With every project we implement, there is an element of change management at play.

In fact, change often begins in marketing operations, and it’s not surprising that Forrester predicts the CMO will emerge as the change agent for organizations.

From a new Marketo project to shoring up your marketing operations processes, every initiative involves change. In our work on more than 1,500 Marketo projects, we’ve learned a thing or two about marketing operations change, and we’re here to share that insight with you.

Keep your eye out for these common “gotchas” that can derail even the most valiant digital transformation efforts.

Overcome the pitfalls of marketing operations change

1. Overplanning for change.

Famed boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the face,” and the same holds true when it comes to change management.

Overplanning is one of the best ways to ensure that your digital project doesn’t go as planned.

For the best results, create a loose plan for your technology project. Realizing that the context will change, strategies will need to be modified, and other elements will need to be tweaked.

Lastly, plan on rolling with the punches as they come in, rather than suffering a knockout blow.

2. Handing down change to operations.

If you want to be 100 percent certain your digital transformation project fails, manage your change at the strategic level and then push it down to the operational level, simply announcing it is now in place.

No surprise here, this simply won’t work.

A smooth digital transformation isn’t just about communicating change; it’s about communicating the entire thought process —the options, the criteria, the decision-making factors —and giving the opportunity for the Ops level to provide feedback.

3. Punishing mistakes.

If you want people to be okay with change, you have to give room for mistakes.

If you scare your staff because you reprimand them, they’re going to long to go back to what they see as the “safety” of the past—which is no longer there.

Instead, you must create resources and systems that allow for both failures and learning to take place. Leverage your team’s strengths and past successes to help them best prepare for future successes.

Now that you have an understanding of the common pitfalls of change management, let’s progress to the next lesson.

How to Win at Change Management

1. Plan for continuous change.

You cannot plan for change if it’s happening right now. That’s why we recommend creating a culture of continuous improvement, ensuring that people are doing these four things:

  • Leveraging their experience with change
  • Managing their competence with change
  • Communicating with the right people at the right time about the change
  • Adjusting the message to fit each person’s priorities, competencies, and roles

2. Put people’s needs at the top.

We are all human and change causes uncertainty. Your team may ask questions, such as:

  • What will happen to my job?
  • What if I’m unable to keep up?
  • How will my role change?

These unspoken questions are at the core of the uncertainty and anxiety that make change seem so scary and overwhelming. By being proactive and taking a people-first approach to change management, you can alleviate much of the tension and apprehension surrounding change.

Next, you’ll want to ensure you have buy-in from your leadership team as well as the project committee that will be leading the execution. Getting both teams involved means that you’ll have not only the money and staff to put toward a successful implementation, but also in-the-trenches project champions who will provide updates and serve as a feedback loop to the executive team.

Develop a detailed communication plan that identifies:

  1. Direct and indirect stakeholders
  2. Who, what, when, and how the stakeholders will be informed of the reasons and benefits of the change
  3. The path for getting there

The plan must also include a clear mechanism for gathering feedback, addressing concerns, and answering questions.

With technology transformations specifically, your employees’ number one concern is that they will lose their jobs—it is likely the subtext of every initial question of concern raised. Your communications plan must be aware of this underlying concern.

Proactive and empathetic communication from the C-suite through every level of management will allow employees to move from a place of fear into a place where they are ready to learn.

3. Provide opportunities for wins.

When it comes to creating a smooth digital transformation, nothing creates confidence like small successes. One way to provide that is by kicking off the project with a reminder of prior positive experiences and existing capacities.

Here are three additional strategies that provide opportunities for early wins:

  • Incremental change. This will allow your team to quickly realize the benefits of the transformation as well as the joys of a victory on their own, rather than having to wait months or years for a “win.”
  • Ample training and resources. Ensure your staff has access to training materials and additional learning resources. This way, they can become subject matter experts in a “safe” environment. People learn in a variety of methods, that’s why it’s crucial to provide resources for all learning styles.
  • A flexible, agile roadmap. Just as senior management needs the ability to shift priorities, so too does your front-line staff. Build flexibility into your technology roadmap that gives your team some breathing room during the implementation. Doing so will provide the greatest chance of overall success.

Beat the odds

With a comprehensive change management strategy, you can beat the odds of a failed business transformation. With 70 percent of business transformations failing, it’s clear that there’s no shortcut to a successful transformation.

Whether it’s something your organization is actively pursuing or a series of outside forces that are having an impact on your business, the reality is that change is taking place all of the time. Keeping that in mind, it stands to reason that effectively managing change is in your business’s best interest.

Take your marketing operations to the next level

Are you frustrated with the outcomes of working with another Marketo partner? We invite you to book an introductory call with us. Let us demonstrate how we’re different and what results we can achieve together. Get in touch.

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