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HR! Discover Your New Role of the IT Era
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IT, unlike popular belief, is not all technology. Since people resist IT-Driven change, IT has a very high behavioural component. People need support to cope with rapid change caused by IT. IT departments may not be equipped to give this kind of psychological support. HR Dept has the behavioral skills. All it needs to add is what I call Behavioral IT® skill. which is a special skill of managing IT-Driven Change. HR folks can easily pick up Behavioral IT® skills and contribute as Catalysts of IT-Driven Change.


Information Technology (IT), unlike common belief, is not all technology. What is not recognized is that IT has a very high behavioural component, as significant part of IT projects involves addressing people's natural resistance to change, which can be quite challenging.

Changes in IT are extremely rapid, more than any other technological change. People need support to cope with this rapid change caused by IT. However, IT departments may not possess the necessary skills to provide psychological support. In businesses, the department which is supposed to have the behavioral skills is the Human Resource or HR Department. So, it is natural that business leaders should encourage HR departments to help and support IT in managing this change. HR departments should ideally volunteer to contribute in this area. Having worked as an IT Head in several companies, I have tried to involve HR departments to orchestrate the people aspects of IT project implementations. Strangely and ironically, I found very little enthusiasm from the HR folks.

Information Revolution has opened up for HR a new role of facilitating IT-Driven change. HR should embrace this role as a bridge between the CEO and IT Dept.
Possibly, HR is ill equipped to manage the blistering rapid change driven by IT. Naturally so, as managing IT-Driven change is a special skill which is not covered in most Change management courses. IT is the biggest driver of change today. It is an irony that most change management courses cover managing traditional changes, like globalization, cultural change, policy changes and mergers/acquisitions, but not change due to introduction of IT [Pls see Change Management needs a Change].

HR folks need to upgrade themselves with this new skill that I call Behavioral IT® skill. Behavioral IT® is a special skill to manage IT-Driven change. HR folks can easily pick up this soft skill. Armed with this new skill, HR departments all over the world should embrace this new-found role of the IT era as a catalysts of IT-Driven change and contribute to organizational transformation.

Globally, HR Departments have Missed an Opportunity

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IT is not all technology; it has a high behavioral component in addressing people’s resistance to change - a significant challenge often overlooked
Few will dispute the fact that information technology is currently the primary catalyst for change within businesses. Change impacts people and people naturally and strongly resist change. Therefore, people's attitudes often pose the greatest obstacle to change. But since change is imminent and unavoidable, it creates stress and impacts people behaviour.

As change is predominantly driven by IT and people tend to resist change, successful implementation of IT projects requires individuals to possess expertise in both people and technology. There is a huge behavioral component in all IT projects.

To effectively cope with the rapid changes brought about by IT, people require psychological support. However, IT departments may not possess the necessary skills to provide this support, leaving a gap in the organization's ability to manage change.

Which department in the company can be expected to best understand the human psychology of change and provide support? Obviously, it is the HUMAN Resource department.

A Paradox in Businesses

There is a big paradox in businesses. Despite the fact that IT impacts many employees and their behavior, and businesses have HR departments to look after everything concerning employees, why is it that HR departments have not been involved in managing these changes impacted by IT? Surprisingly, there has been a significant oversight in recognizing the role of HR in IT implementations. HR itself has been blind to this possibility. This represents a paradox in the business world, as HR is responsible for everything related to employees, yet has not recognized this opportunity presented by the information revolution.

HR as a Catalyst for Change

HR departments should actively participate in managing IT-driven change to foster organizational growth and success
HR has a newfound role in today's swiftly evolving business landscape, primarily driven by IT advancements. HR is indifferent to the opportunity that information revolution has given to it on a platter. Globally, HR needs to fully recognize the impactful role as a key player in steering IT-driven change within organizations.

Factors such as people psychology, organizational dynamics, organizational structure, and authority structure significantly influence the success and smoothness of IT-induced change processes, all of which fall within HR's domain. Despite this, HR has failed to recognize its own potential in contributing to smooth IT-driven transitions.

HR has to rediscover itself and redefine its role in the changed scenario. It must reassert its significance as a catalyst for IT-induced transformations.

Research indicates a considerable failure rate in ERP/IT implementations (ranging from 60% to 70%). Surprisingly, most of these failures stem from human factors rather than technical issues. It is imperative for HR departments to step forward and proactively address this critical human dimension in IT management and save businesses from huge losses on account of IT failures.

HR stands poised to guide organizations through the dynamic business environment shaped by IT innovations and ensure the successful execution of IT initiatives.

