EPISODE 5

MANAGING CHANGE: PART 3

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In Part 3 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 Alex Hempton, Technology & Innovation Deputy Director for the Performance & Analytics Department at the City of San Diego in California. They continue their conversation from Parts 1 & 2 by including another 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:

Good afternoon, everyone. You’re listening to the GovQA Peer 2 Peer podcast. I’m Jen Snyder, our Chief Evangelist and I am joined today by two wonderful individuals from the government space. We are going to be talking today about change management for the third time. So, we are really excited to have Alexander Hempton from the City of San Diego. He is the Deputy Director of Technology and Innovation, and he’s going to be sharing with us some of his experience when it comes to change management, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And if you’ve been following the podcast, you’ll know that we’re also joined by our friend, Spencer Stern from Catapult Systems, who is the Director of the Microsoft Dynamics Practice. Alex, would you just jump in for a moment and go ahead and let the audience know a little bit about yourself.

Alex Hempton:

Sure. Thank you so much and thanks for having me on today. So, my name is Alex Hempton. I’ve been with the City of San Diego since 2005. Initially, my background was in urban studies and planning, and I was able to transition into the Performance and Analytics Department in 2015, where I’ve had the opportunity to work on our Get It Done program, which is how we are providing digital services to our residents throughout the city. Simple and easy ways for our customers to connect with city services.

Jen Snyder:

Excellent. Thank you again for joining us today. Spencer, welcome back to another part of our series here. If you want to just give the audience a little bit more of your background, I’d appreciate it.

Spencer Stern:

Perfect. And thank you again, Jen, for inviting me back, thrilled to be here again, to chat about change management, especially with you and Alex. A little bit of my background, as you indicated, I’m the Director of the Microsoft Dynamics Practice at Catapult Systems. We are a Microsoft Three Cloud channel partner, and prior to joining Catapult Systems, I worked at Microsoft for about three years, and prior to that ran my own consulting firm, which specialized in supporting municipalities with their technology deployments. So again, thrilled to be here and looking forward to today’s session.

Jen Snyder:

Excellent. Excellent. So excited to have you both here. So as you know, this is part three of our series and it’s just been a really great experience to hear from different areas of our government customers and what some of their experience and thoughts are when it comes to change management. And I’ll point out a couple of the takeaways that we’ve seen in series part one and two, and then we’ll tie those into Alex’s experience and some of his thoughts as well.

But Alex, I have to say I was kind of intrigued with the fact that you were in urban planning and then migrated over to the Get It Done project, or the Get It Done area in the technology and innovation space. And I have to believe just by hearing that, that urban planning set you on a course to really appreciate change management when you moved into the new role.

Alex Hempton:

Absolutely. I think with urban planning, you always have varying sets of stakeholders and different needs from the community. And you have people within the city that are always walking around their neighborhoods, seeing things that are working well, seeing things that need to be changed or improved. And I think that’s where I was able to leap at the opportunity to work on a program like Get It Done, where I was always someone walking around the community, reporting a pothole and to actually create a new system for our residents to be able to more fully engage with the city, was something that I am really thrilled to be a part of.

Jen Snyder:

I can imagine. So, in working out in the community, you were probably working with a lot of business owners and developers, et cetera. So, do you think that they have a different take on what change management means than we do in the government space?

Alex Hempton:

What I found is that I think change management, the concept of change management is probably overlooked in some cases and on many different projects. But at the end of the day, what I see change management is, actually talking to the different stakeholders and the people that are closest to the problem or closest to the work that’s being done. So, whether that’s talking to a business owner or a resident or the person who is driving along painting out the graffiti, I’ve found that identifying who those stakeholders are and trying to do the ride-alongs, the sit-alongs, and actually engaging with all of those people that have a vested interest in the project, is really essential.

Jen Snyder:

That brings up a good point. So, as you’re identifying those change agents, those champions, how early on do you think that has to happen in the process? I think one of the things we’ve learned from the first two versions of this series is, we’ve heard some experiences and some examples of folks who have kind of Monday morning quarterbacked the idea of, “Oh, I wish we would have brought them into the mix much earlier in the process.” And just curious from your experience, where do you feel like that really has to be identified and deployed in a project?

