EPISODE 4

MANAGING CHANGE: PART 2

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In Part 2 of this series on Change Management, Jen is once again joined by Spencer Stern, Director of Microsoft Dynamics Practice for Catapult Systems, as well as Colby Basham, Director of Public Works at the Village of Elk Grove in Illinois. They continue their conversation from Part 1 by including an actual customer in the government space who has been a part of many different projects that have had a change management component.

Full Episode Transcript

Recording:

This is the Peers In Public Records Podcast with Jen Snyder, brought to you by GovQA.

Jen Snyder:

Hi. Good afternoon, everybody. And thank you for joining our GovQA Peer to Peer podcast. Today, I have the pleasure of being joined by Colby Basham, Director of Public Works, at the Village of Elk Grove Village. I also am joined by Spencer Stern, the Director of Microsoft Dynamics Practice at Catapult Systems. Today’s topic is going to be change management. If you were part of series one, you’ll notice that we’ve got Spencer back to join us again. Thank you for joining us, Spencer. And we are going to kind of dive in a little bit more in detail with an actual customer in the government space who has been a part of many different projects that have had a change management component. So Colby, thank you for joining us today.

Colby Basham:

Well, thank you for having me.

Jen Snyder:

And Spencer, again, thank you.

Spencer Stern:

Pleasure to be here. Thank you, Jen.

Jen Snyder:

Wonderful. So what we’d like to do to start things off is Colby, if you could kind of give us a little bit of background on your career and your experience, that would be really wonderful for our audience.

Colby Basham:

Sure. Well, thank you again. I’ve had over 20 years of experience in the private sector working for very large corporations with thousands of employees all over the United States. One of the companies was one of the largest privately held companies in the world. Then oddly enough, about 12 years ago, I made the switch into the public sector and I’ve been in the public sector ever since. I’ve had the opportunity to work for one of the largest municipalities in the state, as well as now my current role in a smaller community like Elk Grove Village.

Jen Snyder:

Excellent. In your role, both at your previous government experience, as well as today, what has been your focus?

Colby Basham:

Well, I’ve usually been involved in some aspect of the public works realm. I did spend about four years in the last organization working at city hall in what we called Neighborhood Services Director, which was in charge of the 311 space, as well as the code enforcement group and a couple other small divisions.

Jen Snyder:

Oh, 311. I can imagine there was some serious change management there; but before we dive into that, Spencer, for those who are just joining us on part two of our change management series, can you go ahead and give everybody a little background on yourself as well?

Spencer Stern:

Perfect. Thank you, Jen. So just a little bit of background professionally. Currently, I’m working for Catapult Systems, which is a Microsoft system integration firm headquartered in Texas, and my responsibility there is leading their Microsoft Dynamics customer relationship management practice; so focused on developing service offerings and delivering CRM-related projects to our customers. Previously, I worked for Microsoft as a Customer Success Director for three years. And prior to that, ran my own consulting firm; was we were a small boutique firm based in the Chicago area that helped organizations, primarily municipalities, with technology procurements. That’s how Colby and I first got connected together is his organization hired me to help them deploy the 311 contact center.

Jen Snyder:

Excellent. Why don’t we start there? So Colby, I was going to ask what type of projects, transformations you’ve been a part of, and I’m sure there’s been many. Why don’t we start with the project that you worked on with Spencer and let’s talk a little bit about how that project kicked off, how you decided, or did you decide change management needed to be a big part of it?

Colby Basham:

I’ll start that by saying one of the reasons that I undertook the role that I had at the previous organization with launching the 311 solution and essentially, the CRM, customer relationship management tool was because in the private sector, I was involved in sales and sales management and was instrumental in launching a couple of CRMs in a couple of those organizations as well. When I interviewed for the job in the public sector, I was dumb enough to say the word, “CRM.” So when the time came that they decided they were going to do that, they’re like, “Hey, we know somebody who knows something about CRMs. We’re going to have him be involved in this project.” So that’s how that came about. It’s kind of like be careful what you ask for, you might get it. So, yeah. So change management was a huge part of the project because Spencer and I have talked about this dozens of times before, but not only was it introducing a new set of technology into the organization, but it was completely a cultural shift in the organization.

