Ask the Change Doctor

Dear change doctor: We have a data warehouse containing operational data for user analysis that is increasing in popularity as witnessed by a bombardment of report requests. Recently, we offered numerous data showings and hands-on training of two database front-end applications to help the various ous functional users write their own reports. This training would give them the tools to generate their own reports when they needed them instead of requesting reports from our staff. In addition, it would help us to reassign our resources to a planned expansion which includes adding a new server and a multidimensional database and upgrading our database and system software.

The problem is that the users did not sign up for the training, which means we have been unable to free up staff to pursue additional data warehouse projects. What can we do to turn this around and get them more involved?

J.R.L in Ohio

Dear JRL:

Why should they pay for the milk, when they are now getting it free? Your staff has the knowledge and skills to deliver the reports. To learn how to do this and to actually take the responsibility for generating their own reports, the functional areas must perceive gain, pain or no choice.

The key is to develop a strategy and a plan of action that results in: user benefits; pain if they do not get trained; or user management that tells them they have no choice. The strategy is to solve the "Training Problem," by partnering with the user community.

The following are action steps based on successful MIS change management experience.

  • DO SOME HOMEWORK; identify the business need, urgency and impact of continuing to allocate Application Systems resources to the generation of reports versus the expansion of the data warehouse.

  • Identify the business impacts on the company's information flow if your resources are not allocated to the expansion of the data warehouse.

  • Provide data and information of the increasing need over time.

  • Provide data and information on the opportunities of the new direction.

  • Identify the functional managers that will be "open" to supporting your efforts to transfer the training responsibility to their staff for the right business reasons. Present your Step A findings to them.

  • Schedule one-on-one meetings to discuss the business' analysis, needs and direction.

  • To gain consensus following the meetings, hold a cross-functional managers' meeting to reiterate the analysis, present the business need and discuss action plans.

  • Agenda items need to include your circumstances, finite resources, impact on their information needs, impacts on the company as a whole and opportunities.

  • At the meeting, ask for their help. Ask for representatives from their functional areas to lead a user cross-functional team that will develop:

  • Training requirements (who, what, when, why, where, how); and

  • Training roadmaps that spell out who, when and where.

  • In addition, ask functional managers to join as a partner to drive and monitor the effort.

  • Ask management to spread the word among their peers to support this effort.

  • Provide acknowledgment of efforts when resources are constrained.

  • If possible, develop recognition/reward suggestions that your management can use with your staff and the business user staff.

Listen to training requirements, acknowledge that it is okay if they feel uncomfortable taking over the generation of reports and partner with them to solve the company business problem. Good Luck!

About the Author

Mercedes Lopez is an international Change Management and Implementation consultant specializing in business process, technology and organizational change. Her company, Customized Business Improvements, is based in Spring Hill, Fla.