Expertly-led change management key to tech rollouts

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Senior level buy-in, a shift in culture, and open book relationships are all crucial to implementing new solutions

Effective rollouts of new technologies hinge on expertly-led change management, according to speakers at a recent Social Robotics and AI conference.

Relaying how cognitive computing now supports virtually every aspect of the procurement and supply chain management process at Vodafone, head of cognitive procurement and digital sourcing Virginie Vast explained that new technologies will only be embraced when supported by culture change.

“You have to think digital,” she said, explaining that this extends right to no Vodafone colleagues having analogue business cards anymore, and there being no printers in Vodafone offices.

Vast emphasised the critical importance of senior-level buy-in. “It’s top down,” she said of Vodafone. “Our CEO and team are big believers in technology and AI. I think it’s very important – in AI particularly, where you don’t have quick wins to take to your management.”

She advised HR to think outside the box in assigning colleagues to digital rollout projects. “You have to embrace talent,” she said. “There are some people who are incredibly creative but are accountants for example, so you don’t go for them. But it’s important to think outside the strengths of people to embrace new talent.”

Also speaking at the conference was Jayne Reddyhoff, change management specialist and managing director of Zanzi Digital. She agreed with the importance of senior-level buy-in. “If you’re not willing as a leader to stand up and say to your teams ‘this is what I believe in and why' then other people won’t be able to believe it.”

Engaging people lower down the organisation to help rollout change is equally important, however, she caveated advising organisations to “engage trusted champions”. “You need to make sure that the people who are explaining it to the staff are people they trust,” she said.

Reddyhoff also said organisations should consider initiating “open book relationships”. “This is an area where a lot of public sector organisations have an issue,” she said. “You need to be sharing things with trade unions, works councils, staff reps, whatever it is. Because if they don’t understand what you’re trying to achieve they can’t possibly help you understand how you’re going to do it.”

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