Colby Basham:

There was a department in that organization that had a policy that they did not answer the phones during the course of the day. All the incoming phone calls went to voicemail and one person’s job at the end of the day was listening to all those voicemails, writing them down, and then hand delivering all the little message cards to each person in their department who was supposed to respond. What the organization found is that less than 50% of those phone calls were ever returned, and the constituents or customers in this case were quite annoyed by the responsiveness of their government.

Jen Snyder:

Sure, sure.

Colby Basham:

Yeah. So the city manager was very interested in trying to come up with a solution that would not only improve the efficiencies of everything, but also showcase the good work that actually was taking place. So he found out about 311 I think at some city manager’s conference, shoot, probably 12, 13, 14 years ago, then that was his vision ever since he became city manager.

Jen Snyder:

So that sounds like although a lot of work still had to go into it, just because you had an executive sponsor, I’m sure that kind of helped clear the path a little bit too on the project.

Colby Basham:

Oh, it absolutely did. If you were to ask me what I think is one of the main keys of change management or implementing any kind of a technology solution, it’s certainly that executive sponsorship or that executive buy-in. However, this particular organization had a, reputation maybe might not be the right word, but internally the organization had a reputation for what I jokingly referred to as the software of the month club. What I mean by that is there was a lots of other software things that were introduced along the way, but literally people knew that if they just waited it out or resisted it long enough, the software would go away and the organization would be on to the next thing.

Jen Snyder:

Sounds like software du jour.

Colby Basham:

Yes, it became very pervasive in the organization. So when we launched the CRM and the 311 solution, there was a lot of resistance as far as that goes too, because people were thinking this was the pet project of the city manager and that eventually, it was going to go away.

Jen Snyder:

Got you. So knowing that you had this pervasive problem in the organization, but you knew that it was a big driving force of your executive sponsor to get this implemented and that it would have goodness for the organization because I can’t imagine you would get behind it if it didn’t, what did you do? What were the first steps you did to decide when we’re going to do this, how is it going to be successful? What needs to happen?

Colby Basham:

So let me say this; in the private sector, a couple of the CRMs that I was involved in, the executive sponsor’s mandate to the organization was, “This is the direction we’re going and jump on board and be a part of it, or get steamrolled by it, or leave the organization.” I’m paraphrasing, but you know what I’m saying?

Jen Snyder:

Right.

Colby Basham:

But our city manager never really took that approach. If I remember correctly, Spencer, the term he liked to use was a phased-in approach.

Spencer Stern:

That’s correct.

Colby Basham:

Yeah. We used to try to phase in a department or a division or an operation at a time. Basically what we tried to do was develop early wins with key users. So one of the things that Spencer and I did is we developed teams of early adopters and resistors from each department and we put them together as teams, and then the early adopter and the resistor had to work together on whatever solutions or problems that we came up with. Then we found that that resistor actually often flipped pretty quickly and then became an agent for the change and help to drive it within that particular division or department. But there was never this from the mount, thou shalt do it or else kind of an edict.

Jen Snyder:

Got you.

Spencer Stern:

If I could just poke in here for a second, Jen. Another really important message that the executive sponsor sent out to the team was job security. So whenever you have a technology project, especially in the public sector, there’s always a feeling of love, “Oh my gosh, they are deploying this piece of technology and my job is going to be outsourced to a computer.’ That was a concern. So the city manager was very upfront and he said, “Look, we are not going to be making any cuts specifically related to this technology procurement,” again, putting out their concern over job security and saying, “Hey, we’re going to address this thing head-on. We’re not going to hide behind consultant speak or whatever.” I think that was a really important message to try to sway some of the potential detractors or resistors as Colby had mentioned.

