Skip to main content

Taking financial enterprise transformation from idea to reality

October 20, 2023
clock 6 MIN READ

Three steps for a successful change management process

Business transformation can provide endless opportunities for organizations. It’s more than just a chance to do things differently — it’s also a time to look under the hood of the car, when parts of the engine are on show in full view. A chance to rethink both what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, as well as the outcomes you’re looking to achieve. Then, it’s about taking action to seize those opportunities.

When clients transition to the SEI Wealth PlatformSM, it often involves significant change in their front, middle, and back office operations. To ensure every new implementation is a success, the SEI team has developed an effective approach to change management — one that considers both immediate needs and longer-term goals.

Our focus is not only on leading a successful change initiative; it’s also on building a sustainable foundation for future improvement. Here’s how we do it.


The human factor: Balancing process and people

Managing the people side of change is often the most challenging component of a business transformation — and the most critical. In a Prosci benchmarking study, 93% of firms that rate highest in change management effectiveness met or exceeded project objectives.1

We strive to deliver successful change through process and people.

Change management shouldn’t sit outside the core project. Instead, the process should be embedded within the program governance model. We’ve found that a blended approach works best when change activities are part of the core project plan alongside all the business and technical activities that need to occur. This includes having a plan to address the impacts on your people.

Note that while most projects follow a traditional path—from design to testing to implementation—the people side of change tends to be much more iterative. It requires a more agile approach.


Successful transition needs alignment, energy, and momentum

Successful change must be aligned to strategic objectives and business outcomes, and it must be delivered on time and on budget. Given the potential impact on client firms, we also believe it’s crucial to make the experience as smooth and seamless as possible. Our change management process has three key steps.

1. Create strategic alignment

Everyone must be rowing, and rowing in the same direction, right from the start. This usually requires creating a sense of urgency around the need for change while communicating a very clear end goal. Note that, in general, ambitious goals are better for getting people excited about change.

Core elements of strategic alignment include:

Report the results

We need a clear sense of how to measure success, which feeds an internal PR engine. The more we report back on benefits and results for individuals and the organization, the more momentum we can maintain.

Establish clear roles

We need to know: What is each stakeholder’s role? What activities do we need them to perform? What timing is required for those actions? and what is each individual’s current disposition toward the project (supporter/detractor/uninformed)? It’s also important to be clear from the beginning about what's expected of each person.

Set a vision for the future

What should the future look like? Create a detailed picture with the specific roles, skill sets, and functions needed to fulfill leadership’s vision for change. Then, apply organizational design principles in areas such as authority, accountability, centralization/decentralization, etc. — and remember that this is going to be an iterative process with multiple drafts.


2. Engage stakeholders

Embracing change requires energy and commitment. Delivering a successful change program is about having the right structures in place and ensuring that those involved feel engaged throughout the process. It’s also about building trust; people must believe that the changes being made are in their best interest.

We’ve found two tools to be especially effective in staying connected to, and motivating, stakeholders:

Change agent network

This is a formal liaison group between the project team and impacted stakeholders. It should be made up of highly respected individuals who are perceived as go-to resources with the ability to influence a broad set of stakeholders.

Acting as an extension of the project team, the change agent network can achieve multiple things:

  • Reinforce the initiative’s key messages via formal and informal employee conversations
  • Communicate feedback or questions from stakeholders to the project team
  • Research and generate ideas for resolving issues and addressing concerns
  • Bridge gaps in understanding between the project team and broader stakeholders
Employee surveys

It’s important to ensure we have a balanced perspective on the change process across the entire organization. But not everyone is willing to speak up. Surveys are a great way to capture feedback and give a voice to all employees, give all employees a voice, and make sure the project team is staying well connected to stakeholders.

Ask employees about known areas of concern, things the project team could do better, items that are missing. Just remember that just listening isn’t enough. When you receive feedback, respond to it.


3. Sustaining change for the long term

In our experience, most firms aren’t looking for a once-and-done change process. Most want to maintain momentum and  make continuous improvement a part of their organization's DNA. And, nearly every firm wants to ensure that change sticks.

We recommend creating a change sustainability framework with the following elements:

  • Move the stakes. If you accomplish part of an overall goal in the initial phase of the change effort, pick a more aggressive target. Or, add new goals. Just be very specific about what you're trying to achieve in each project phase.
  • Sustain ownership.  People you selected to support the change process often return to their previous jobs or take on new positions.  Make sure that key change roles are replaced, including an organizational change management lead and members of a change agent network.
  • Transfer training and knowledge. New staff need the same process training that everyone received initially. And remember to communicate learnings from the process so far. What would you do differently the next time around?
  • Measure success. Define clear metrics for what success looks like, and regularly track performance and progress. As the old adage goes, what gets measured gets managed.
  • Celebrate wins. Keep that internal PR engine going by sharing the progress you’re making, the ideas you’ve come across, and the benefits the entire firm will see. This step is critical to maintaining excitement and enthusiasm for change initiatives.

Bear in mind, each step to successful change requires resourcing and focus throughout implementation, often beyond the core project team.

Success also requires knowledge and infrastructure, meaning you should provide training and place individuals in roles best suited for them to support the change process.

Lastly, each step involves tools and best practices that facilitate the process. Most firms may not have those tools at hand, but that’s where a strategic partner like SEI comes in.


Five tips for handling resistance

Our balanced approach, focusing on both process and people, can help reduce resistance and promote successful change management. Getting a project over the finish line requires commitment and enthusiasm — from every level of the team.

  1. Keep leadership engaged. Maintain ongoing support, and keep it visible to stakeholders.
  2. Be open to feedback. Welcome candid input — and respond when you get it.
  3. Don’t overcome resistance. Embrace it. Ensure individuals with concerns have a voice.
  4. Elevate rising stars. Give them roles to help drive the change initiative. This can do great things for both them and the firm.
  5. Maintain momentum. Celebrate wins, and reward and acknowledge the individuals that made them happen.

These factors can go a long way toward building commitment to change, for both short- and long-term goals. For additional tips on managing the people side of change management, see our five-step framework for creating a proactive plan.


"What is Change Management and How Does it Work?" Prosci, March 31, 2022

Get more detail

Learn how organizational change management can help you power growth, make confident decisions, and protect futures.

Services provided by SEI through its affiliates and subsidiaries.