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A CIO Perspective on Change Management

By BTM Institute Staff Writer  |  Posted 2008-11-04 Print this article Print

The BTM Institute interviews Robert Keefe, CIO of Mueller Water Products and member of the Society for Information Management (SIM) to get some perspective on effectively handling technology-related change management and organizational change management.

Managing change often ranks among the top 10 concerns of the 3,600 senior technology professionals who belong to the Society for Information Management (SIM). Robert Keefe, the president of SIM International, says that although change management ranked seventh in SIM's 2007 survey, the percentage difference between each ranking was very close.
Keefe, who is also the CIO of the $1.8 billion Mueller Water Products, has had a great deal of experience managing both technology change management in setting up several ERP systems, and in participating in a cultural change for an acquisition and a divestiture.

The BTM Institute recently sat down with Robert Keefe to get a CIO's perspective on effectively handling technology-related change management and organizational change management. Here's what he had to say:

Q. What did you learn from your technology experiences handling change management?

I carried out change management for a distribution center and a manufacturing facility that needed to be up and running on time and delivering the right type of profitability for the company.

It's a learning experience for everyone. People need to understand the change that's going to occur. They need to participate in this initial process. For example, whenever I worked on an ERP implementation, we made sure that all of the people who would be touching the system knew what we were doing, and why we were doing it. We got their input ahead of time so they felt like they owned a part of the system. We then went back and told them the types of suggestions we incorporated into the new system and the new procedures.

Change management isn't about the implementation of the new system, which can be relatively easy to do. It's about improving business processes through change management.  This task involves getting people to buy into the new system, making sure they get up to speed quickly, and providing support so they can perform at the same level of efficiency, if not better, as they did with the prior system.  To this end, if you recognize this requirement from the outset, you can staff and budget for both formal and informal training.

Q. Can you briefly describe the challenges of working on the business side of change management?

Change management with acquisitions or divestitures focuses on cultural change where people have to do things differently from what they have done before. Like a system implementation, we needed to make them part of what we were doing and why we were doing it. People respond well to being included in the process.

When a prior company I worked for was building an offshore manufacturing facility, we got the offshore people involved in the process. In fact, we trained some of them to use our on-shore techniques so we could then take some of those processes offshore.

Q. What was the role of the senior leadership in the change management processes you've participated in?

Most of the senior management teams understood the magnitude of each project, whether it was constructing a new plant or incorporating a new business. We didn't have to worry about getting support if we run into a problem.

Senior management actively needs to participate in the change management process by setting the direction and developing the charter for what you're doing. They need to solicit and to answer questions people might have. They need to make sure that the staff leading the project understands that it might take longer to get everyone up to speed. They need to have a clear picture of the upfront work required and to budget for this work.

The BTM Institute (www.btminstitute.org) brings together the academic, corporate, government and thought-leadership communities as a multi-disciplinary research think tank to address the need to integrate business and technology.
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