How to Deliver Change That Lasts

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Managing and embedding change in your organisation is more than just selecting the right tools and hoping for the best. From ensuring that you have the appropriate level of focus on business change in your Digital Transformation Programmes (hint: it’s a lot) to ingraining adoption skills in your workforce, the route to successful ongoing change management is not always straightforward. But, get it right and you will develop a culture of adaptability and responsiveness in your organisation that will help smooth the path of your technical evolution and help you and your people to weather the storms brought by external factors, such as pandemics, or recession, or war…

The World in Flux


of businesses are engaged in a digital initiative


of leaders say digitisation is a priority

people use the internet

Change is inevitable. It’s a cliché but it’s never been more relevant than now. The rate of change is increasing exponentially with no sign of slowing down. Futurist and academic Ray Kurzweill used mathematical models to predict, in 2001, that

‘…analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense “intuitive linear” view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).’

He called this the Law of Accelerating Returns. (If you have a spare 20 minutes, we recommend you read the full eye-opening essay on progress and change).

For businesses this ever-increasing rate of change can impact everything from the organisation’s ability to plan and act strategically, to the mental health of individuals at every level. Rapid, repeated change – if not handled with expertise – can leave cultures broken, projects abandoned, and businesses woefully underprepared to survive. But all is not lost. There are many ways for businesses to prepare for and handle change, adopt new technologies, processes and attitudes, and thrive.

Identifying change

The first step to managing change is to recognise when it is happening, or going to happen, and then ensure you have the tools and skills to adapt. Businesses need to also acknowledge that change is experienced differently at different levels and needs to be handled appropriately for the people, groups, or systems that it impacts. Here are just a few types of change that need to be considered and managed with forethought.

1. Technical change

Changes in technology are certainly the most highly visible and prevalent in the 21st Century. This year, spending on digital transformation (DX) is projected to reach 1.6 trillion U.S. dollars and by 2026, global digital transformation spending is expected to more than double to 3.4 trillion U.S. dollars . But, with a success rate of less than 30% these change programmes are unquestionably some of the most challenging to land. Digital Transformation initiatives – wholesale systems transitions, fundamental shifts of operational bias from manual to automated, or even the introduction of new hardware – tend to impact every level of the organisation, calling for changes in ongoing spend profiles, resources, processes, skills, and culture.

predicted spend on digital transformation in 2022

predicted spend on digital transformation by 2026

2. Organisational and operational change

Whether in response to a business’s growth or a need to downsize, a strategic change of direction or an external influence (a merger, government directive, or pandemic … for example), organisational and operational change asks people to adjust the way they work and interact as individuals, as groups, and as networks. These changes can be planned or can emerge organically over time, creeping in through cultural shifts to change the way your organisational ecosystem behaves and works.

3. Attitudinal change

Changes in attitudes across your business may be a desired, strategic change, a by-product of changes in organisation or technology, or a natural evolution of culture, impacted by changes in leadership, new staff, or external societal trends.

How to land change, and make it stick


As Forbes built their oft-quoted survey on digital transformation the leaders they surveyed acknowledged that digital transformation called for

‘…a fundamental shift in how people had to think about how they interact, how they collaborate and work and if you don’t spend time changing people’s behaviours, [and] you don’t spend time changing culture and how people make decisions, all of this falls flat.’

Ensure that your leadership acknowledge the type, size and implications of the change that needs to happen or is currently underway. Without recognition from C-suite and senior management, it will be challenging to make space and resources for the change such as time to learn and train, acknowledgement of teething troubles, or funding for change management tools and processes.

With your senior leaders on board, you can carry out a wider stakeholder mapping process that identifies all the people, groups, or roles that you need to engage to ensure the change lands successfully and sustainably. With the areas of the businesses that will be impacted identified – and the extent to which you need to adjust your change approach by area defined – you will be able to start to build out your communication plans.

Your best toolkit

Change management needs – and deserves – the best tools your business can afford. That means choosing the right technology that can scale and flex as your business evolves and you need to plan, communicate, track, and report on that change.

The Microsoft 365 suite is built to withstand change and drive engagement, allowing your business to scale up as adoption increases, or – indeed – to scale down as your businesses normalises or adapts to change by rationalising resources. The Viva toolset has been specifically developed and released in the wake of the pandemic to giving individuals a comforting home to return to as they navigate change (Connections), support for their well-being as they adapt to change (Insights), and easy access to training to build the new skills they need (Learning). Viva Connections and Engage also allow communications teams a route to deliver those campaigns to the right people, in the way that suits them. We have written extensively on the value of using your intranet to deliver everything from company-wide communications to tailored, individually curated messages. SharePoint in Microsoft 365 offers a wide range of options to create intranet sites to meet organisation-wide or even goal specific needs. Consider using this to create change management hubs for major transformations and bring them right to the place where people work through Teams and Viva Connections. Connections will make the movement between work and change communications seamless by pulling in content, news and updates, and training tailored to the individual.

