Change Is About People, Not Tech


By Samuel Greengard

One of the intriguing ironies of IT adoption is that the more technology-centric an enterprise becomes, the more it must focus on people and behavior. Most organizations struggle mightily to get everyone in sync with new and evolving systems, applications and digital tools. Change management is further complicated by the seemingly conflicting desires, needs and expectations of today's multi-generational workforce.

In one corner: throngs of millennials who seem permanently fused to their smartphones and tablets. They're yammering and twittering away, while eschewing email and other formal enterprise systems. In the other corner: Boomers and Gen Xers who tolerate technology and often embrace certain aspects of it, but often cling to old-school methods of communication and collaboration.

Attempting to referee how workers use technology is daunting—especially in an era of BYOD. Overlay this with the fact that virtually all of us are somewhat resistant to change, and even the best idea or system will meet some resistance.

It's human nature to fear the unknown. Our insecurities boil up when we're forced to learn new systems and rewire our brain. Toss in a hefty dose of fear as workers attempt to guard their turf and territories, and an initiative can derail very quickly.

It's tempting to think that IT systems can be designed to mold behavior. In reality, they excel only at enforcing and reinforcing rules. Embed the right processes and workflows into systems, and you hit a home run. Take your eye off the ball and you whiff.

Today, business and IT executives must walk a fine line between innovation and stagnation. It's crucial to veer away from the bleeding edge of technology but remain on the leading edge. It's essential to recognize that senior executives may need to be pushed, while younger workers exert the pull on the organization.

IT can do its job by designing and building systems that actually work and offer a high degree of usability. IT that's designed by geeks for geeks no longer cuts it. Clunky interfaces and byzantine processes no longer fly. If workers cannot see the advantage of using a new system, it's impossible to get total buy-in.

Ultimately, success comes when people want to change—and see the advantage of change. The equation is that simple.