Colby Basham:

Oh, I can absolutely echo that; that, that played a significant part in the adoption of the organization once we started getting some of these wins. Initially, there was still a lot of resistance regardless. But once we started getting these small wins and people realized that it actually worked and that we were going to keep it and it was going to be part of the culture and the nobody was going to lose their job, and he reiterated that over and over that, “This is just trying to drive efficiencies,” and that nobody’s going to lose their job. That really played home with a lot of people.

Spencer Stern:

One other quick thing just as we’re talking a little bit about some best practices here, Jen and Colby, is the role of elected officials. This is something unique to public sector organizations versus commercial organizations. We spent a fair amount of time, the city manager, and myself, and a few other folks within the city, Colby also, working to educate the elected officials, basically the council people, if you will. What we ended up doing is creating advocates on the council about this project. That was fantastic to get that level of support. It showed full transparency between the city manager and the 311 CRM team of what we were doing. We were very open. We were very candid about sharing the information during the council meetings, et cetera.

Spencer Stern:

So when things came up for a vote, because obviously, the budget of a project of this magnitude needs to be approved by the city council, it really sailed through because we had invested the time upfront to get the elected officials on board, to educate them, to get their support. Because obviously, they’re concerned too about jobs also. They don’t want to be acting in a capacity as an elected council person and employees of their community are losing their jobs. So getting them on board I think was another critical success factor here.

Jen Snyder:

Excellent. Excellent. I want to circle back for a second. Spencer, I have a question for you. So Colby had mentioned a phased approach, trying to get those early wins department by department. Is that kind of a standard process or was that unique in this situation?

Spencer Stern:

So that’s a great question, Jen. This was a process that… It’s a mix in the public sector to be candid. I’ve worked with a couple of clients who have deployed CRM systems and they have taken what I’ve called the kind of the big bang approach, which is bringing multiple organizations, multiple departments on simultaneously. There’s been some mixed results with that. So when I was working with Colby and the city, we felt taking the state’s approach can help significantly with the change management process, it could help with the adoption process, and it could also help with the citizens too, as far as pushing. Sometimes if you push too much change too quickly on the citizens, there’s issues with their adoption and their understanding of it also. So we felt in this instance, given the culture of the organization, given the potential uptake from the citizens, that a phased approach was going to be optimal here.

Jen Snyder:

What I like about that approach is the psychology behind it. As soon as you start to see quick wins, I want what you have. Right? There’s that part of the equation-

Spencer Stern:

Correct.

Jen Snyder:

… which leads to a quicker adoption with the next phase. Then also the feedback coming from citizens who have had a pleasurable experience in the new world, that feedback rolls uphill and now all of a sudden, there’s a vested interest in everyone getting on board from your senior leadership perspective. So I really liked that approach.

Colby Basham:

A lot of that feedback from the citizenry went back to the elected officials. So having done that work in advance with the elected officials really helped to bolster their confidence and their commitment to the project when they heard from their constituency.

Jen Snyder:

Absolutely.

Spencer Stern:

Another thing I’d like to mention where change management played a very significant role here with this is the desirability of the positions within the contact center, these frontline customer service representatives. Because the project was rolled out incrementally, we were able to get quick wins. We created a significant amount of buzz with the citizens, but we also created a significant amount of buzz internally. The demand for these roles was significant, and Colby can speak to that because he played an active role in hiring recruiting. But the people who there was such a strong demand to get these roles and the people who got the roles were typically the best of the best within the city. That just helped feed the momentum of 311 throughout the city, as well as through the interactions with the citizens.

Colby Basham:

Right. Yeah. As a matter of fact, as we rolled in departments, we would bring people from those departments into the contact center. So we had a couple of people from public works and a couple of people from the finance and customer service, water billing area, a couple of people from community development. I think we ended up with someone from the city manager’s office, somebody from parks and rec. So we had a variety of different people who were almost specialists in their respective area, but their job was also to train everybody else in the department about how to become more of a specialist on the service requests that were specific to that particular department. So it worked out great.

