For many business managers, it can seem that sticking to the tried and true ways of doing things, from strategic planning to day-to-day activities, is the easiest and simplest way to ensure success. This approach requires minimal effort and allows them to stay firmly within their comfort zone—as well as within a known budget.
Radical adjustments in an organization, such as adjustments created through an enterprise business systems modernization program, often instill fear, uncertainty, and doubt - the infamous FUD factor - within the management and leadership impacted by change. This can lead to resistance, as people may push back against the perceived risks and expenditure of time, money, and resources due to their preference of staying within safe, traditional practices.
This resistance can undermine the potential success of your modernization project by increasing the time and costs in implementing and adopting the new system. An important part of mitigating this is to recognize typical arguments against modernization and frame responses that will promote the value of change over the status quo.
Below are some common misconceptions about the riskiness of modernizing your organization, and why change may actually be your safest option.
1. “My IT and systems infrastructure is fine the way it is.”
Many organizations have been using the same enterprise systems for many years, and often decades. While these systems may work well for the current environment, as advances in technology grow exponentially, the enterprise needs to adapt to compete -- or risk failure.
Sometimes the choice to transform your organization does not depend on how successful you think it has been, but rather on how successful you believe it could be. Keep this in mind when evaluating the current infrastructure and looking for how to improve it to meet the changing needs of the enterprise to help overcome this mentality.
2. “Modernized system updates would cost way too much money and take up time that could be used for more valuable activities.”
This is a common perception, often supported by a list of other projects and initiatives which the person feels are more valuable.
While updating your entire systems architecture, business processes, and workflows will be both expensive and time-consuming in the short run, systems modernization is a necessary step for enabling your organization’s continued success.
Rather than thinking of it as a costly purchase, remember that modernization is an investment that will save time and money in the future. Modernization is also an opportunity to update and streamline inefficient processes, enabling employees to perform their work more effectively and, often, more enjoyably.
This update could include practices on that long list of better alternatives and Agile Best Practices that are especially useful on poor processes or aging systems in need of revitalization. Tying these to the modernization project is an effective way of overcoming resistance.
3. “Transforming my business’s management structures will destroy our current structures and confuse our personnel.”
One of the most widespread fears of middle management and business unit leaders is that modernization will undermine their career tracks and past achievements. Staff may be uncertain of their futures, and uncertain of their roles post-modernization.
This fear can manifest itself in a variety of passive and active behaviors, from overt resistance to attempting to use modernization as a tool for preserving legacy business functions and processes that should be abandoned.
When modernization is closely tied to organizational change, it’s important to consider who may perceive the transformation negatively. Recognizing the personal fear of individuals when faced with uncertainty and addressing it respectfully will help alleviate the stress of unplanned change.
One approach is to encourage your managers, leaders, and staff to become part of ”communities of change,” or functional working groups where they can contribute and collaborate frequently to modernizing the organization.
This technique is derived from Agile Development.and can be an effective way to gain input while reshaping the organization and business practices, as well as help to keep your employees engaged with company-wide goals and objectives. It’s also an opportunity to elicit and identify potential innovations from within the business.
4. “Creating a strict plan for future operations interrupts business flow and limits flexibility in operations.”
The practice of creating a plan for modernization does involve precise planning, budgeting, and execution, but the idea that it limits the flow and flexibility of operations is outdated.
Creating an achievable plan for your organization’s future provides leaders with the opportunity to establish clear objectives, monitor successes and failures, and ensure that your organization is continuously making progress.
It is important to make sure that your modernization program follows distinct milestones for delivering benefits and engaging stakeholders and staff effectively as part of the enterprise-wide effort. This will help ensure that functional leaders, managers, and staff are personally committed to success.
More importantly, a well-managed plan will allow you to adapt to changes in your situation and industry, no matter how extreme, as you will be able to assess and evaluate the impact of changing needs and priorities on strategic objectives.
Choosing to transform your organization through enterprise modernization is already a challenging task, and internal resistance can make that task even more daunting.
Being clear about your goals, establishing the need to modernize at all levels of the organization, changing the internal mindset to embrace change, and engaging leaders, managers, and staff in understanding their role and opportunities in the organization’s future can all help mitigate the common myths of modernization.
To learn more about RG’s specific suggestions for modernizing your systems, check out our white papers on Modernizing an Agency's Records Management Program, Guide to Successful Program Management, Building in Change Capability for Improved Program Performance, and A Framework for Project Success and Beyond.