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Change management: The CIO’s nightmare or dream-come-true?



As CIOs are at the forefront of process and technology, change management must be a skill in the IT leader’s toolkit. Managing change has never been an easy task, with the accompanying natural human resistance as well as the organizational politics at play every organization to some degree. Successful changes manage to overcome the resistance or circumvent it entirely. Without a strong sponsor and commitment from the top, change management could be a touchy journey. Traditionally change management has followed a top-down approach. I call the traditional change management compulsive as it may not be initially acceptable to all of those involved, and it requires a carefully crafted approach.


The mindset, expectations and behavior patterns are changing rapidly for the consumer of IT services. What is true for Gen X may not be true for Gen Y. The same old techniques of change may not work well today. Today, business is more like an ecosystem, and organizations are like communities. CIOs must adopt a different strategy by exploiting the strengths and weaknesses of the existing environment.


Fortunately, commoditization of IT and democratization of information have given us excellent opportunities to drive change management. My recent experiences with these concepts and using them in driving cultural change have been very encouraging. When we failed to drive a particular initiative through a compulsive change, we thought of changing the approach rather than trying harder with the conventional approach. We collected feedback and views from end-users as to how they see a successful change, then we implemented those through an iterative method. In addition we gave end-users the power to refine the approach and play with the change. We experimented by combining the change with a lot of fun, empowerment and engagement—and the results were very positive. The adaptation for change was very quick and evolutionary, contrary to conventional approaches which were having limited success. I call it collaborative change where everyone can participate in a democratic fashion.


The concept of collaborative change revolves around basic instinct of humans to collaborate and be recognized. It gives the opportunity to the community to participate and provide inputs to change. With empowerment and engagement, the revolution starts from bottom and change becomes a natural outcome. The role of the initiator, or change manager, is to channel the inputs toward a goal and initiate the debate on a particular change before executing it.


 Differences between compulsive and collaborative change:


Compulsive Change                                                Collaborative Change

Change is revolutionary                                           Change is evolutionary

Resistance is high                                                       Resistance is low

Change flows from top                                             Change flows from bottom

Adoption and acceptance is late                           Early adoption and follows

  (toward the end of transformation)                      iterative improvements

Chances of success are low                                     Chances of success are high

Strong sponsor and senior                                      Everyone is catalyst; senior management

  management commitment is a must                     support is not mandatory


In my opinion, collaboration tools provide an effective medium for CIOs to drive the change. Smartphones, tablets and other devices fuel adoption, if the concept of collaboration and gaming against the change is channelized properly. In the end, any change is the collective opinion of the community called organization, and I have seen people really enjoy participating in and taking ownership of adoption. For such changes, there is more pull than push. IT leaders need to empower, engage and align the community and adopt an umpiring role in change management rather than playing on the ground.


Related links:

One CIO’s change management journey

How IT leaders shift in a service-driven era

The care and feeding of millennials


Currently a partner at CIO Specialist Advisory LLP, DD Mishra has more than 19 years of experience in IT. He has played key roles, including IT governance and outsourcing, program and portfolio management, consultancy, presales and delivery for various customers in the UK, India and Singapore and has experience from both the buyer side and seller side. He is a member of the Discover Performance community's IT Strategy & Performance LinkedIn group.


This blog was first posted on and is being reposted with prior permission.

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