Jen Snyder:

That, to me, is a fantastic plan. So what you basically did was you built this group of folks who were all subject matter experts who were working in a decentralized fashion, brought them all together, and then allowed them to do a knowledge share so that they were all equals and allowed to be able to take care of the entire organization.

Colby Basham:

Exactly. Yeah. We also, of course, part of the CRM included a knowledge base and each person who had specific information on their specific area was responsible for developing knowledge-based content relative to their area that they came from. So it worked out great.

Jen Snyder:

And I think that’s a key component in my mind for change management is when you can have folks have, for lack of a better way to explain it, skin in the game. They’ve had some ownership in the process, right? If I own a portion of a knowledge base, that’s more important to me than me just coming and doing a job.

Colby Basham:

Oh, absolutely.

Jen Snyder:

So when you were deciding to kick this project off, Colby, what would you say… What was your biggest concern or reservation?

Colby Basham:

It was the adoption by the organization. You know what I mean? Because again, I had that strong executive leadership support, but even the assistant city manager and some of the department heads were honestly some of the resistors at the time. Those are people that, again, were kind of used to that software of the month club and they were kind of thinking that if the city manager left, that this project would go by the wayside. So it was helping those people get through what I like to call the trough of pain, getting past the change from denial all the way up to frustration, depression, and then moving up to integration, but trying to help get them through that change process so that they understood how it was going to benefit them. What’s in it for me? Everybody wants to know what’s in it for me?

Jen Snyder:

Right.

Colby Basham:

And proving to them that it didn’t cause more work for their departments and proving to them that the 311 was going to be an advocate, not an adversary.

Jen Snyder:

Absolutely.

Spencer Stern:

One thing I wanted to add too, regarding resistance is there wasn’t just the departmental resistance that Colby had referred to. But initially, we have resistance within the IT department. That was driven by the fact that we were looking at solutions that were cloud-based and back then, there was no cloud-based implementations within the city. This would have been the first one. So working with the director of MIS within the organization, as well as people on his team was another very important change management issue that we needed to address. We had to get him and his team educated on what cloud-based systems can do, the issues around security, around end points around maintenance, around costs and that was a lift. This was a person who had been very successful in their role working with on-premise solutions. So that task fell to me and another person within the city manager’s office to help educate the IT team and bring them along. At the end of the day, and Colby can hopefully attest to this day, ended up becoming huge advocates of the system, as well as expanding the system.

Colby Basham:

So let me expand on that real quick. So yes, everything Spencer said is absolutely true. We had the opportunity of taking the IT director to a conference with the vendor that we ended up choosing for the CRM. At that conference, it just happened to be their director of safety or whatever the heck they called that guy and our IT… I was in the room. Okay. But our IT guy and the director of safety security spoke it geek for about 45 minutes, and I have no idea what the hell they all said to each other. But at the end, our director of it was on board and he was a new man when we left there. It was by far the best thing that we could have done, but that was all based on communicating early and often and bringing him in at the beginning, and having him be part of the solution and the work that Spencer and the other guy in the manager’s office did to drive that.

Jen Snyder:

That’s a good point. So I think a lot of times, projects, they get put in a think-tank, people decide on what they want to do, they develop requirements, they evaluate software, they go forward and then they all of a sudden go, “Oh, by the way, we should probably have you look at this.” I’ve seen projects go to a screeching halt because the right people were not involved early and often. Great point about communication and early and often. That is something that I’ve seen be a misstep very often in my career. I can completely appreciate the on-prem versus SaaS. I’ve been in the space for a long time providing gov tech solutions and understand how that evolution has happened. So I can appreciate that. Maybe 14 years ago, you were definitely in a resistance period. One of the things that Spencer and I talked about on a previous podcast was identifying those agents of change in each department and when to bring them into a project. So when you were launching this project, had you brought the change agents in through the whole evaluation process?

