Friday, 28 September 2012

The Role of Communication during Change Management in IT industry: Synopsis of doctoral thesis

Title: The Role of Communication during Change Management in IT industry

Name of the Researcher: Mrs Hema Hirlekar

Name of the Guide: Prof. Dr. Kiran Thakur

Department: Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Pune

Faculty of Mental, Moral and Social Sciences
Date of Award of the Degree: 23 January 2007

The corporate world is prone to constant changes; internal, external, planned, unplanned. Till the early 1990s these changes were gradual. The rate of change has accelerated since the advent of the Computer and especially the Internet. It has been driving change like no other technology ever did before. A new ‘Information Technology’ (InfoTech) sector developed in the industry and has become an all-encompassing phenomenon. This industry impacts all the other industries by computerising their systems and processes. InfoTech companies themselves face constant changes. They have to be ready to change and adapt quickly to the changes.
Changes are implemented by people. So people are at the root of any change. This implies that people need to know about change. Communication becomes crucial to inform and instruct people about change. InfoTech companies have a unique structure and attributes that influence their communication needs. Though ‘communication’ is vital to transformation, what it means to ‘communicate’ has many interpretations.
What this dissertation hopes to find out are the interpretations of ‘communication’ in InfoTech companies that are successful. From a practical standpoint, it is necessary to understand how successful organisations used communication to facilitate change. Analysis of their communication practices can lead to guidelines for other InfoTech companies to follow.


InfoTech companies developed a unique composition unlike any other industry. The communication needs too differ to a great extent from such needs in any other industry. Dynamic environment, need to be globally competitive, knowledge-based working, enlightened and relatively young workforce are some of the factors that set this industry apart. The changes faced by this industry are fast and unparalleled. Apart from organisational changes the other continual changes are volatility of specifications (changing customer needs), developing technology and mergers and acquisitions.
The above factors have impact on the communication needs. Communication becomes important, as the human asset base needs to bring about these changes. That is why ‘Communication’ plays the most vital role during change. Successful companies communicate in a way that makes their employees adapt to change easily.
Although communication drives change, not all InfoTech companies succeed in implementing change through communication. Why do some companies succeed where others have failed? The access to high-end technology may be on par, but some companies manage their change and come out winners.  The researcher focussed on companies with successful change-management programs and carried out case studies researching communication initiatives in five such companies. These case studies were conducted between September 2003 and July 2005.
Design of the Thesis:
The outcome of the research has been presented in the following format:
  • Chapter one: Introduction, scope and limitation of the research 
  • Chapter two: Review of Literature
  • Chapter three: Research Design and methodology
  • Chapter four: Presentation of Data & Analysis: Case studies
  • Chapter five: Data Analysis and Conclusion
  • Chapter six: Summary and Suggestions
  • Chapter seven: Suggestions for future research
The first chapter discusses the singular communication needs of InfoTech industry. The scope of the study is confined to case studies of Internal Communication in five InfoTech companies. All these companies have global presence and more than two locations in India. This chapter also provides definitions of some of the terms prevalent in InfoTech industry. 

Literature Review

A review of literature available on the subject (communication during change management in InfoTech industry) and related subjects (change management, business communication, internal communication) is presented in the second chapter. There are studies available on communication during change in industries, but InfoTech-specific in-depth studies are not available. As InfoTech industry has unique communication needs, the communication during change is required to be tailored to these needs.

