Measuring change management initiatives takes initiative

Assessing specific changes will get a boost from planning, software, and automation

Cynics may say that the field of change management is so vast that the term is practically useless. Yet, if the sun is always shining behind the clouds, one can credit effective change management with improved operational efficiencies and higher customer satisfaction — at least that’s the boardroom consensus.

But how do CIOs and IT shops assess whether specific changes implemented in Q2 are paying off in Q3? How do they know if they have applied the right rigor to manage workflow changes or systems integration projects?

“In the manufacturing sector, it’s easier — you count the beans, right?” notes Roger Dunn, CEO of SourceIQ, a software and services company. “But for companies rich in BI, it’s more difficult.”

When dealing with network change management practices, the impact of changes is generally binary and easy to detect. Workflow changes can also be easy to quantify in terms of success or failure because any solid BPM solution measures process efficiencies, according to Hank Barnes, vice president of marketing at Ultimus, producers of Web-based workflow automation software. For example, it can get very expensive for a company that requires the head of manufacturing to sign off on RFQs of $5,000 or more because her time is money — lots of it. If that company were to raise the threshold to $50,000, the Ultimus BPM Suite will capture and display the metrics of approval response times and cost savings, reporting them in a standard module, all online, Barnes says.

“In the end you’re still asking, ‘Are customers getting what they want and are we getting the money?’ ” Barnes concludes.

David Rowlands, vice president of Lean Six Sigma at Xerox, emphasizes simplification and automation “from quoting to supply chain to fulfillment to collection of cash.” He cites two distinct measurables: business metrics (inventory, cost, level of service, and customer satisfaction) and process metrics (time-related and quality-related events). Both are crucial to assessing change management.

“It all links to how you form the process,” Rowlands says. “By measuring in-process, we gauge and predict the outcome to how it will impact either customer satisfaction or financials.”

Richard Willmott, market manager at IBM Tivoli, takes a straightforward view when gauging the success of system configuration changes. Using the example of a patch management deployment, he says, “I know when I send a transaction out I have to guarantee it gets from one end to the other, that it’s delivered to the end point, and then validate that the install process proceeded.” In the end, he says, “You’re never going to get change 100 percent right.”

At the network layer, though, it’s always something to aim for.