Colby Basham:

So each department identified two or three people, I think it was, that they felt were going to be adopters, I guess, or agents of change, or people who would at least be open to the idea. Then those people were part of our software evaluation group. I think there was probably 12 or 15 of us total on this evaluation group that looked at every software solution that we had demoed and read through the RFPs and RFQs, and went through the whole thing. Yeah, we used a very broad-reaching team approach and brought in a lot of people in early.

Spencer Stern:

Then another thing to add is in tandem with being very inclusive in our evaluation approach, we also put together a dedicated training session for these individuals to be change management coaches or champions and leaders, and includes various activities in there, but wanted to make sure that we gave them the tools to be successful to evangelize change within their business operations.

Jen Snyder:

So when you say training, are you referring to training specifically on the product so that they can be kind of trained trainers in their department? Or are you speaking more about kind of the methodology around change management? Like how do I be that person that people want to follow?

Spencer Stern:

It was the latter, the management around the change management piece, the process, how to be a coach, how to deal with resistance, how to help people out of the trough of pain, to borrow Colby’s term. That’s what the training sessions were focused on.

Colby Basham:

But I also believe that these people eventually ended up becoming the early adopters in their departments and then ended up, just because they wanted to, help drive the change by showing people the tips and skills and things that they had learned along the way.

Jen Snyder:

Yeah. My experience has been that when you have that change management group who is a part of the entire process of evaluating and implementing a new software, they become those trained trainers in their departments because they will have more knowledge, they will have more understanding of the product. And if you’ve given them some tools, as Spencer has mentioned, to know and identify when and how they’re acting as an agent of change, it can be very powerful and very successful. So I wanted to also ask just today off the top of your head if you were to think about three things you would tell our audience if they were in the process of evaluating software today and looking to kind of start or kick off kind of a significant project, whether it’s replacing existing software or maybe just improving process in general, what are the top three things that you would want to make sure that they consider or take into consideration?

Colby Basham:

I would say executive buy-in and support is the first thing, whether it be if it’s in the government space, not only the manager’s office but as Spencer alluded to, the elected officials. That’s a key thing, bringing them in early and often, communicate. That’s a big deal. Commitment and resilience, maybe they go together; but the project that I was involved in, the one we’re talking about with the CRM and the 311 operation, that was a multi-year multi-million dollar huge change, but there’s also changes by just small things that people do within their departments all the time. But even there, the commitment and the resilience to see it through and the stick with it-ness, that’s not a word I don’t believe.

Jen Snyder:

We’ll take it.

Colby Basham:

I suppose last, I would say understand how to deal with the resistance of the people who are going to oppose the change because if you don’t have a plan for dealing with resistance, I think you’re set up for failure.

Spencer Stern:

One of the things just to… That was a great list that Colby put together, but what’s interesting just to call it out, Jen, is with all those three answers that he gave you, he didn’t mention technology.

Jen Snyder:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Spencer Stern:

It’s all focused around kind of the people, the process, the cultural side of things, the organizational side of things. I love the fact that those are the answers that Colby offered up as far as things to focus on as critical success factors.

Jen Snyder:

I would completely agree. I think when you’re looking at change management, it doesn’t really matter what you’ve picked. If you’ve decided it will work, it’s about making sure that the people that are going to be a part of it are taken into consideration, are brought along through the process, and are listened to and heard. One of the things I’m curious about is metrics. So as this project was underway and it was moving forward and obviously, it was in a phased approach, how did you approach metrics? What told you, you were being successful?

Colby Basham:

A very good question, because one of the things that I wanted to do is I wanted to do a pre 311 and post 311 survey. It could be internal stakeholders, external stakeholders, but I wanted to do some sort of a survey to find out what basically the constituency felt about their government’s responsiveness and their ability to interact with the municipality versus before and after. But for a variety of different reasons, we weren’t able to get that done beforehand. But we did do one, I believe it was a couple of years later and it was very high by then, but we don’t have anything to gauge it by from the beginning. So Spencer knows me pretty well, and as is evident based on my answers to your previous questions about my concerns, to me, the real thing that shows our success on the change process was the people. The end-user buy-in, those people who are adopting the process early, we had the ability to look in and see A, how many times a day people logged in, but then also how many minutes or how many hours a day people were in the system.