Why IT Projects Need People Skills, not Just Technical Skills

The solutions that IT departments provide are disruptive as they completely alter the business processes, process workflows, and the way employees work. They significantly impact the lives and workstyles of employees, causing near turmoil that requires effective management. Traditionally, IT professionals are expected to drive technological change initiatives, despite lacking the necessary expertise in managing the human side of change. Few IT professionals understand how to counter the natural human resistance to changes on workflows and employee routines. Most IT professionals are too engrossed in technology and ignore the people aspects. They often lack those skills too.

The success of an IT solution depends on its adoption and implementation by other departments. Employees normally comply with orders from and act on instructions from their superiors. So, if the IT solution and the imminent change in work processes have to be adopted, the direction and push has to come from their respective superiors or department heads. Since there is a natural resistance to change, sometimes the employees need to be coerced to adopt the new changes introduced by the IT department.

People's attitude and behavioral dynamics are important factors which determine the success of IT projects
Furthermore, the affected parties have little to lose if the IT project fails, as the Department Head can easily shift the blame for failure on the IT department. Though the department Heads often have a conscious or overt desire to improve efficiency within their departments through automation, this desire is often overshadowed by subconscious aversion to change and fear of dilution of their authority. Often, instead of wholeheartedly supporting the change, there is a subconscious desire to keep excuses ready to protect oneself in case of failure of the change initiative. Frequently, influenced by this underlying sentiment, the department head too may become averse to change and may resist from making positive efforts to drive the change within the department. This situation can escalate into conflicts and political tensions between IT and the user departments, leading to failures.

It is evident, therefore, that the people's attitude and behavioral dynamics are important factors which determine the success of IT projects. The failure of an entire IT project can stem solely from people-related challenges rather than technical issues. (Articles "Computing: A Field Job", and "Issues in Indian Computing" illustrate the people aspects of implementing IT solutions.)

Another Paradox in Business

Effective change requires someone with the authority to lead and implement strategies. For instance, it is unrealistic to expect a junior staff member to drive significant behavioral changes, whereas a CEO, given their position of authority, is better equipped to do so. Since the CEOs possess the authority that impacts every individual within the organization, they are ideally positioned to lead organization-level change.

Similar to how the Department Head holds authority and is responsible for initiating change within the department, the CEO possesses control over the entire organization and can implement change throughout. Particularly, in cases of conflict between the IT department and the Department Head, it is solely the CEO who can mediate and resolve such disputes. (The article "My Experience with the Best and the Worst CEO for Computerization" provides a real-life example of how an IT-aware CEO effectively resolved a conflict between two departments.)

Here is another paradox - businesses are rife with paradoxes.

HR's new role as a bridge between CEO and IT dept. can ensure successful execution of IT initiatives and organizational transformation
It is clear from above discussions that the person who wields the necessary authority is best suited to bring about changes in organizations. Ironically, the IT department, which is instrumental in driving change, lacks direct authority over those required to adopt the change for successful transition - neither over the departmental staff nor over the department heads. In several companies, the IT department head lacks seniority compared to other department heads. IT department is helpless if it finds that some department heads do not support change initiatives within their department. This leaves the IT department dependent on the CEO for intervention and corrective action.

This presents a paradoxical situation: the success of IT solutions hinges on users' willingness to embrace change and the users tend to naturally resist change, but the IT department has no authority over the user department's employees to enforce adoption of the solution.

In summary, the IT department provides disruptive solutions, but its success is contingent on the adoption and implementation by other departments, which may be resistant to change. The IT department lacks the authority to force adoption, and affected parties may have little incentive to embrace the change. These paradoxes highlight the challenges inherent in IT-driven change management and the importance of addressing both the technical and human aspects of change.

CEO's Role

In this scenario, the IT department looks to CEOs for support in driving change and exercising the necessary authority to ensure compliance with the changed processes.

However, many CEOs often shirk this responsibility and instead delegate IT matters to junior officers due to discomfort with technology.

Adding to the challenges of IT-driven change management, many managers, including CEOs, encounter difficulties in grasping technology. The phrase "I just don't understand this technology" is a very common phrase heard in offices. CEOs, whom the IT department looks to for support in driving change, may be equally uncomfortable with IT and may maintain a distance from IT managers due to a lack of understanding. On the other hand, most CEOs find it easier to engage with and build relationships with HR managers, Finance managers, production managers, and others. This preference for non-IT roles can lead to political manoeuvring, as those involved in automation exploit the CEO's lack of IT knowledge and involvement. Since most CEOs are more comfortable dealing with HR than with IT, HR has a significant opportunity to assist CEOs in managing IT-Driven change effectively. HR Department's expertise and traditional role in managing human affairs, positions it as an ideal ally to CEOs in driving IT initiatives.