Alex Hempton:

I would say all throughout, so before, during, and after. It’s really important to incorporate who the stakeholders are as you’re planning the projects and of course, during the project, but then even after the project is officially completed, there’s always, for example, with the Get It Done, we have ongoing operations and ongoing connections with both our internal stakeholders using the system and our external residents. So, it’s really a constant process of always taking stakeholder needs into account, making sure that there’s really a level engagement. If during the project you’re noticing certain stakeholders are not as engaged as perhaps they should be, it’s really important to figure out why and address those unmet needs or figure out why there’s a lack of engagement, because if you don’t do that during the project, it’ll most likely crop up as something that you need to address later on.

Jen Snyder:

Absolutely. Something Spencer and I had been discussing in one of the previous parts of our series was how important that stakeholder role is to the overall adoption throughout the organization. And I think Spencer, we had an example, if I could ask you to share with us, I remember there being a case where it was critical and if they didn’t get that stakeholder buy-in, the project was just not going to go anywhere.

Spencer Stern:

Yeah, absolutely, Jen. That was something that we invested a significant amount of time upfront. And as Alex said, I mean, it’s something that is consistent throughout the duration of the project, but yeah, in the specific example that we chatted about, we knew that this was going to be an incredibly challenging software deployment for this specific municipality. And there was a pretty diverse set of stakeholders that were engaged. And with the project team that I was working with, they had never taken on a project of this scale with such diverse stakeholders, not only within the city, different departments, but also in the community perspective. And because this was a very high touch deployment that was going to be occurring here.

So, we did a significant amount of stakeholdering internally and what we did is, we worked with the individual departments to identify opinion leaders and worked with them to navigate through their departments, to ensure that we were touching all the right people that would be impacted by the technology, but also folks that we felt we could harness their expertise and their network and their relationships internally, to help push forward this deployment. Then in addition, there was the stakeholdering with the community and that’s a little bit different than the traditional change management because the community is utilizing the software in a very different fashion. But we did do significant outreach to them to educate them on the software deployment and how it would be impacting them and how it would be impacting the way that they would be interacting with the city.

And one of the things that we did is, we got out into the community, we were at the city fairs, the trade shows for example, and a lot of the folks that we had identified as opinion leaders and, “Change management champions,” within the departments, we got them front and center, manning booths at community fairs and community events, events at the high school, for example, events at the community college. And by giving these people who were part of the change team, if you will, the opportunity to get exposed directly to citizens, to explain to them how this change is going to impact them and what they could expect from it. It just helped bolster their confidence and further amped up, if you will, their excitement about it and embedded a greater amount of a sense of ownership, if you will, within these employees. So, those were some of the specific tactics that we used to do stakeholdering.

Jen Snyder:

That brings up a great point, Spencer. So, one of the things I’m curious about Alex is, as Spencer had mentioned, they went out to the community because you’ve got to get that community buy-in and find those same change agents in your actual community itself, especially when it comes to something like a 311 center or digital interaction with your community moving forward, that’s a big change and a big different way of doing business. So, I also liked the point that you made, Spencer, that getting the folks that you identified as change agents to be out there at the fairs and do the promotion and do all that, that really gave them some more excitement and just enhanced the whole concept of the change, because they were a part of the whole thing in such a great, positive way. Did you do anything like that, Alex? Or how did you engage the community?

Alex Hempton:

Yeah. No, that’s so important, I think to be out in the community and we were able to participate in some similar events, different community fairs that we attended, to share information about Get It Done. We also, as part of Get It Done, have feedback loops. So, we’re always open and welcome feedback from our customers, what’s working well, what’s not working well. I’m thrilled when we get customer feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, always trying to hope for the positive feedback, but if there’s any constructive criticism, I think it’s just an opportunity for us to continuously improve how we’re delivering services or how, if there’s a small or large change we need to make to the website or to the app, that’s something that we can always gain through feedback from our customers or just internally from our employees.

Just recently, we had some customer feedback about, “A case was closed, but what did you do to fix the problem?” So, in that case, we’re able to add in some additional customer communication codes to improve telling customers what we’re doing to resolve the problem. In another case, we’ve been able to add in after photos. After photos have been extremely popular in terms of letting people know what work was done to resolve a particular issue. We’re rolling out some additional survey tools later this year that will be able to further identify what’s working well, what needs to be improved. And last year, we actually put together some focus groups with people from the community that were nominated by their council member, and that further informs what user-focused improvements we can make to the system.

Jen Snyder:

Wow, I have to say Alex, that is like the poster child for change management. I’m super impressed with the amount … And when you hear feedback loop and you hear that from a lot of folks and in a lot of situations, but a lot of times you don’t see the change. You don’t see that, “We saw a pattern in the feedback and we made change, and here’s what we did.” And here’s how you bring that back to the community, which I think is tremendous. I think, Spencer, we had talked a little bit about being able to assess the project and how the change is going and how successful it is all going, and what to do with that feedback.

