The Importance of Change in your Business

Any business wanting to implement CRM, become a data-enabled organisation, or go through digital transformation, must place a huge level of importance on the principles of process and culture, and this is where business change and change management come in.

Business change is the process by which our employees (and other relevant stakeholders) adopt new ways of doing things, perhaps also adjusting their attitudes and behaviours, and developing new skills as the business changes. Change management is about the way we support individuals affected by business change.

The reason they’re such an important part of implementing a CRM or transformation framework is because moving from an experience-driven business to one that is data-driven – one that uses evidence-based decision-making – involves a significant shift; a shift of attitudes, behaviour and skills, and the culture of any business will dictate the success of that shift.

And while culture is a huge subject in its own right in the context of this discussion we mean ‘the way we do things’. Aligning that with business change and change management, culture is the environment we’ve created to adapt to that change.

One of the challenges our senior management have when we go to them asking for investment in CRM or digital transformation - whether we’re asking for budget, people, or time – is that ultimately it adds up to an expense that has to be accounted for; and an investment that has to generate a return. But the problem with that is CRM is a journey not a destination, and when it comes to business change, you have to be in it for the long term. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. So, if you can’t show your management an immediate return, it’s reasonable to expect a tougher sell-in than if you’re justifying the purchase of a new format ad display, more replica kit for your online store, or the addition of a friendly event to your fixture schedule.

So, how do we know that it is necessary? How do we convince our management of a need for change? I guess the answer to that is that if we didn’t have to change, we probably wouldn’t. But our fans and stakeholders are changing, and they’re demanding that we change with them. Their expectations are being shaped by the digital leaders in other industries such as Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify. These are the brands we aspire to emulate (but within our own frame of reference); the ones that are repeatedly held up as champions who understand the customer journey in this omnichannel/cross channel/channel-neutral environment. Customers of these brands are used to the immediacy, entertainment and engagement that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide. They like being in control of what they watch, listen to and read. They also like being in control of when they do it, and when it comes to spending their time, their attention or their money, they have an abundance of choice.

In order to address this, to give our fans what they want when they want it, not what we want them to have in our timeframe, we have to change the way we work. We have to be agile. Being agile means being flexible and having the ability to rapidly adapt and respond. And this needs to be organisation-wide.

How many rights owners do you know that sound just like that? I’d guess not many. The transformation from a traditional hierarchy, formal meetings and committees, along with the politics of voting in and voting out, the pressure of needing to win each match, each week or each season, are just a few reasons why change in the sports industry can be so challenging.

Types of Change

 In 2005, Nova Southeastern University published ‘The Examination of Change Management Using Qualitative Methods: A Case Industry Approach’ where 29 sports managers from Australian national and state sporting organisations and clubs were interviewed to provide the industry case. The paper defined the different types of change prevalent within Australian sports organisations so we looked at these references to find use cases that will be relevant to any rights owners around the world:

  1. Fast change – The report cited that this typically occurs when sports organisations are under-performing to a significant extent. The changes made are in direct response to the perceived crises. This sounds to me like the classic change of team management when you’re six games and no points into the English football season. To demonstrate that point, across the 2019/20 English football season, fifty-one of the ninety-two professional club managers were sacked.
  2. Slow change – The report defined this as the type of change that continues indefinitely on an almost daily basis in the form of minor amendments to policies and practices. An example that we’ve referred to several times could be the changes you implement every time you look at your engagement metrics after you’ve sent an email campaign.
  3. Accidental change – The report classified this form of change as something that didn’t fit into either the fast or slow category where the change occurred without design or strategic intent, without specific thought to the outcome of the improvement or any other implications. A specific example provided involved a change in the way club merchandise was distributed. Although the policy was to sell club merchandise from the club only, as a result of an accidental change where a mail order was accepted and discharged promptly by an unknowing work placement student, sales of merchandise almost doubled as additional mail orders arrived.

Change Frameworks

In our eLearning course we introduce you to two specific change frameworks – the first is the Kübler-Ross Change Curve which is based on the the five stages that terminally ill patients experience when given their diagnosis: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

The second is John Kotter’s 8-Step Process, here are the key steps:

Step 1: Create a sense of urgency

Step 2: Build a guiding coalition

Step 3: Form a strategic vision and initiatives

Step 4: Enlist a volunteer army

Step 5: Enable action by removing barriers

Step 6: Generate short-term wins

Step 7: Sustain acceleration

Step 8: Institute change

We go through both of these frameworks in greater detail in our eLearning course where it’s just one of seven modules.

Sign up now to learn more about the use of CRM and data in the business of sports, including the importance of business change.


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