by Robert Palmer
Change is the one constant in today’s fast-paced business world. How we work, when we work, and the tools we use to conduct business are evolving at rates much faster than most organizations could have imagined just a few short years ago. Success hinges not just on the ability to accept change, but to embrace it.
Despite this notion, organizations often struggle with managing change. The tendency is to focus on corporate directives, strategic plans, and tactical programs while minimizing or completely ignoring the potential impact on employees and existing processes. Effective change management involves corporate policies that influence end-user behavior to produce the desired results, rather than simply forcing change for the sake of corporate objectives.
Change management is one of the most important elements of any managed print services engagement. The benefits of MPS are well documented and easily understood: reducing print costs, driving operational efficiencies, and improving sustainability, for example. But delivering on the MPS value proposition requires the customer to make significant changes in a myriad of areas such as device deployment, service delivery, supplies sourcing and fulfillment -- the list goes on.
That is why change management should be a pivotal component in any MPS solution. MPS providers must work closely with their customers to help manage change and to ensure that overall objectives are met. This requires buy-in from both employees and management, which is fundamental to the overall success of the program. There are so many factors that go into a successful strategy, but I believe there are three key principles that will serve as a strong foundation to any change management strategy.
1. Employee investment
Employees are resistant to change and often feel threatened by any tactical or strategic initiatives that directly impact their personal work environment. It is important for employers and providers to recognize that these are not irrational fears, but instead deeply rooted anxieties based on current work processes and emotional attachment. The simple task of replacing personal desktop printers with shared network devices can result in serious consternation from employees.
Most of us feel threatened by changes that are forced upon us, especially if those changes represent a perceived threat to personal productivity. Employees expect their personal and individual needs to at least be understood and considered when changes are proposed. To help alleviate these fears, ensure that employees are involved in the MPS process from the beginning. Ensure that they understand the objectives, benefits, and long-term implications so that they can support and promote the desired changes to infrastructure and policy.
2. Motivate and incentivize
Gaining employee acceptance and participation is crucial, which is why change management strategies need to be in place at the onset of any MPS implementation. To be truly effective, change management must include communications that articulate both corporate and individual goals. It is also very important to understand that corporate goals -- even those that directly impact the company’s bottom line -- may not necessarily be perceived as beneficial to the individual employee.
Employers and providers should focus on issues other than cost savings as a means to capture employee hearts and minds. It is always helpful for employees to understand specific cost-targets and potential benefits in overall cost savings. Nevertheless, individuals often place little emphasis on printing costs, and this is especially true for employees whose print requirements are so small as to have very little impact in the overall scheme of things.
One area that resonates strongly with employees is sustainability. Explain how your MPS program can reduce environmental impact by curtailing waste, driving down print consumption, and promoting recycling efforts. Many employees today are heavily invested in green initiatives and corporate policies for reducing environmental impact. Building sustainability programs and targets into your change management strategy can help bring employees along for the ride.
Incentives are tricky but they can also be very effective, not only for gaining employee acceptance but also for involving them early in the promotion and implementation of the MPS program. Incentive programs that encourage individuals or departments to hit certain targets, such as reduction in print volume or departmental cost savings, can be very effective if implemented and managed properly.
3. Evolve and revise
Any good MPS solution is one that continues to evolve based on the changing dynamics of the customer environment. This also holds true for any effective change management strategy. It is vital to recognize that procedures and policies put in place at the beginning of the program may no longer be viable later on.
Establish specific milestones and targets for your change management strategy, just as you would for the overall MPS program. Put systems in place that allow you to monitor the effectiveness of your change management strategy and be prepared to continually revise and improve based on evaluation against these targets.
Robert Palmer is chief analyst and a managing partner for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. He is an independent market analyst and industry consultant with more than 25 years experience in the printing industry covering technology and business sectors for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research and InfoTrends. In December 2012 he formed Palmer Consulting as an independent consultancy focused on transformation, mobility, MPS, and the entire imaging market. Palmer is a popular speaker and presents regularly at industry conferences and trade events in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He is also active in a variety of imaging industry forums and currently serves on the board of directors for the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA). Contact him at email@example.com.