I mean, this is just a great example of taking that information and really making it work, and I think that’s a big part of what people need to take away, is that you can’t really expect that you got it right the first time and there’s going to be more change, and how do you make that as a secondary positive experience? And Spencer, can you jump in and add a little bit to that part of the conversation? Because I would assume, based on your consulting experience that you’ve probably had, set up that contingency plan or phase two in your projects.

Spencer Stern:

Absolutely. But before I get to that, Jen, one thing I want to add that is particularly really special about what Alex and his team did with this community outreach. I mean, this is the City of San Diego, which is one of the 10 largest cities population-wise in the United States and it’s an incredibly diverse community. Alex has lived there a very long time. I had a chance to visit there, as well as working with Alex on the project, and to be able to pull off what Alex and the team did in such a diverse, large community is very impressive.

Jen, back to your specific question regarding contingency planning around stakeholdering. So, there’s a couple different components that we’ve done. I want to first focus on the stakeholdering internally. So, you invest a significant amount of time, you put together the project plan, you put together the change management plan, but sometimes the execution doesn’t go quite as well as you would hope. And one of the things that we’ve done successfully regarding contingency planning, specifically related to change management is, we like to get backups on our team. So for example, there has to be an executive sponsor in charge of the change management piece.

One thing that we’ve added is also a deputy executive sponsor. There has been times in projects where the executive sponsor has just got pulled in different directions. Sometimes they may leave the organization, for example. So, having that deputy, if you will, that can step in if needed, is really important. And that actually happened with a citizen engagement project I was working on in Canada a while ago. Where there was initially resistance to get the deputy executive sponsor engaged. I fought hard to get it. And then, lo and behold, the executive sponsor had to leave because of medical leave. So, fortunately the contingency planning was having that person at the ready and he stepped in and we didn’t miss a beat.

The other piece around contingency planning is understand that from a tactical perspective, things may not work quite as successfully as you would like it to. So, doing the surveys and understanding how people want to ingest information, that’s critically important. And what Alex said is something that has been done, and specifically in the City of San Diego, they’ve done it quite successfully. But understand that the first iteration of your communication vehicles, it may not hit the targets that you want. It may not resonate. The language may not be appropriate, the tactic/the vehicle may not be the appropriate one.

So, have at your ready, a second set of messaging and/or vehicles that you can utilize, so you can quickly re-pivot. That’s incredibly important because if you miss the mark with your messaging the first time, and then you go away and start tweaking it and spend three, four, five weeks doing that, and then there’s an inertia, a vacuum of information, people are going to populate that vacuum with their own set of facts, which may not be the actual, accurate set of facts. So, regarding the contingency planning part, it’s on the staffing side and part of it is on the tactical side with the communication vehicles.

Jen Snyder:

Excellent. Those are all great points. And I do agree, making that kind of change in a city the size of San Diego, which is one of my favorite cities to visit, slight plug for San Diego. Yeah.

Alex Hempton:

Thanks.

Jen Snyder:

You just have tremendously wonderful weather. It’s just a beautiful area. Saying that in Chicago, in the middle of March, when there’s three inches of snow on the ground, you can appreciate that. So just curious, Alex, if you were talking to some folks who were getting ready to take on a large project, what would be the three things that you’d want to share with them, that could be concerns when it comes to putting in a change management plan? We can all talk about a plan and we can put things on paper and we all know best laid plans.

So, as we’ve talked a little bit about having contingency plans here, what would be the three top things that you could provide to somebody from your experience that would say, if you could really make sure that these are top of mind, they will help ensure, help, not guarantee success in not only your change management plan, but your project as well?

Alex Hempton:

Good question. I would say number one, probably to make sure that you’re prioritizing the adoption and change management focus. Make sure that it’s a priority and that you’re allocating enough time and resources into your project plan to make sure that those activities get enough attention, as much attention as other, maybe technical components of the project. I would say second, to really focus on the levels of engagement, find ways to measure who’s engaged and reward that engagement or recognize it.

And then, if there’s a subgroup that is not as involved or not participating at the level that they should, figure out a game plan to address that because it really is a project risk. And finally, make sure that you’re also allocating time to get to know the end users of the solution, whether that’s through ride-alongs or talking directly to the customer, that I’ve found, can really just give you so much more information than a survey. When you’re actually sitting alongside someone and seeing how they work, that is just so valuable to making the project a success.

