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PODCAST: Organizational Change in Technology Implementations

Welcome to Just Clarity, a periodic podcast about Digital. Just Clarity is produced by the team at Digital Clarity Group. We help leaders transform the experience they deliver to customers, prospects, and their employees through the effective selection, integration, and adoption of customer experience management technology. Learn more at

Cathy McKnight (CMc): In this week’s episode we’ll look at the seeming lip service being given to organizational change when it comes to technology implementations. My name is Cathy McKnight and I am the VP of Consulting for Digital Clarity Group. Joining me today is Jill Finger Gibson, one of our Principal Analysts. Welcome, Jill.

Jill Finger Gibson (JFG): Thanks, Cathy and good happy morning to you. So yeah the topic of organisations change, it seems to be coming up more and more interestingly at technology themed conferences and I think that most recently we both heard it when we were at the Gilbane Digital Content Conference last week where increasingly, although the discussions of what technology you choose to implement it be it a CMS or a more complicated solution, people are starting to come around to the idea that it’s more than just about the technology which is good for us right? Because that’s how Digital Clarity Group was founded is exactly thinking that and looking at the processes around in place are important.

I guess one of the things I’m wondering about organization changes, how are you seeing that playing out or do you with working with our clients who are doing these kinds of projects in the end user consulting business.

CMc: Yeah it’s a huge topic Jill, I mean as you know I talked about last week when we were together in Boston at Gilbane, again we’re seeing more and more coverage of it from an article and blogging perspective, but we certainly from a consulting practice perspective see it with every engagement regardless of whether we’re going in and helping a company to get their roadmap for strategy together. So that early stage where they’re not quite at a technology implementation or if they call us up and we’re helping with the selection, one of the focal points for us is to make sure that they’re taking into consideration this is not about technology.

When push comes to shove a major implementation whether it’s a web content management system or digital experience platform or marketing automation platform, doesn’t matter what the technology is whether it’s MarTech or beyond that, companies really have to consider what they’re getting from a technology and how that impacts their teams. What a lot of companies don’t realise and what advocate for is to not look at it as solely a technology implementation, we look at it from a four prong perspective which is technology obviously, the people and the process being two of the other factors, but also in relation as an overall umbrella to the organisational goals of why they’re actually implementing the new technology, and often when you put it in context of that, throwing in that fourth layer because you often hear about people, process, and technology, when you tie it back to the concept of, “Okay, why are we doing this?”, it really makes them stop to think about the people and the process and the other aspects of the business that the new technology will impact.

JFG: Yeah, So you’ve experienced that. Do you have any sort of without naming names, an example of a project that maybe you’ve worked recently or a case study where that might have happened?

CMc. Yeah, we actually did a selection for a company on the west coast earlier this year and they were very, very myopically focused on the technology. So what they wanted to engage us for was the selection of a web content management system and when I went in there and the team started asking them questions about you know, “Okay well can you show me your content strategy, can you show me your digital strategy, can you show me…” you know they were going through some major transformations from an organisation perspective, “Can you show me what the marketing team and what the business ops team and what your R&D team are going to look like six months from now”, because we really need to consider that as we’re selecting the technology. Who’s going to be playing with the content management system, is it solely going to be centralized team or are you looking to make it more decentralized and put the power of content, that sort of real time being able to update which is one of the reasons they were looking for a new content management system was to make sure that it wasn’t just a centralized team that could modify the content and remove that bottleneck, and they couldn’t answer any of those questions.

They kept telling me they had a content strategy, but they really didn’t. So as we delved into the technology requirements, we were also surfacing the people and process requirements and strategic requirements are a part of that. So what the project ended up doing is finding not only technology but also an implementation partner and in this case a digital agency who would be able to help them do those preliminary steps of identifying a content strategy, “What do you want it to look like at the end?”, so that they could then shape the implementation of the technology they selected to move in that direction.