Research Methodology

The research methodology is outlined in the third chapter. This research is based on Case Study methodology. Case study research must be aimed at contributing to the understanding of the phenomena studied (Glaser & Strauss 1967; Gummesson 1993), not to validate or confirm pre-defined ideas or ideologies. The InfoTech industry is changing faster than traditional industries, and is subject to different drivers for a multitude of changes. This research is an attempt to explore the communication initiatives in InfoTech companies that have successfully managed change initiatives.
The individual case studies focus on internal communication rather than external communication. The specific areas investigated concern the communication strategies and related activities that help the change initiatives envisioned by the companies. InfoTech companies have to face changes routinely. The companies were selected based on their positive development in terms of increased profits, expanded customer-base, higher employment generation, and lower attrition rate.
Utility of the Research
The aim of the research is to study these communication initiatives and devise communication guidelines for InfoTech companies. These guidelines would be helpful for Corporate Communications and Human Resource personnel in InfoTech companies. The top management that wishes to successfully implement changes can find this a good reference point.
Data presentation and analysis
Chapter four presents five case studies in details. The companies are: Cirrus Logic, i-flex technologies, Zensar technologies, Persistent systems, and Tata Consultancy Services. The case studies cover website analysis, interviews with key personnel, study of documents provided, and informal discussions with junior employees. Each case study findings are analysed after data presentation. Each of these companies has some common communication practices. The media and channels used are listed.
Data analysis and Conclusion
The combined data collected is analysed in the fifth chapter. An overview of communication strategies of the five companies studied is taken and their practices discussed.  The successful companies were found to have some common characteristics:
1.      Organisational pride
2.      Training and Knowledge sharing
3.      Bonding with colleagues
The common communication practices that emerged from the comparative study were:
1.      Top management commitment – The top management was very clear about the change and committed to communicating it. The top managers were enthusiastic about change and were seen and heard supporting it.
2.      The right content – The communications conveyed the right message. There was consistency and coordination in the content. Why change was given as much importance as how to change and what were the benefits for the employees.
3.      Open communication – Free and open communication was important to all these companies. Some companies preferred ‘need to know’ information dissemination, while others were ready to give complete information. Down-to-up emails were seen and answered.
4.      Multiple points of contact – Face-to face and individual communication at many points seem to be a common factor running through these organisations. The annual get-togethers, weekly/ bi-monthly/ quarterly meetings, games, coming together for cultural activities, and other communication avenues generate a feeling of belonging.
5.      Multiple channels of communication – CEO mails, news bulletins, pinup notices and such media give the general information about the change, emails from supervisors and even the Intranet elaborate on how the work is to be carried out vis-à-vis the change. Change is thus integrated at work level and is not restricted at enterprise level.
6.      Training – Training is the most important activity in these companies. It consists of technical training, management skills training and soft-skills training. During orientation training assigning a mentor or guide for each new employee seemed to be a preferred practice.
7.      Knowledge management – Building a knowledge base is essential and increasingly important in InfoTech organizations. The knowledge available has to be structured effectively for an employee to be able to access as required. Connectivity to Intranet or internal server for each employee is mandatory.
8.      Culture-oriented communication – As globalisation becomes increasingly common, culture-oriented communication becomes increasingly important. Different cultures have different perspectives and varied interpretations of a single communication message. Employees need to be aware of cultural biases of co-workers and customers both.
9.      Involvement – Each and every employee needs to be involved in change. That implies that each employee has to be reached. Messages about change as well as about expected employee actions during change need to be received by all. This activity needs special care.
10.  Corporate communications department – This department needs special attention and needs to be more active than a function of the Human Resources department. A well thought out communication plan needs to be evolved and communication activities have to be coordinated.
11.  An outsider’s perspective – A company can benefit from an outsider’s perspective. Apart from the fact that the top management can concentrate on technical issues and other management functions, an outsider is considered a safe listener from an employee point of view.
12.  Employee Satisfaction Survey – Generally a Gallup poll about employee satisfaction can direct the communication efforts of an organisation. However the improvements undertaken on the basis of such a survey need to be completed and checked again for effectiveness.
13.  Employee as Brand ambassadors – This is the most interesting communication application with great impact. The employees of an organisation are undoubtedly the best brand ambassadors of the Company. Companies take care to ensure that the internal brand awareness is high and regular updates ensure up-to-date knowledge about the company.
The employees discussed their Point of View – Informal discussions with employees from junior level raised some important issue vis-à-vis communication. The kind of information they preferred to read, the channels they preferred and their satisfaction with the communication used in the company were revealed.
Summary and Suggestions
This chapter summarises the thesis. Based on the findings this researcher has prepared a ‘Communication Document’ for internal communication that can be adapted for developing a ‘Communication Plan’ by an InfoTech organisation.
Based on the Study findings and taking cue from the People Capability Maturity Model, a Communication Capability Maturity Model has been developed for staged improvement in communication in InfoTech industry.
Suggestions for Future Research
The field of communication is vast. While doing case studies, and reviewing literature available on the subject of communication in InfoTech industry this researcher realised that studies and research in many areas seems called for. Intranet, Knowledge Management, Communication tailored for the Generation Y (persons born between 1980 and 2000), Culture-oriented communication, measurement of communication effectiveness, are some of the areas that need research.  

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