Change Ahead

Contribution to Organizational Change from Perspectives of Three Technology Roles

While organizations could deal with various changes, such as downsizing and mergers, the Information Technology professionals are deeply involved in introduction of new technologies to organizations. In order to determine contribution to such changes from various IT positions, I identified three main “classical” technological roles: System Analyst, Information Technology Manager, and Information Technology Consultant. While job descriptions might vary between organizations, each role is broadly defined in terms of its relation to other stakeholders. Also, the roles are not exclusive to each other: in flexible software organizations of today, the responsibilities of different roles overlap, and the real-world Information Technology jobs often contain the elements of all three together. However, the advantage of several viewpoints allows us to discover details which could be neglected by a single viewpoint. Therefore, in order to gain unique perspectives on the technological change process and to determine these roles’ contributions as agents of change, each role is examined separately.

The role of System Analyst primarily involves analyzing stakeholder requirements, designing systems based on those requirements, and helping various stakeholders use the systems. Thus, the two challenges in introducing new technology would be recommending technology choices to higher management and explaining them to users such as company’s staff or customers. In order to meet those challenges, the role would use two different images for managing change: navigator and interpreter. Using an image of a navigator, a system analyst would be able to sell the recommendation to their manager by logical explanation of their decision while linking the choice to the provided criteria or business plan. On the other hand, using an image of interpreter, they would assist users with the transition by providing specific guidelines and explanations on what needs to happen in order to implement this technology and what they should do in order to use the technology effectively.

The organizational position of Information Technology Manager expands the responsibilities of the previous role from recommending and sense-making of technology choices to higher management and users to creating communication strategy and reinforcing commitment to change within the Information Technology department. The communication strategy would depend on how the new technology affects staff in manager’s IT department. If the technology changes involve “new ways of doing things”, thus being transformational to staff roles and responsibilities, then an IT manager would use a coach image to engage in “underscore and explore” dialogue through two-way media, such as personal emails and face-to-face meetings. In addition, the position of an IT manager is structurally closer to the IT team than the rest of the management and, thus, the manager would be in more in-tune with their emotions. Therefore, an IT manager should fully expect to be a toxic handler and confidante where they would listen to their staff’s worries and suggest ways to proceed and cope. Their goal would be to identify and solve these concerns in order to get the buy-in among the team. On the other hand, if technological changes are incremental, such as software upgrades, then the manager would use more formal, top-down directive communications through email broadcasts and memos. The goal would then change to getting the word out in order to align their staff with with higher management initiatives and to direct their activities in ways that best support other departments. Lastly, in order to reinforce continuous commitment to changes, an IT manager would also use an image of interpreter to engage in storytelling of successes to their staff, such as, for example, improvement in performance of employees in an early adopter piloting department whom the IT staff trained and supported.

Burke-Litwin Diagnostic Model

The role of Information Technology Consultant is assumed to be external to an organization undergoing technological change and could involve creating complete change plans through collaboration with all stakeholders in that organization. A consultant would primarily use coach image of implementing change. From my years of experience leading various software upgrade initiatives, I found that the best way to overcome resistances and ensure that stakeholders accept the new technology is by identifying and training specific skills within them. Thus, I believe a consultant would follow organizational development practitioner steps consistent with the coach image in order to gather data, diagnose problems, and plan actions. They could use various models such as Burke-Litwin model for diagnosing organizational performance and change environment, and methods such as Appreciative Inquiry for determining what works well. Performing detailed organizational component diagnosis from various perspectives of different models could reveal problems in organizations which could not be solved by simply introducing new technology, but also require changes in organizational processes and culture. For example, adopting Customer Relationship Management software could involve new organizational focus on creating greater value for customers. Finally, to plan actions, a consultant could use other images of managing change as well, such as an image of director in order to create change milestones or short-term wins.

Appreciative Inquiry 4-D cycle

The above exploration of change activities and images of managing change from the perspective of the three IT roles results in several interesting revelations. First, the majority of examined change efforts are oriented towards people rather than organizational structures and processes. Thus, training intra- and inter- personal skills, a personal development often neglected by IT staff, would make a technology practitioner a much more effective change contributor. Second, the common theme emerging from all three perspectives is that the approach and the selection of image for managing change should always be specific to the situation and the stakeholder one is engaging. Therefore, selecting a correct image of managing change to suit different circumstances is another big contribution an IT specialist can make to organizational change efforts. Finally, introducing new technologies often requires re-creation of organizational processes and values in order to use these technologies effectively. What many managers consider and approach as an incremental, first-order purely technological change could actually require transformational, second-order culture change within the organization. Therefore, a complete IT professional should contribute the ability to analyze the organization from different perspectives and reveal additional factors which could be overlooked by other change managers.

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