JFG: Right, right. So I guess a thing that you’ve surfaced in that example which is also something that I’ve heard in some of the research that I’ve done on content and commerce integration is that you need to look at who the stakeholders are going to be, not just for the implementation, but also post implementation right? Understanding, you know, not just for a content management system, for example, it’s going to be content web manager as well, but also who are the other users going to be of that system and what will they need to be able to do to troubleshoot if something goes wrong for example.

CMc: Yeah, absolutely that’s a really good point Jill and let’s keep going with the web content management system although like I said, it applies to many major big pieces of technologies. Traditionally when we think of web content management, we think marketing and we think that it’s centered on marketing and they’re the only ones who need to be involved and content is becoming a company wide thing. It’s something that not just marketing is devising. You’re now looking at product teams and product information. You’re looking at sales teams. You’re looking at commerce teams which tend to be separate. So those managing the product information may be in a separate system. You also have to consider integration points and what information is feeding back and forth and we start looking at cross-channel, omnichannel you know, content is something that needs… It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village really to properly manage and deliver the content customers whether they’re B to B or B to C need in order to facilitate their journey and the experience that they’re looking for.

JFG: And by content let’s talk a little bit about you know, what we mean by content because I think also that seems to be changing particularly with the rise of machine intelligence or artificial intelligence, different terminology coming about that we’re looking not just at the web right? We’re looking at you know, audio as well as video and examples that we heard coming up like at Gilbane last week that are things is that there’s more voice being integrated into the content interaction experience like the example that was thrown out was, and a lot of people are already buying these services like the Alexa from Amazon for example.

CMc: Absolutely and that’s generating a whole new category of content and data as well. I mean let’s not complicate this podcast when we get into data, but certainly that’s something to consider as well because you need, you know data truly drives what content is needed where and when, and that is a skillset that is shamefully lacking in many organisations and it’s really difficult if they don’t think about those elements when they’re implementing new technology, all of the cross-pollination that needs to happen to make the investment in that technology the most it can be from a success perspective. Again it’s a real challenge and it does go back to organizational change and getting the organization from the very top to embrace a culture of change.

We always talk about from a technology, when it’s a major technology buy that you want to go as far up the food chain as you can to get support for the initiative, not that they are going to be sitting in selection meetings or through onsite demonstrations or anything like that, but you want their commitment, you want them to understand the impact on the business so that if there’s push back or if it needs further support or further funding that you’ve got somebody at the top level.

Change is the same way; change is led from the top. It’s something that it needs to come from you know, the highest level and then cascaded down to every single layer and put in context of why it’s so important to them and it’s going to be a different story depending on who it is that you’re speaking with and it can’t just be about you know, the business rationale, there need to be that WIIFM, what’s in it for me from an employee perspective as well as when that change is starting to be cascaded throughout the organisation.

JFG: Yeah I heard that actually there was a quote that I tweeted from a woman who manages digital transformation at one company, National Instruments where she said: “Prepare to be the brunt of people’s frustrations”. One really interesting topic is that I think everybody kind of in theory rationally agrees, “Yeah we need to be ready to change”, but when it’s a culture change it’s really uncomfortable, it’s not easy. So I’m just wondering if you think that there are some ways that you know, line employees or managers can learn to be a bit more flexible and proactive about being able to change when it’s needed?

CMc: Yeah I think everybody deals with change differently and I think truly to have a change happen successfully within an organization, it’s about finding those few individuals who can really galvanize others. So you may be looking at somebody, it could be any department, it could be HR, it could be Admin, it could be R&D like you never know when you’re going to find them right? But really looking at the organisation and who is the one piping up about new ideas or who’s the one you know, getting involved in employee engagement activities and things like that and getting them to truly get on side and be the spokesperson and like I said, galvanize that thought process and it’s about encouraging people to you know, step out of their comfort zone and I go back to the leadership, it’s having them show themselves stepping out of their comfort zone.

