How to Build a Great Product Change Management Strategy

In the world of software development, user demands and functionality requirements often change unexpectedly. Product development teams must be prepared for these shifting dynamics and agile to keep up with changes. At the same time, customers must be informed to optimize the user experience and ensure ongoing product adoption. 

To meet these objectives, organizations need a systematic change management strategy. This article will discuss how to build a great software change management strategy for your organization. Let's get started!


What is product change management?

Making software product changes can be a daunting task. You want to ensure that upgrades improve your product, and you don't want to create inadvertent problems for developers or end-users. You need a robust change management strategy to achieve this balance and keep your software development process running smoothly.

Software change management is a systematic approach to dealing with software requirements and code changes and communicating these changes to the target market. Depending on the type of change, different communications with various stakeholders are required.

Multiple activities may be involved, including:

  • Identifying change types and prioritizing changes for execution
  • Communicating risks to stakeholders and getting their buy-in
  • Testing changes in the “new product” to avoid application glitches and poor user experiences 
  • Training end-users on the new features
  • Changing existing product development processes, workflows, or tools to improve efficiency

The need for a software change management strategy

A thoughtful and strategic approach to software change management enables the organization to implement changes to achieve the product vision, streamline workflows, reduce friction for users, and minimize pushback to the new software.

Change management is also crucial to:

  • Manage and track change requests
  • Confirm functionality of new product features
  • Report on the impact of changes
  • Determine who made changes and if that person is authorized to do so

A formal, consistent, and repeatable change management process is vital for effective application development. It minimizes rework for dev teams, cost overruns for the organization, and end-user confusion.

4 key components of a robust software change management plan

Every software product is different, as are the changes it may undergo over its development lifecycle. However, most software change management plans consist of these four key components:

Goals and objectives

A good change management plan ensures that all stakeholders are aware of upcoming changes, why they are required, and their impact. Goals and long-term objectives should be clearly defined.

It also includes a clear product roadmap with milestones and benchmarks to enable users to adapt to and adopt the change. That’s why it’s crucial to first identify the goal of the upcoming changes and document them in the product plan.

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

To measure whether your organization successfully meets its change management objectives and business goals, you must define the success metrics or KPIs in the plan. KPIs will also enable you to identify improvement areas in the development process.

For example, KPIs may help you discover that users are not actively using new functionality or upgrades that had been requested in user feedback. Upon further research, you find that the development team members didn’t introduce product changes clearly in the release comms to the target audience. Metrics help you identify and pinpoint gaps in your processes. 

Communication strategy

One of the most common reasons for a breakdown in software change management is poor communication. Simply announcing a change is not enough to promote adaptability or adoption. It’s crucial to carefully design a communication strategy and ensure it is properly executed to benefit all stakeholders, especially end-users.

Training and documentation

Training and documentation are also crucial to overcome resistance and help the development team adapt to the new changes. Information sessions, training videos, and subject matter experts (SMEs) should all be part of the awareness and training effort.

8 tips to set up an effective software change management strategy

Change management in software development is often confusing, expensive, and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. With an effective change management strategy, you can reduce the overwhelm for your development teams and ensure that end-users seamlessly adapt to the changes. Follow these eight tips!

Create goals

Goals are essential to your change management plan to determine if you are on track to meet objectives and be successful. Part of goal setting for each project’s change management plan includes:

  • Identify which stakeholders might be affected
  • If any new processes or tools will be involved
  • Set project milestones
  • Set KPIs to evaluate project success

Establish a change management team

A dedicated change management team can successfully drive changes by:

  • Conducting a stakeholder analysis and getting cross-functional buy-in
  • Taking proactive measures to overcome potential user resistance
  • Designing and implementing communication and training plans
  • Establishing and sharing timelines, goals, and success metrics

This team can also define KPIs, map out a budget, and test changes to avoid incidents that may impact user experience.

Identify the change type

To streamline the change management process, it’s crucial to identify whether the change is standard or urgent. Change identification can also help you:

  • Understand the potential impact and risks of each change
  • Get leadership authorization to make changes
  • Implement strategies to overcome resistance

Create a communications strategy

All change management communication must be clear and comprehensive. It should not only explain the “what” of the change but also the “how” and the “why.” It should delineate the expected benefits and invite further discussions, questions, and feedback. Creating channels for multi-way discussions can minimize pushback and disruptions.

Create a change management plan

The change management plan will help you execute the initiative and achieve its goals. It should include a timeline and task list. For example, one task may be “create product release notes.” Another may be “identify SMEs for training.”

Make the list as comprehensive and detailed as possible. Include task interdependencies, assign resources, and add cost and budget data to guide your prioritization efforts. Also include sub-plans for communications and resistance management.

Explore change management tools

Software tools can help you streamline the software change management process. Some tools to consider are:

  • Project management platforms to organize change tasks, set timelines, and track progress
  • Communications tools to centralize and manage communications
  • Analysis and reporting tools to assess the ongoing success of the change management process
  • Templates to simplify common and repetitive change control tasks like change requests and approvals, scheduling, and job role assignments

Execute the change management plan

Now you have all the pieces in place to execute your change management plan.

Ensure all other stakeholders, especially end-users, are aware of the change. If required, deploy changes in stages based on change type and priority. Procedures should define the processes to test changes internally and verify the functionality before implementing them in the production environment.

Review and improve the change management procedure

After implementing the software change, perform a “lessons learned” exercise to analyze the process and look for improvement opportunities. Assess:

  • If there were any bottlenecks along the way
  • Which changes were successful
  • Average implementation time

Use the KPIs to measure impact. Also, update the strategy to communicate product changes to end-users and identify incentives to promote app adoption. 

How LaunchNotes can enhance your product change strategy

Change communication is one of the most critical elements of your product’s change management and post-launch strategy. Great product release notes and change comms are crucial to get user buy-in and boost adoption.

Streamline your comms process with LaunchNotes, an automated and secure way to communicate change notifications. Centralize all change communications for internal and external users to keep them informed on the latest product updates that matter most to them. 

Try LaunchNotes for free. To get started, schedule a demo today.