Jen Snyder:

Excellent. That’s great as well. One last question on that note, have you ever seen where it might be a good idea to maybe even shift gears and take a more phased approach at the change and the implementation versus try to do an entire boil the ocean all at once?

Alex Hempton:

So, I would say that a phased approach is key. It’s important when the project scope is being defined, that it’s achievable and that the organization that’s involved in the project can keep up with the project schedule. And if you need to make adjustments during the project, be open to that, or have a contingency plan. With our Get It Done project, we realized that one component involving payment processing needed to have some additional time and attention dedicated to it. And so, that component was planned for a later launch, which I think was a really critical decision. If we would’ve gone live with that along with everything else, it wouldn’t have received the attention it needed, which is critical when it comes to the PCI compliance and all the other components that are factored in as part of processing payments.

Jen Snyder:

Very interesting. I think that’s a great way to look at it. I think as long as you’re agile and you realize that your plan may have to have a change, that you’re willing to do that and that everybody’s open-minded and realizes that they didn’t write it in pen in the beginning, they wrote it in pencil, and there again, may be change. One of the other things I wanted to touch on, and I’m going to touch on this with you, Alex, and then circle back on some other comments that Spencer and I had had previously.

But you have given us a lot of information about your feedback loop and how actionable you were on that information, but I think what teams sometimes struggle with is, how do they really measure the change management success, the rollout of something and the plan they put in place to do so? What are some of those specific metrics? Because even though you did such a great job with your feedback loop and the responsiveness to that, we all know that we cannot respond and make change to every individual thing. So, what are some of the specific metrics that made you say, “Okay, this needs to be actionable.”?

Alex Hempton:

I think with the different stakeholders, it’s important to realize that on a project, you’re dealing with the people, the process, technology, and each stakeholder has different needs, and those needs need to be acknowledged and addressed in one way or another. Not every stakeholder need can be addressed or actioned on in the same way, but I think people need to be heard and it’s important to acknowledge what people are saying and really make sure that you’re listening to the concerns and figuring out a way to best address them.

So, in one situation, with one of our stakeholder groups, we sat down with them and really talked through what the issues were that they were facing with the technology solution. And once we were able to list everything out, we could start to kind of triage what was most important. And I think that issue list really helped us get on the same page and understand their concerns and figure out a way to address the ones that were most urgently needed.

Jen Snyder:

Thank you for that. And I wanted to circle back to Spencer for a second. Spencer, I know when we talked about metrics and things of that nature, not so much specifically about what those kind of metrics were, but I know you and I had had a conversation about those metrics being something that should be almost publicized, shared, maybe with your city council, maybe with the public in general, maybe at open meetings, but really something that should be shared from a success standpoint, this is how well it is. And then also, from a learning perspective, “Hey, these are things we’re still working on, or these are things that are still in change.” Can you share a little bit about that with us?

Spencer Stern:

Absolutely. So, one of my clients that I did some work with in the past, again, a similar system, a 311 system, a customer outreach system, was with the City of Elgin in Illinois, which is a Northwest suburb of Chicago. And I guess, I shouldn’t say suburb, I guess Chicago wouldn’t consider it a suburb, but it’s Northwest of the city. So, they were very excited to show the financial impact of their 311 system. And they had hired actually an external firm to do this analysis, a return on investment analysis, and this was an independent firm that was not hired by the city. Their analysis focused on how quickly the city was getting a payback from the software that they had selected, and this information was publicized with the city council. It was shared at public meetings. It was shared also when citizens would call in for example, and if they had questions related to the performance of the system, from a financial perspective, the call center representatives, the contact center representatives, shared that information with the citizens.

Some of the specific drivers for this return on investment were the fact that the city didn’t have to hire as many new employees. There were open job recs that the city had, that didn’t need to be filled, because the software was allowing the city to be more efficient in the way they processed interactions with their citizens. Another financial benefit that they tracked was their ability to process residential permits quicker, again, having the systems in place to having the people trained on it, having the information and the notes in a single repository, saved a significant amount of processing time. And I believe there was an improvement of about 25% from that perspective.

And another final one, just to leave you with, from the metrics processing, if you will, was related to the filling in the potholes. Being a city in Illinois, winters are very challenging, potholes occur, certainly not to the extent that Alex and his team in San Diego has to deal with potholes. But again, that was another metric. One of the big benefits that the city was able to accrue from that was a significant reduction in overtime. Again, crews were being more efficient. They were getting to the right spot the first time. There used to be issues with tracking of the crews, for example, that they were not given accurate information, so they were going out to a spot, looking for a pothole that just didn’t exist.