It’s about talking honestly not just about how great it’s going to be for the company and what it’s going to mean to the bottom line and things like that, but talking about the fact that, “you know what? This is going to be tough, I have reservations, but I see this as the best step forward for us to success in the future”. Being able to put comparisons of competitors, talk about or aspirational organizations and showing how they’ve changed what it’s meant to their business. It’s really about finding those few who can lead that many through the change and create more comfort in this uncomfortable situation.

JFG: Yeah I think that issue of… I mean it’s getting into a whole other topic and Lord knows there are enough quotes and comments on Linkedin about the leadership and effective leadership, but I think one thing that you hit on there that does work just from a personal perspective is I think that giving the evidence if it’s available of what can possibly work like, “Here’s what I think we will look like if we do this”, and reassuring people also that this isn’t going to upset the entire apple cart of what we’re doing or it might do, but there will still be things for you to do.

I think one of the things that comes up actually that I hear is people are, they’re looking at self-preservation within an organizational change and there’s a real fear here of what increasing automation will mean, people don’t want to automate themselves out of a job. So I think that’s, you know the question of what leaders need to look at that it does need to come from the top, that putting that level of reassurance is probably important, or not. The honesty thing you said is pretty important.

CMc: Yeah and I think you hit it right there on the head Jill is that leadership is important or maybe it’s not, that really goes back to the culture of the organization and the change that happens needs to be done within the purview of that culture. So even if the culture is the one thing you’re trying to change, you need to look at where it’s at today and work with it rather than against it to evolve it and change for other factors if you’re not trying to change the culture, if you’re trying to do another major organisational change or structure or things like that, it’s understanding the culture of the organisation and taking that into consideration as the path forward and the strategy for change is put in place because to just say, “This is the way we’re going to do it”, which is completely counter to any kind of method or madness that the organisation is used to today, you’re just asking for failure. So really taking a step and looking at the culture and seeing what’s worked in the past and how to move the needle slowly but surely forward regardless like I said whether it’s a culture change you’re looking for or a technology change or this digital transformation change that we talk about, but starting with the culture is the first step I would say.

JFG: Okay let’s look at another issue if we could get back to it is the whole issue of bringing in voice and voice as a type of content. How do you see that in sort of the enterprise content world? Do you think people are going to switch more to sort of voice-enabled content and that’s going to be an enterprise issue?

CMc: You know what I think it’s still new. I think there’s a lot of people who feel really weird about talking to a piece of furniture. I think things like showing the adoption and use of Siri were slower than expected and things like that. So it is coming, it is going to be a major change. It’s not something that I see a lot of organisations and that’s not to say that they’re not working on it, it could be just the ones that we’re working with right now, they’re not looking at it currently as a primary source of content, but I do believe that will change, but what I think that these voice activated pieces of technology like the Alexa and Google and what not that they have it’s a behavior change, but I also think it will drive data-driven decisions first rather than content generation.

JFG: Yeah that came up actually at the panel I moderated at Gilbane where one of the speakers is an executive at this company called KiK, which it’s a chat platform for teenagers basically and he was saying one of the ideas about chat and one of the advantages that it will give is it will provide a whole new level of data for the organization to understand its customers and its customer interactions and so forth, but that also brings us to… yeah that all sounds great, but I think what you highlighted which is a real issue and it’s not going to get better unless the industry as a whole addresses it is already that marketers and their like overwhelmed by data and unsure about sometimes there’s a lot that’s available, but what’s useful and how to draw insights from it is something that’s still something organisations struggle with.

CMc: I would agree and that is one of the biggest changes that need to happen within an organization is, I just actually wrote a post about the permeation of the data between the silos. So a lot of people talked about breaking down the silos, that’s not going to happen. Companies are structured a certain way for a reason, having a completely flat organization is incredibly challenging and comes with its own hardship just as matrixed organizations do, etc. So I think you know, companies rather than trying to make the world flat when it’s round is to look at ways of sharing data and that is a great first step in organisational change is sort of opening, getting those who lead or own the key to the data fiefdoms across the organisation is getting them to put the keys in the doors and swing open the doors so that people have access to the data and not relinquishing it. They can still keep the keys to their kingdom, but opening it up and sharing is I think a great opportunity to invoke change and create a more collaborative and open perspective on not only data sharing, but thus from their content generation.

