5 Change Management Strategies for Permit Software Implementation

July 4, 2022

We sat down with Clariti’s resident change management expert, and Senior Director of Professional Services, Dianna Winslow, to discuss change management best practice, and why an effective strategy is integral to the success of any permitting or licensing project.

“When kicking off a project, there’s a lot at stake,” explained Dianna. “You’re effectively changing everything about staff’s day-to-day, so it’s critical that you do two things: get buy-in from users early, and set up a thorough change management plan that accounts for everything that could possibly go wrong.”

Though it may seem like a lot up front, putting in the effort early on in your project to rally key stakeholders, put together a plan, and prepare for any and all ‘what ifs’ will undoubtedly be worth it.

But first - let's define what change management is, and why it’s so important when adopting new technology.

What is Change Management?

Change management is a way to help organizations understand, adopt, and embrace new goals, processes, or technology. The approach takes a systematic look at all the components of the change, from resources to buy-in, to develop strategies for easing the transition.

Change managers (most often project managers) guide the transition from current state to future state until the change is successfully implemented. They gather input from key stakeholders across the organization, develop a change management strategy and plan, and communicate using a variety of tools and resources.

When it comes to launching new permitting or licensing software, an effective change management strategy is essential. Executed well, it can ensure project success, and that there are fewer speed bumps along the way.

As Dianna explained, when adopting new technology, “It’s all hands on deck”. “You need a great, motivated team, and to really think about everyone who could be affected by the change. Communicate and collaborate with every stakeholder, no matter how little you think the change will affect them.”

Why Use Change Management for a Software Launch?

Change can provoke a lot of mixed emotions, and given the complexity of government permitting and licensing, and the number of stakeholders involved, it’s especially daunting. It can mean a complete overhaul of the status quo that’s welcomed by some, but resisted by others. 

“Some staff will be thrilled to get their hands on a more efficient solution,” explained Dianna. “But others may be less than enthusiastic if they think the current system works fine and that the time investment needed to support the change will be too high. They also might not be convinced of the ROI.” 

Without a change management plan, when implementations go south, the consequences can be dire. A poorly executed transition may result in scope creep, cost overruns, delays, and even employee retention to name a few. 

Suffice to say, as Dianna put it, “It’s paramount to plan out your adoption strategy well, and to voice the benefits of the project as early and as often as possible.”

In addition, follow the next 5 strategies to maximize your chances of success.

5 Change Management Strategies for Implementation Success

Through her 20+ years of experience helping governments across the U.S. and Canada implement new Community Development Software and other systems, Dianna’s been able to narrow down her change management advice to the following 5 tried and tested strategies for success:

1. Build your best team.

If you want to ensure a successful software rollout, start with a high-performing rollout team. Tap front-line staff, influential leaders, strategists and subject matter experts, customer support gurus, public relations mavens, and everyone else who can offer valuable information about how to improve your government’s permitting or licensing process. Anyone and everyone who’s involved in the process you’re improving should be consulted from the start.

Seek out the individuals from each team who can best articulate their stakeholders’ needs and insights, as well as those who are highly collaborative and motivated by continuous improvement. Their perceptivity, communal spirit, and enthusiasm will help ensure the team can anticipate delays, work together, and socialize the benefits of the new software and process organization-wide.

A crucial role on your rollout team is that of the project manager. This person is responsible for implementing the rollout plan, keeping momentum going, and dodging roadblocks along the way.

“In the weeks leading up to your launch, there are lots of moving parts,” Dianna explained. “Your project manager is like the maestro, coordinating all the teams to get them across the finish line.”
Embrace the change.

In order to get the most out of your new and improved system, you want to ensure strong adoption. Help get your launch team excited off the bat by encouraging leaders to express enthusiasm about the change. They and everyone else on the team should be able to articulate why this change is so important.

By the time you launch, everyone in your organization—and, potentially, external stakeholders such as contractors or the general community—should understand why you are adopting the new software and process and the outcomes you seek to achieve.

Embracing the change doesn’t mean that you need to throw out pie-in-the-sky goals or targets. Set realistic expectations and include lots of quick wins so that your team stays motivated and your stakeholders bought-in. Support staff through bumps in the road and regularly communicate how life will be easier with the change.

And remember, adoption of any change is a continuous process. Offer staff training, demos, documentation, meetings, and feedback sessions, and most importantly - share all the wins along the way, no matter how small.

2. Prepare for pitfalls.

At the core of any good change management strategy is risk management. It’s nearly impossible to get through your change management plan without encountering some bumps in the road. Stop problems before they start, or minimize the fallout, by developing a risk management plan before you begin implementing your software rollout.

Think about what is happening in your organization right now. What are some of the existing risks that could disrupt your rollout? Or risks that might be revealed as the software launch and adoption timeline unfolds? These risks could be internal or external, likely or unusual, severe or minor. A few examples are staff attrition, poor internal adoption, public or media backlash, and natural disasters. Connect with other local government units that have adopted online software to learn more about the risks specific to your region.

Then, have your team map all the risks that could delay the software launch, impact adoption, or inflate costs. A risk assessment matrix is a great tool to help you prioritize your risks so that you focus your attention on those risks that are most severe and/or likely to occur.

Once you’ve mapped and prioritized your risks, come up with a list of actions to mitigate each risk. The larger the risk, the more involved the mitigation plan should be.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Communication is vital to the success of your software rollout plan. Do it well, be clear and concise, and do it often, throughout the project.

People need to understand what the new software system will mean for them, and how it might change their day-to-day tasks. Be specific about how the change will impact each team, using actual examples as much as possible. Share, too, how the changes may impact a process in another department.

Communicate and celebrate achievements as you make progress toward your software rollout to help maintain momentum and build support. But you should also set expectations across the organization that there will be hiccups along the way—and that this is normal. Let everyone know what resources are in place to assist them during the software testing and launch phases, as well as during those first few weeks of getting used to the new solution in a live environment.

Keep in mind that communication is a two-way street. Ask questions of your users, early enough in the process to ensure that their answers can inform how you customize your software solution and how you establish processes to support the new solution. Be curious and encourage people to be curious, too. If something isn’t working properly, you want it to come out during the process, rather than weeks or months after the launch.

4. Evolve over time.

Of course, you want to anticipate as many hitches as possible in your new permitting or licensing process before the software is launched. That said, you will inevitably miss a few things. Moreover, regulations and secondary processes will eventually change in ways that impact your permitting or licensing data input or process.

It’s important to plan to touch base regularly to review these changes, as well as the data you are receiving from the new software system—such as the number of days from application to approval, or the number of open applications—to assess whether any updates to the software interface or application process are warranted.

5. Stay engaged with your new software provider.

They can assist your team in your quest for continuous improvement.

Maximize Adoption of Your New Permit or License Management Software

The greatest contributors to going through a successful system change are motivated teams, a strong vision, a great change management strategy, and a solution that measurably improves your organization’s operations and impact.

For more on how to deploy a change management plan for your new online permitting or licensing process, get in touch!

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