The word change does not usually evoke comfortable feelings or create a warm impression. When change is mentioned in business organizations, it often creates anxiety or, in its worst case, resentment or opposition. Change can be implemented in many ways: through imposition or edict; consensually or democratically; gradually or precipitously. The approach or tone of the execution of change is as important as the basis for change itself. Consider the example of Chesterfield County, Virginia and employee timecard entry. The County, consisting of 3,000 employees and 600 supervisors, embarked on the implementation of a new online system for employees to enter their timecard data. The timecard entry process involved approximately 60 timekeepers. The County replaced several legacy systems with the new online system. The new system combined two systems: an internally developed time and attendance system and an “off the shelf” payroll and human resources system. The challenges of the new information technology system extended beyond its technology components: Employees would have to learn a new process of entering their hours into the system and being paid. System developers often forget to assess how familiar the system’s stakeholders are with the computer and other skills they would need to use the new system, but County administrators knew they needed a sensible and reasonable approach to manage the change. A well- developed information system without an appropriately planned implementation with its stakeholders can often fail. The County created a team to manage the change to the new system and develop a change management strategy. The team used several methodologies to ensure that stakeholders were involved throughout the implementation, communicating with key department personnel to “build on existing processes, drawing up communication plans and creating a well- thought-out training plan.” The team was comprised of several managers from the various financial, operational, and payroll functional departments as well as their local educational institution, Chesterfield University. From this team, they established a communication process to connect with customer departments. This network was responsible for determining training needs, analyzing a security procedure, coordinating training, and gaining valuable input from the various stakeholders. Ultimately, the goal of this process was to maintain the lines of communication among the employees and other stakeholders. The process involved not simply words, but also actions. In addition, since quality training was an important component of the system rollout, the Information Systems department worked closely with Chesterfield University to develop and conduct training sessions as well as to provide technical assistance to support employees through the installation. An essential component of change management is to gain acceptance by the system’s stakeholders. The County understood that appropriate communication would help gain acceptance and reduce employee anxiety. The final version of the communication plan changed “substantially” from the initial version. As input was received and evaluated, so did the methods and approach to how and what they communicated. Constant and interactive communication through newsletters, emails, surveys, meetings and an intranet site provided timely and constant information flow. Over 300 issues were reported and tracked during the first parallel test run of the new system. A total of four system changes were approved to be implemented, resolving 285 issues, with only seven issues unresolved before the second parallel test. At the final implementation, the employees successfully used the new timecard system with only six payroll checks processed in error for the first payroll period.
1. Consider the statement “A well-developed information system without an appropriately planned implementation with its stakeholders can often fail.” Why? Provide examples and details.
2. The County’s initial approach to assembling their plan for change was a critical factor to the success of the implementation. Taking the role of a County employee, discuss how the County’s approach would reduce anxiety as well as create an environment for success with the new information system.
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