When enterprise resource planning solutions were introduced they represented a new paradigm in the management of corporate operations. Similarly, dramatic changes in content consumption have caused a paradigm shift in how organisations create, produce and distribute content. Where print and PDF once ruled, consumers now count on immediate access to information across smart phones and tablets, on the Web, in addition to printable formats. The ability to keep up with these changes has a profound impact on the success of an organisation and requires significant changes in content strategy and solutions.
However, as you may have experienced, nobody wants to be forced to change the tools they use to do their job. In fact, employees often go to great lengths to avoid this. For example, if an organisation adopts content automation in order to transform their content lifecycle, that is going to necessitate a change in how subject matter experts create content and perhaps even the authoring tools they use. Let’s explore this example further as we look at barriers to change and best practices.
Many books have been written about the psychology of change, and there are two common reasons why accepting new authoring tools can be so difficult for staff:
- Muscle memory:“I’ve been using my authoring tool for 20 years and can work quickly because I’m very familiar with how it works.”
The implication here is that the user will be less productive if forced to change tools. However if, for instance, a piece of content created in a static Microsoft Word document needs to be reformatted by a publishing group for print and another team for web, and yet another group for mobile, the time and energy the author spent styling in Word is arguably wasted. Thereby, switching to an authoring tool that allows for the easy creation of structured content improves the personal productivity of authors, sometimes dramatically, by taking away the need (and even the ability) to style content.
- The devil I know:“My authoring tool doesn’t always work as I wish or expect, but I have learned how to avoid those circumstances or developed work-arounds.”
This is often a subconscious objection and is directly tied to “the fear of the unknown.” This concern can be overcome by starting with easy-to-use tools, providing training, and with the personal experience that comes with time spent using a tool.
Best practices for managing cultural change
There is no single path to successfully navigating cultural change. Every company, department, and individual is different and requires consideration. However, there are some guidelines we have gained through experience that can help businesses build an effective change management strategy when it comes to content automation.
- Identify a champion in the authoring community within the business
This might be the most senior author or a well-respected team member, but ideally the person will be open-minded and willing to take the time to learn why a content automation solution is best for the business and therefore best for authors.
In the early stages of planning, a champion can help identify and prioritise features required or desired for personal productivity and satisfaction. A champion can also be the voice of reason to the author community when a particular feature may not be made available in the new tool.
- Provide Choices Not Mandates
The number one cause of stress in the workplace is the feeling of a lack of control. Gathering input on features and priorities can alleviate an author’s feeling of not being in control when change is required. A champion can also help identify potential red-flags: items that may cause the authoring community to push-back. Identifying those challenging items early in the process will enable the team to speak with the authors regarding prioritising, therefore building a consensus of compromise.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
While many of the benefits of content automation may not be directly felt by the authoring community at first, it is useful for that community to understand the value of a major change to the business. The team managing the change should draft a document stating the business challenges, goals, and expected returns including benefits to each group that may be involved: authors, designers, IT, and content consumers. Reviewing, revising and continually communicating the goals will help team members to internalise the need for change, which in turn will minimise their resistance to change.
It’s important to understand that the psychology of change among staff requires organisations to address the affects these transitions will have on company processes. By following the above, businesses can ensure they make the most of content automation – or any significant transition – that will ultimately transform and streamline the business.