an interest in how it is coming along. Change management consulting focuses on keeping these people informed. It may also include keeping people “on side” if there are political battles to be fought.
  • Architecture design. If the service is big enough, it may interact with other services. Someone will want to ensure things work across services. Does the data feed in properly? Is it being transformed in expected ways?
  • Training. The system is new. Users need to know how they accomplish certain tasks. “This is how I did it before, what do I do know?” is a question you can expect to answer.
  • Transformation. Yes, you can tweak the new system to work exactly like the old one. But are you taking advantage of the new system’s capabilities? Perhaps the new system will automatically export notes to your project management tool. So, are you using that?
  • Project management. There are a lot of moving parts. Some of the activities are owned by outside contractors. Someone must corral all the participants, keep them to a schedule, and keep everyone informed.

Change is in the Forecast

We talk a lot about AI these days. And digital transformation. There is a lot happening in technology that is about more than doing the same thing a little better. As we consider some of these technologies, we will want to envision how we can use them to transform how the organization goes about its work. In other words, we are increasingly likely to be managing change. And that is when we will want to plan for change management consulting.

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