Colby Basham:

Early on, even when we launched the department, it would be very little. But then once they saw the benefit of it, then we got minutes and minutes and hours and hours. You started to see that kind of end user adoption. That was to me a really big key component. So to me, it all down to how the people reacted to it because we didn’t have any specific metrics other than an independent source did do a return on investment analysis of this project. I think it was what? A year or two after we’d launched, I think, and they determined that we had 120% annual return on our investment and that our payback was in 0.7 years. So the millions of dollars that we invested in the program paid for itself pretty quickly based on this independent evaluation that was done.

Spencer Stern:

And a few other things just to piggyback off of Colby’s comments. One of the things that was captured was the feedback from the citizens. So prior to the 311 system being launched, it was very rare to get positive feedback from the citizens. Moving forward with the implementation of the system, that stuff has been tracked. The customer satisfaction has gone up significantly, personal relationships between the 311 customer service representatives and the citizens have been built, trust in the city was enhanced because of that. The other, I think, key metric is this system still thrives with so many key people leaving. Many of the elected officials who supported this have left or are no longer on the council. The city manager is no longer there. I’m, as the consultant, no longer working there. Colby is no longer working there. The key person in the city manager’s office who played an instrumental role in this is no longer there. And yet the system still thrives. I think that speaks to the fact that the system was bigger than any one person, that it really was a fundamental mind shift within the organization.

Jen Snyder:

That’s fantastic. So as we’re wrapping things up here today, Colby, if you could do me a favor, our audience sometimes likes to reach out and have some specific questions regarding the conversation we’ve had today, maybe wants to dive a little deeper in a particular area. So if you could share how folks can get ahold of you, that would be fantastic. And if you have any parting thoughts you want to share with the audience, feel free.

Colby Basham:

Sure. My email address is C like Colby, CBasham, B-A-S-H-A-M@elkgrove.org. So CBasham@elkgrove.org. People could call me at (847) 734-8800. From a closing standpoint, the only thing I also want to just go back to is that as a department head, I’ve got 70 people or so in my department. Every day, we’re doing some level of change management in every decision and everything we do. Some are really formalized with the changing the culture and the five-year project that costs millions of dollars, but some are really small and it’s something that to me, it’s all about the people, it’s about getting those early wins, and it’s just really important for people to not think that change management is only something for those really big, huge, large implementations.

Jen Snyder:

That’s a great point. As long as you keep change management is front and center, you know that you’re always going to be considering the people involved in whatever that changes.

Colby Basham:

Exactly.

Jen Snyder:

Spencer, how can folks get ahold of you?

Spencer Stern:

Perfect. My email address is Spencer, S-P-E-N-C-E-R dot Stern, S-T-E-R-N@catapultsystems, all one word, dot com. And my phone number is (773) 242-6000.

Jen Snyder:

Excellent. I’d like to thank you both for joining us today. Colby, I really appreciate your insight. It’s been very valuable. I’m sure our audience will appreciate it. Spencer, thank you very much for joining us again and helping organize our conversation with Colby. We look forward to talking to you again regarding some change management. With that, I will sign us off for today. Have a great afternoon, everyone.

Recording:

Thank you for listening to the Peers In Public Records Podcast. To continue the conversation and learn more about public records. Visit us at govqa.com or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

HOSTED BY

JEN SNYDER

Chief Evangelist

As GovQA’s Chief Evangelist, Jen is interested in meaningful conversations that look both at the big picture, as well as dig deep into nitty-gritty best-practice working sessions on all government challenges and opportunities including those related to technology, transparency, security, procurement, legislative mandates, compliance, staffing challenges, and more. Jen’s 15 years of experience in the state and local government space includes guest speaking and moderating for government events, roundtables, and associations. She has another 10 years of experience managing local and international business development initiatives for B2B tech companies.

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