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Change Management: 5 Barriers and How to Overcome Them

Rapid change is the new normal in the emerging digital workplace—especially as business becomes more global and workforces become more remote. To keep up with change, organizations are investing in new technologies such as upgrading their operating systems to Windows 10 and launching Microsoft Office 365 with its many applications designed to enhance collaboration and increase productivity.

The challenge that many businesses now face is that, as new technologies are rolled out, employees are not prepared for the change—they may not know why the change is being implemented and they may not understand the value of the new capabilities in their day-to-day work. Many companies invest in the technical transformation, but not in the human transformation, which reduces the overall return on investment (ROI) when employees do not leverage the technology.

Adoption change management is essential for moving individuals through change and helping them understand the value of adoption at an individual level. Building a strategic adoption change management plan to accelerate the human transformation in line with the technical deployment is critical. Using Prosci’s ADKAR framework as a guide, we identify five common barriers to technology adoption and tactics organizations can take to ensure adoption and maximize ROI.

1. AWARENESS

Awareness is often the first barrier point for technical changes. To address awareness, it is important to build a strategic adoption change management and communications plan. Communications best practices indicate that awareness needs to be reinforced through multiple channels, by multiple influencers/senders, and multiple times before the message sticks.

Many companies invest in the technical transformation, but not in the human transformation.

Define your vision statement to reflect why the change is happening now and how it supports achieving better business results. Engage your executive sponsors to communicate awareness around the change across your organization.

Create a change champions network with individuals across all key departments or workstreams to ensure peer-to-peer influence and support. Educate your champions and ask them reach out to their peers and socialize changes to create positive perception.

For example, if you are rolling out Microsoft Teams, communicate why and what the value is to the business. You may want to reinforce that Skype will eventually be sunsetted and Teams will replace it as a meeting, conferencing and chat solution—so early adopters will be ahead of the game.

2. DESIRE

Put yourself in the shoes of business users and define “What’s in it for me?” to help them see the value of making the change. Engage your executive sponsors and change champions to reinforce the positive aspects of the change. If individuals see that their leadership and peers are actively supporting the change, it may create positive perception and mobilize them to want to adopt new tools and capabilities.

Another tactic for creating desire is rewards and recognition planning—create a contest with a gift prize or engage your sponsors to recognize early adopters who are contributing to your project success.

For example, if you are launching Windows 10, you will want to communicate the benefits, performance, or security enhancements users will experience. Another tactic for creating desire is rewards and recognition planning—create a contest with a gift prize or engage your sponsors to recognize early adopters who are contributing to your project success.

3. KNOWLEDGE

Communicate user impacts and instructions to increase knowledge about what they need to know to successfully adopt. This should include a clear roadmap from the current, transition and future states of the project. For example, with a Microsoft Teams rollout, it’s important to define which tool people are using currently for collaboration and document management. In your communications plan, you will want to communicate how Teams will add increased capability in the future.

4. ABILITY

Training and learning resources are key to increasing ability to make a change. Establishing a training plan is critical for technology updates and rollouts of new tools and capabilities. It is good practice to have an intranet site, Yammer site or another platform where employees can find project information and timelines, user impacts, how-to instructions, webinars, training, use-case scenarios, and success stories.

5. REINFORCEMENT

One step many organizations miss is reinforcing technology changes after the initial deployment. This may result in an uptick of adoption initially, but then individuals revert to the old way of working. Your communications plan should include post-launch adoption activities and reinforcement.

One approach is to collect and communicate success stories—your champions are a good source for these. Another method is to collect use cases from your champions to understand regular tasks/workflows and pain points, and then connect the dots so individuals understand how the new tool or capabilities can be utilized to address them.


To ensure that ADKAR is addressed throughout your change management strategy, it is recommended that eight change management plans are implemented: Sponsorship, Change Champions Network, Communications, Training, Resistance Management, Coaching, Adoption Measurement, and Rewards & Recognition. By addressing awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement in alignment with the rollout of new technology, you will benefit from more positive workforce perception, build a more change-agile culture, and maximize your ROI.

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