JFG: So thinking about that. Does that mean for that kind of sharing that it necessarily paradoxically will lead companies to go, “Oh my god we need new data technology to share between the silos and start looking at data analytics, business information and start turning the technology”, or is the technology really already there within a lot of organisations, they’re just not using it?

CMc: Technology is often already there. There’s often multiple choices for the technology. It’s not that they don’t have enough, it’s that they’re spoiled for choice as far as what to use, so it’s another part of the step forward in sharing that data is looking at where the data resides, who’s collecting what, and you can actually find that companies will find economies of scale because they’ll be able to reduce some of the redundancy in the data being collected because multiple groups will be collecting the same information or they might find that they have redundant systems and it’s not that people will no longer have access to the data they need, it’s just that you’re going to be streamlining and pulling it into one or fewer at least repositories as opposed to having it scattered throughout the organisation.

JFG: That sounds like actually a really good opportunity if they are doing it already for the third party implementers to help companies with like agencies helping companies to better understand how to deal with their data and analytics.

CMc: Absolutely. I think it’s something that many organizations can use help with, but again you can’t boil the ocean right? You’ve got some start something one pot at a time as they say. So it’s certainly something to be aware of and it’s a great opportunity to build, that we talk about building relationships with the partners that you select. So not doing one-offs because it’s a huge learning curve for agencies whether they’re system integrators or digital agencies or the like coming in to learn the organization, to understand their culture, to understand their business and their business philosophy as well as their goals and aspirations.

So building that relationship, finding a partner that really works with them from a functional fit, from a cultural fit, from a complementary skill set perspective and then allowing that relationship to grow into and beyond from whether it’s a web content management system implementation to look at data, to look at other pieces of their MarTech, to look at their strategy. Even helping them with change management process because it’s often a lot easier for employees to accept change when it’s coming from the outside than it is coming from internally because there’s no history, it’s net new and they can hear the message with sometimes clearer ears than when it’s coming from someone else and there’s a history with the words that are being said.

JFG: Is there anything else on this theme of organizational change and technology or implementation that you see as being put to highlight here.

CMc: No you know I think the last thing wrapping this up, I think you brought up a really good point is looking at the systems that they have. So with change like I said, it needs to start at the top and be cascaded down and at every level, we’re not talking about jumping tiers it’s about going through every single pore of the organization.

Actions speak louder than words. So again take steps, don’t just talk about change, make change. Even if they’re baby steps and move forward and start doing things differently because if it’s just talking, people will chalk it up to just talk and they’ll not feel the pressure, the impetus to move forward with the organization.

Think outside of the box, don’t just do things the way they’ve always done them. It’s really hard from a process perspective when something has become common and rout for people and it’s comfortable so change takes time and you have to give people time to accept that and don’t go buying extra technology to help with the change if you don’t need to. Use the systems that you have, think about different ways they can be used. That’s the great thing about technologies today is they’re so flexible so again, look at what they have at hand and see how they can be leveraged to the facilitate change. So go back to your intranet or your employee portal and how can you leverage that to help facilitate the change.

Look at the some of the tools that companies use for their external clients and use them internally so whether it’s web recordings or videos or fun animations, really treat your employees as clients and customers in this process and then just keep adapting.

JFG: Keep adapting, keep changing, start from the top yeah. Great well thanks for talking about the organization change issue with me Cathy.

CMc: Oh thank you, Jill, and to everybody, thank you for listening. You have been listening to another episode of Just Clarity. Produced by the team at Digital Clarity Group. For more information on the topics we discussed today or the subject of customer experience management, please visit us at and have a great day.


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