But technology is not your best tool in landing any change. Your best asset is your people. Create a network of influencers from the start and add to this as you track the change. Advice or guidance from friends, trusted colleagues, mentors, and leaders will always land with more meaningful impact than written comms and lends itself to a natural exchange of ideas and the opportunity to improve the change. We return, again, to your leadership. Your leaders are the most important influencers in your business and, in a study for IBM, three key characteristics were revealed that enable leaders to drive change across an organisation:

  • Role modelling throughout the business
  • Engaging employees with a compelling case for change, and
  • Empowering new and passionate change leaders at all levels.

Culture is one of the biggest obstacles to change management. 26% of survey respondents identified culture issues as barriers, such as entrenched viewpoints and resistance to change.

The State of Digital Transformation by Altimeter

Get the content (and the timing) right

The role of the change managers, communications specialists, and the people team is to ensure that communication and delivery of change is coordinated, that leaders are well-briefed and consistent, and that content campaigns deliver consistent meaningful messaging across the business. These campaigns will be the lynchpin of your change management and – although the right tools to deliver them are vital – the content is where success or failure ultimately lie.

From the outset – before your change is even underway – your content can pave the way by driving the desire for change. Change can affect people emotionally and, by building support for the change, you can help make those emotions positive ones. Your communication campaigns should put the change into the proper business context – which may vary from group to group – and tie it to your organisation’s strategy.

Creating sensitively pitched messages to communicate change, packages of training, opportunities to feedback or ask questions, and schedules of one to one, team or all-company sessions need careful planning and expert execution to ensure the change lands effectively at every level. Consistency is also key. Communicate, meet, or ask for input too much and you might overwhelm, create ‘message fatigue’, or even lose your audience altogether. Content should be engaging, clear, and timed to give individuals time to digest and teams the time to discuss.

Some basic rules:

  • Communicate clearly what the change will mean for the organisation, the team, or the individual, and why it is necessary.
  • Be up-front and honest about the goals of the change, take it seriously, but be engaging. Recognise that these are busy individuals so they should look forward to the next communication and be engaged enough to take the time to absorb it.
  • Outline how employees’ roles will be affected.
  • Provide a timeline of when the change will take place, and how.
  • Offer help for employees, to learn more, or to manage their response to the change.
  • Give employees a route to communicate, ask questions, or give feedback and make sure those routes remain open as the change embeds in the business.

Change is hardest at the beginning, messiest in the middle and best at the end.

Robin S. Sharma

Measure the impact of change

Success in any transformation project – whether it be led by technology, organisational, or cultural changes – is no longer purely measured by on-time, on-budget deliveries. A true measure of success is how well the users adopt the new tools and processes, and what impact this is having on the business as a whole.

It is likely that your organisation will be driving for short-term outcomes as well as long-term goals so, when measuring the effectiveness of the change, it’s advisable to select a range of metrics to evaluate. As you advance towards a transition, take regular measurements of perception, adoption, and progress, and communicate these to your stakeholders and the wider business. Successes can be celebrated and help build engagement, and issues can be surfaced early for resolution or to inform a change of approach.

One of the most important indicators of long-term success is the measurement of the way people feel about a change. If it’s seen universally as a negative (and those feelings aren’t resolved) a change can’t be considered a successful transition and further measures would have to be taken to address this and move the organisation forward.

Look again to your toolkit to support measurement of both progress and attitudes towards change. Microsoft has woven methods for gathering insights across the 365 platform. From the overt adoption metrics available in business analytics tools such as Power BI to the behaviour-based intelligence available through Viva Insights, the capabilities are there to help you gauge whether you have been successful or not.

One thing that is vital – you must continue to track and measure impact, attitudes and engagement long after the change has taken place. This way you will be able to better ready yourself for the next wave of change, and get ahead of the challenge.

Only 43.5% of leaders collect employee NPS scores after new technology rollouts are completed.

The top trends to watch out for in change management (and how you need to get ready)

1. Change is becoming part of company culture

Companies are starting to recognise that change is part of company culture. Teams need to not just prepare for change but embrace it. This is evident in the widespread adoption of new methods such as agile change management. Consider working on an ongoing programme of activity designed to lower resistance to change, and encourage new, innovative thinking.

2. Data-driven approach to change management

With data driving so many of our decisions in the business world, including what we change about the way we work, change managers can stay ahead of the pace and use insights to identify trends and make change decisions proactively. By going beyond surveys to spot the need for change, leaders can use social media, internal communication hubs and networking tools and intelligent insights such as Viva Insights to spot trends in engagement, attitudes, and employee wellbeing.

3. Technology is the great enabler

The use of digital platforms, workflow and collaboration tools, and training hubs can prove highly effective at smoothing the path through any change. Microsoft 365 tools such as Teams for collaboration and workplace engagement, work seamlessly with employee-centric communication and wellbeing tools such as Viva Connections, Insights, Engage and more, to provide a supporting digital network for any change programme.

Find out how we can help you deliver change that lasts