And the benefit of having their CRM system along with an integration with their GIS system, helped significantly with more efficient routing of their crews, which meant that the work got done quicker, which means that they spent less money on overtime. So, those were some very specific metrics that the municipality had set out to achieve and were quite successful in meeting them.

Jen Snyder:

Excellent. Excellent. Thank you for that. And yes, we do deal with some potholes, but I think they’re different, ours come because of freezing weather, yours come because it’s probably too hot. So, I want to thank you both for joining me today. I’ve asked all the questions, so I’ve been guiding the conversation, but if you guys have any last minute thoughts you’d like to share with the audience. We’ll go ahead and start with you, Alex, anything that you’d just like to share with the audience about change management or just your experience in general. And then, if you could also let everybody know how they could reach out to you directly, if they would like to tap into some of your experience and have a further conversation.

Alex Hempton:

Sure. Well, thanks for having me on the podcast. And I would say, what’s been most rewarding, I think about this project, is that it’s inspired. You think of a project, you may think of there’s the people, the process and the technology, and really all three components need to come together to result in a successful outcome. And I think that we can’t underestimate the people part of the project, because at the end of the day, we always try to be extremely user-focused with whatever we’re building as part of Get It Done. So, it needs to be simple and easy for our residents to use and it also needs provide the necessary tools to employees, to actually be able to address all these incoming requests.

And I think what’s been most rewarding and successful about it has been, being able to see what those employee needs are and implement solutions that help make the job more satisfying, efficient, productive. A really good example would be our team that handles illegal dumping, now use mobile devices that has increased their ability to close out work orders in a timely manner. They don’t need to deal with paperwork. And I think seeing those improvements, that then translate into more satisfied customers, is really gratifying and keeps us going and always pushes us to work on the next enhancement to the system, that makes it easier, not just for our residents, but also for our employees that are serving customers every day. And I’d be happy to talk to people more, and the best way to reach out to me would be through email. My email address is ahempton, it’s A-H-E-M-P-T-O-N, @sandiego.gov.

Jen Snyder:

Excellent. Thank you, Alex. And then Spencer, any parting words for us and some contact information?

Spencer Stern:

Absolutely. So, one thing I want to mention is something … It’s going back to a point that Alex had actually alluded to earlier in the conversation, as far as being flexible with your plan and listening to everyone, the stakeholdering piece. One thing I want to emphasize is when you are deploying a change within an organization, be it technology, be it structural, be it process-oriented, pay attention to the people who are initially resisting the change. Don’t discount them and say, “Oh, well, they’re just this natural-born resistor. They don’t like change. I knew they’d be difficult.” Take time to engage those folks because a lot of times they’ve thought about things in a very measured manner and came up with a decision that, “Gosh, I have some concerns. I have some problems with this solution. This is why it doesn’t work with me.”

Spending time, talking to the people who are resisting a change can help you glean aspects of the project that you may not have thought about. Sometimes when you’re working together, you’re in your bubble, if you will, and you may not be looking outside of it to see how a change is going to impact a specific group of people or a specific individual. And if someone has taken the time to process through how this change is going to impact them, it’s very worthwhile to engage them. So, don’t discount the resistors, engage them and learn from them. I think that’s a critical success factor here for change management. And to wrap my contact information, happy to field questions or talk about change management, is spencer that’s S-P-E-N-C-E-R.stern, S-T-E-R-N, @catapultsystems, with an s, .com. Thanks again, Jen, for engaging me with this very thoughtful podcast here, and Alex, always a pleasure to be partnering with you on opportunities like this.

Jen Snyder:

Thank you both. I wanted to just say, I think it’s just a breath of fresh air. I think folks have had a really tough year. I think there’s been a lot more emphasis on rushing projects or the challenges that came with projects because people were moved into remote workforces, things of that nature. So, I think Spencer, when you and I were talking about this, we felt like it was a really good, timely conversation to have because of those challenges, and just change management in general sometimes takes a back seat and now it’s just so much more important.

So, I really love the fact that you folks were able to join me and talk through some of your experiences and share that with our audience. I hope our audience feels free to reach out to you if they have any further questions or just want to have a dialogue about change management. Also in the podcast, we will make sure that all of your contact information is there as well. Again, thank you both so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it and I hope you have a lovely afternoon.

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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