Sustain Your ELN – Before You Start Your ELN
What Does The Future Hold For Electronic Lab Notebooks In 2012?
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Change management can be found as a bullet under “critical success factors” in many Electronic Lab Notebook project charters. Touted as crucial in determining the success of an ELN, many agree in principle that change management is needed, but don’t know how to go about making it effective, tangible, and measurable.
When not addressed fully, lack of a clear ELN change management approach can actually have the opposite intended effect:
- Productivity declines as people become confused as to how the ELN will improve their jobs
- People find work-arounds to avoid implementing the new process, and these show up as unneeded enhancement requests.
- Projects in turn are not fully implemented, with the organization building a history of half-completed projects or projects that are painful or difficult.
- Executive management loses interest, with investment following.
- Employees become disinterested, passive resistance festers, a divided organization of 'us' and 'them' forms.
- Changes are scrapped and cancelled due to the lack of support throughout the organization.
There are many paths to a successful ELN change management approach, but the following three guiding principles and associated activities that should be used as starting point for effective, tangible, and measurable change:
- Recognize What Your ELN Project Really Is – A Transformation Opportunity
- Start at the End – Map Out What Success Looks Like
- Build in Transformation Properties – Engineer Reliance
Recognize What Your ELN Project Really Is – A Transformation Opportunity
Electronic Lab Notebook projects are business transformation projects (not “just” business process automation projects.) Because of their nature, ELNs often span internal and external customers and users, reach across organizational divisions and boundaries, and cross disparate processes, policies and geographies. This transformation will require processes and people to change. Transformation is not always about scale, but often does involve large scale, enterprise-wide thinking. (Not recognizing this is usually where we stumble.)
In order to capitalize on transformation as an opportunity, arm yourself with knowledge across the following three disciplines:
(1) Strategic insight: Understand the business strategies and subsequent objectives and goals to develop specific set of empowering charter statements that will guide your project’s scope. These charter statements will be used to guide scope, communicate to business management, and eventually help define benefits and value realization.
(2) Business knowledge: In order to understand the scale of transformation you’re about to kickoff, you must understand the business problems that the ELN is intended to solve. List out the top five or ten business problems, understand and review with project stakeholders, and then understand how the ELN software will address those problems. This exercise will help inform your risk mitigation plan (i.e. what must not fail) and your communication plan (what success will look like to end users).
(3) Technology leadership: With any new software comes implementation risks of time, cost, and schedule. Your technology leaders must understand and help support your ELN project like they would any larger ERP enterprise-wide project, albeit perhaps not with as much resource investments, but at least with the same rigor and attention to detail. Leverage all key IT functional areas to help, i.e. infrastructure, enterprise application management, security, policy management, IT finance, etc.
Start At The End – Map out What Success Looks Like
In order to communicate the tangible and measurable effect the ELN will have your organization, spend some time defining what success will look like:
- Identify your top five benefits as linked to your business strategic objectives, and then craft simple narratives about what those mean to people (use those to support your communication activities).
- Identify who will own the ELN (business and IT) after the project team is disbanded.
- Make sure senior management has a forum to monitor and review how strategic objectives are being delivered (recognize that many strategic objectives take years for benefits to be realized, leverage existing Steering Committees if need be.)
- Develop measures with stakeholders (KPI’s and/or SLAs), as part of business ownership plan and hand off criteria. Make this a perquisite or gate for closing the project.
- Define a continuous improvement cycle in order to clearly capture and link enhancements back to strategic business objectives. Leverage existing software product management processes or if such a process doesn’t exist in your organization, invest some time to define and build needed processes and identify an owner.
Build In Transformative Properties - Engineer resilience
Behavioral science has shown us that resistance to change and aversion to risk are both hard-wired human traits. Business transformations are always risky, but such transformation projects are often seen as significant personal risks to individuals. Simply telling someone it will be OK is not enough.
Engineer resilience into your ELN project team and deployment activities:
- Seed your project team with business users so that you will have a ready made group of change agents for deployment and management
- Recognize that your ELN project will move from “burning platform for change” to “business as usual” by year two. (capitalize while you can)
- Identify new business process activities and incrementally work these into end users’ “Day Jobs” as soon as possible.
- When communicating changes, speak in terms of rolesand outcomes of individuals not processes that will be changed. (It’s the rare individual who can intuitively make the connections between a changed in process and a change to their role in that process.)
- Get in the habit of conducing internal project audits of high risk areas, conduct random quality checks, or participate in company after action reviews. This will help reinforce ownership.
Lastly, strive to make it personal, consistent, specific, and easily understood.