HR's Role as a Bridge

HR stands poised to guide organizations through the dynamic business environment shaped by IT innovations
By recognizing and embracing its new role as a facilitator of IT-driven change, HR can leverage its expertise in managing human dynamics to help organizations navigate the complexities of IT-Driven change successfully. It can act as a bridge between CEO and IT. This proactive approach can enhance organizational agility and ensure the successful implementation of IT initiatives.

However, HR needs to also recognize that managing IT-Driven change is a domain that requires unique skills and specialized expertise distinct from conventional change management.

To do so, HR must first equip itself with the necessary knowledge and skills to manage IT-driven change effectively. This involves understanding the dynamics of IT-driven change. They need to understand what exactly causes stress and confusion during IT implementations. Although managing IT-driven change is a specialized skill, it is not rocket-science, and HR can easily learn and embrace this new role as change catalysts to contribute to the company's growth. (Pls see Seminar for HR Folks).

In summary, managers' lack of understanding of technology poses a significant challenge to IT-driven change management. However, HR has the opportunity to step in and assist CEOs in managing IT-driven change by developing the necessary skills and knowledge. By doing so, HR can become a critical player in facilitating successful IT implementations and driving organizational growth.

Introducing Behavioral IT®

Why Managing IT-Driven Change is a Unique Skill

The specialized skill of managing IT-driven change has been given a name - I have called it "Behavioral IT®" skill. HR professionals, as well as CEOs can quickly learn and adopt Behavioral IT® skills to become change catalysts and contribute to IT-driven change management. Behavioral IT is a skill of managing the human side of IT-Driven change.

For top managers, there is good news: they do not need to learn IT, which can be daunting. Instead, they only need to learn Behavioral IT, which is relatively simple. Fig.1 illustrates how a training on Behavioral IT skill can benefit all change drivers including the CEO, the department Heads, the HR department and IT Head.

Fig. 1: The above diagram highlights how Behavioral IT® skills can help HR to become the bridge between technology and CEO to help facilitate change. The skill can be imparted to all change drivers like user department heads and CEOs so that the resistance to change is reduced.

Despite having adapted to and managed the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution after much struggle, resistance, and upheaval, transitioning to the Information Revolution poses distinct challenges. The difficulty stems from our tendency to apply the same strategies and lessons learned from the
HR needs to acquire Behavioral IT® skill, a special skill for managing IT-driven change, to enhance organizational adaptibility
Industrial Revolution to navigate the shift to the Information Revolution. This confusion arises because we often perceive the Information Revolution as merely the introduction of a new machine, namely the computer. Information Revolution cannot be seen as merely introduction of a new machine, it is a major paradigm shift. In fact, the computer is not the real machine of the Industrial revolution, the real machine is the software. It is the software, not the computer, that embodies the essence of the Industrial Revolution's machine.

This information age machine, namely the software, is fundamentally so different from our hard-wired concepts of a machine that it renders the mindset of the machine age inadequate in addressing the changes of the information age. Effectively managing the Information Revolution requires a shift in mindset from the industrial machine paradigm to a software-oriented mindset [pls read "Managers' Guide to Evolve from Machine Age to Information Age"].

Behavioral IT training offers a solution in understanding this fundamental difference by fostering an information age mindset. The need of the hour, particularly for managers and change drivers, is a shift in the mindset rather than just acquiring new knowledge of IT.

Behavioral IT makes you computer aware, not computer literate. Computer awareness changes your mindset and attitude towards IT-Driven change.

By developing their Behavioral IT® skills, HR professionals can effectively manage the human side of IT-driven change and ensure successful IT implementations.

Given these new responsibilities, IT professionals can maintain their roles as change agents or facilitators, while HR takes on the new role of a change catalyst. However, if HR is reluctant to embrace this responsibility, both the IT Head and CEO should acquire Behavioral IT skills to ensure smoother transitions in IT.

More information on Behavioral IT is available here, or simply by searching on 'Behavioral IT' (within quotes) on Google. The various articles and papers on Behavioral IT by Prem Kamble in the Reference section offer compelling insights into why managing IT-Driven change differs significantly from managing traditional changes caused by globalisation, mergers, shift in government policies, etc.

By developing a new skill set, known as Behavioral IT, that combines IT soft skills (not hard skills) with behavioral science principles, senior professionals can better manage the human side of IT-Driven change. This skill will not only help the HR folks, it can be imparted to all change drivers like department heads and CEOs to make the jobs of IT and HR easier.

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