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How to Avoid Change Fatigue in Application Modernization

James Ardis
Organizations continuously modernize their systems to stay ahead of growing customer expectations and keep the organization as efficient as possible. However, frequent changes can be taxing for your employees.
Young professional laying his arm and head on his desk, tired from change fatigue

Organizations continuously modernize their systems to stay ahead of growing customer expectations and keep the organization as efficient as possible. However, frequent changes can be taxing for your employees.

Development teams may find it difficult to continuously take on projects related to modernization, feeling like they are in a never-ending loop. Meanwhile, business users work with these applications every day and may be hesitant to embrace changes.

Change fatigue is a common problem across workplaces. 71% of employees reported in one survey to be frustrated with the level of change they experienced.

Luckily, there are ways to reduce change fatigue related to your application modernization initiative. In this article, we’ll look at strategies to help your organization prevent and address these problems.

Remind Development Teams of the Overarching Goal

From cloud migration to cleaning up code, there are many processes involved in modernizing your legacy applications. However, all of the processes you are employing should be addressing a macro-level need of your organization, such as improving the customer experience or boosting efficiency.

Four professionals putting together a puzzle at a work desk.

 

Whatever it is that your development teams are working on now, be sure to always connect it with the larger goal. Set milestones and make it a point to show how each modernization sprint is working towards those benchmarks.

For example, the overall goal for one of our clients in the logistics industry was to increase fleet visibility. That way, they knew if drivers were making shipments on time, taking the required breaks, and driving safely.

Each team was working on something different. For example, one group was using IoT devices to track individual vehicles. Meanwhile, another was putting together a fleet management system to present all this data.

However, it was important for each team to know how they were positively impacting the larger goal. Tracking the percentage of visibility the company had into fleet activities was an important way to measure progress until eventually they reached 100%.

If you have trouble finding the overarching “why” behind modernization, consider signing up for Programmers Inc.’s Application Modernization Assessment. This helps you prioritize your business goals, pinpoint areas in your legacy systems that can help you achieve those goals, and put a process together to reach important benchmarks every 90 days.

Milestone marker on a scenic outdoor trail, symbolic of how milestones can help you void change fatigue

Properly Celebrate Milestones

Chances are, you’ve experienced this before: Your team has just completed a major project and you come into work the next day just to find out…what the next project will be. You’ve completed work just to earn more work.

There will always be new features of legacy applications to modernize. There is no debate about that. However, if employees feel like their job is a never-ending loop of initiatives, then change fatigue is inevitable.

Break this cycle by celebrating important milestones. Hosting a party and giving members of the development team an afternoon off is a good start. Let them catch their breath and appreciate how much they’ve done.

In today’s ever-demanding workplace, though, a party is simply not enough. The “give them a pizza party” mentality is even a frequent meme among workers across all industries in the United States who feel like their hard work is only compensated with two slices of pizza and a soda.

Company hosting party with many types of drinks

So how else can you reward development teams for a job well done? You can give them some time to complete tasks that are personally fulfilling for them. Allow them to acquire a certification that is vital for their professional development or give them a chance to attend a conference they find rewarding.

“Motivation is always about what the person wants to achieve or to become,” writes CEO and co-founder of Educate Online, Inc., Alexander Zheltov. “The company leaders’ job is to work with the team and discover what truly motivates them. What’s their ‘why?’”

As always, financial compensation is one of the clearest and most effective ways to demonstrate a job well done. Consider having a bonus structure in place that acknowledges reaching (and exceeding) these important application modernization milestones.

The key is to try not to depend on a single pizza party or a pay bump or a professional development program to make development teams feel valued. Instead, create a robust system that tells tech professionals that their accomplishments are valued and that they have time in-between milestones to focus on the things that are valuable to them.

Ensure Development Teams Have Necessary People/Tools

Nothing is more frustrating than being told to do something you’ve never done before without the proper guidance nor the necessary tools. This is one of the fastest ways to erode development teams’ trust in the plan, as individuals begin feeling like leadership “doesn’t know what it’s doing.”

That’s why it’s so important to consider the modernization initiative you are embarking on and make sure you have all the necessary professionals and tools to make it happen.

Of course, your company won’t always have everyone or everything it needs in-house. That’s where dedicated development teams from companies like Programmers Inc. come in handy. They can stick around for as long as they benefit you, be customized to fit your unique needs, and, when done right, offer the same level of transparency as your internal teams.

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Solicit Employee Feedback (And Use It)

When you’re modernizing employee-facing legacy applications, you’re changing technology that teams throughout the organization use every day. It’s important that they know exactly why those systems are changing and what benefits they can expect to see.

For example, when we helped a client in the healthcare industry automate the delivery of their weekly reports, it meant that employees no longer had to send these documents out manually every Sunday night. Obviously, this was an incredibly popular initiative among the client’s teams.

But change isn’t always a welcome thing. In fact, humans are hard-wired to resist change, even in cases where the solution may make things easier. Only 53% of employees say that their organization directly considers their needs when implementing new technology, according to a PwC survey. Meanwhile, 90% of c-suite executives think they are properly addressing concerns, signaling a massive disconnect.

Give employees plenty of opportunities to discuss what they like about the legacy systems and what features allow them to do their jobs well. Here are Albert Galarza of Forbes Human Resources Council’s thoughts on creating these open discourses. “Town halls and leader webinars are…great ways to connect with a broad audience.”

Young professional on a video call with his coworkers

Galarza continues, “During our company’s quarterly earnings calls, we also dedicate time for our employees to ask executives about everything from operations to sales. These unscripted moments are a critical element for building an open and authentic environment.”

Listening is the first step, but it’s important to go beyond that. When possible, incorporate these ideas from employees into the modernization plan.

Of course, you can’t utilize everyone’s ideas. However, in the few occasions that you can, it will make employees feel like their input is important and encourage them to stay in closer communication with you.

Conclusion

The benefits of application modernization are clear for organizations. It allows companies like yours to meet customers’ needs more directly and rapidly fine-tune the way they do things internally.

But behind the scenes, this continuous process may cause change fatigue. Development teams can jump from initiative to initiative, having no idea what ties their work together. Meanwhile, employees across the enterprise watch the systems they’ve grown familiar with change constantly and without their input.

Include those employees in the conversation when trying to make the legacy applications they use every day more efficient. And, when it’s possible, incorporate their feedback into the modernization plan.

As for your development teams, make sure they always have an idea of the big picture, the “why” of modernization. Set actual benchmarks tied to the work they’re doing. When they reach those benchmarks, make it a moment of celebration where they see personal benefits and get to take a breather after all the hard work.

Finally, as your development teams try to do so many new things, ensure they have the expert insight and tools they need to make them possible. Programmers Inc. is a trusted partner in application modernization that can work alongside your internal teams to fast forward your organizational goals.

Let us know how we can help you.

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