Association Management Services: Improving Change Management
In association management, even seemingly small changes can have unexpected consequences.
For example, imagine your IT team upgrades a database so that your website runs faster. They make the change, test the website, and discover that everything has gone according to plan.
But then the IT manager starts to get phone calls. The old database also supported the CMS, and now no one can view member data. The old database was linked to the ERP and the finance team can’t process payments. The association marketing team had been relying on the old database for analytics, and now their reports are a mess.
Change management focuses on preventing this kind of problem. Change managers are a single point of contact for the whole organization, even those who aren’t directly involved in the change. They focus on communication, documentation and stakeholder engagement to ensure that changes happen successfully and without disrupting anything else.
When is a change management approach required for associations?
Any change that impacts multiple areas requires change management.
Of course, it’s not always possible to be entirely sure that a change in one department might not impact other teams. For example, changing the color of a button on the website might seem quite trivial, but it has implications for areas such as branding and accessibility.
It’s good practice to discuss any change with leaders from other departments and get their feedback on how your changes might impact them.
What could go wrong without change management?
If you change a system or association management process without adequate oversight, you risk running into a range of problems further down the line, like:
- Dependency issues: It’s not always obvious how systems interact with each other. One system could have a dependency on another, and when you take away one, the other collapses.
- Forks and redundancies: Sometimes people may not even realize that the change has even happened. They keep doing things the old way, so your association ends up with two separate processes for the same task. At best, this is a waste of resources. At worst, you could lose vital data.
- Lack of user buy-in: New processes only work when users agree to go along with them. If your staff find the new process confusing or frustrating, they may end up inventing their own less efficient workarounds.
Change Management Best Practices for Associations
Whether you’re tweaking an internal process or revamping your whole approach to association management, you’ll need to follow the same basic principles of change management:
1. Start early
When is the right time to initialize a change management process? As soon as you’ve started considering a change.
It’s never too early to start the process. A common mistake is to wait until the change process is well underway, at which point the challenge of management is much greater. The moment the conversation begins about new software or a new process, it’s time to start looking at appointing a change manager.
2. Documentation is key
Each change that is managed by the process should have a substantial paper trail. This is to ensure that nothing gets overlooked, and to make it easier to share information between project stakeholders.
Documentation includes communication between teams, communications with external parties (such as software vendors and consultants), and minutes of change management meetings. It can also include project management documents, such as Gantt charts and business process reengineering diagrams. Keep everything organized so that the change management team can easily find everything.
3. Know your stakeholders
There are several kinds of stakeholder in a change project. You often have:
- Project champions – the people involved in pushing the project forward
- Targets – people who will definitely be impacted by the change, such as users of new software
- Affected people – those who won’t be directly impacted, but who may experience knock-on effects
- Interested parties – people who aren’t directly involved but who want to be kept informed – usually executives and department heads
You can’t succeed unless you know who these people are. In some cases, that means making direct contact with the individual and maintaining open communication channels. When it’s a large group of people – such as users of a new system – you may need to develop use cases to help understand their needs.
4. Welcome all challenges to change
People will push back against change and ask questions like, “what’s the benefit of this new system”, and “what’s wrong with the old way of doing things?”
Questions like these are great because they help to keep the change project focused and on track. A change manager should be able to clearly and concisely explain why their project is essential. If they can’t, is the project really worth doing?
5. Communicate to everyone
Stakeholders need to be kept in the loop at all stages of the project, from initiation to completion. They need up-to-date, relevant information about what’s changing and how it impacts them. Communication needs to be clear and consistent, with a focused message about how this change will benefit everyone.
Communication is the most challenging part of change management. Even if you send out the right message, your audience may not see it, may not understand it or may fail to grasp how it impacts them. Remember – it’s the change manager’s responsibility to ensure that everyone understands what’s happening.
6. Listen to everyone
Communication is a two-way street and it’s vital that stakeholders can send feedback to the change management team. As the project goes forward, new issues may come to light. Change managers need to respond to these issues early so that they don’t derail the project goals.
7. Use a communication expert if you need one.
Communication is the most important part of change management. Some would argue that change management is simply a detailed communication strategy because it’s mostly a matter of making sure that all stakeholders are aligned with the project goals.
For this reason, you might want to bring in an association management services provider or communications expert to help ensure that your message is connecting with the audience. This expert can be someone from your communications or marketing team, though you may require outside help for larger projects.
8. Keep going after implementation
Change projects don’t end when the new system goes live. There is still a lot of work to be done afterward, such as training, quality assurance and gathering ongoing feedback. At the start of the change project, you should set clearly defined criteria for project success. The project isn’t over until you know you’ve met these goals.
Change Management for Associations
The association management process requires you to be on top of everything when making changes. Your association has an active, engaged membership that relies on you to provide a seamless service. Any disruption to that, and you could find yourself shedding members.
Remember – the key to successful change management is documentation, communication, and respect for stakeholders. Create change that works for everybody, and they’ll come together to help you succeed.
Are you considering outside help from an association management services provider? We may be able to help! Ask us any question you have!
About Maneesha Manges
Maneesha Manges is a seasoned digital marketing professional with 20 years of experience working in multiple markets and global companies. Her prior experience includes consulting roles in digital marketing strategy, data analysis, field marketing and social media. Maneesha holds a Master of Business Administration degree in High-Tech Marketing from American University’s Kogod School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Concordia University in Montreal.