Posted Monday, July 31, 2023 by Team Northwoods

Change Champions: The Key to Modernizing Human Services Technology

You may have heard the adage “technology projects are people projects.” This is because when your human services agency embarks on a modernization initiative, the technology itself isn’t what drives the change. People do. If workers aren’t willing to open their minds or change their habits, the technology won’t provide value and your agency won’t realize the intended return on investment. To be successful, you have to lead with change from start to finish.

Our change management guide for human services covers best practices and proven strategies to help agencies embrace organizational change and ease the journey when adopting new technology. Putting people at the center of every phase of the project is one of the keys to success. Keep reading for some tips on how to align people, processes, and technology to drive meaningful change.

Divider in Northwoods blog on change management in human services

The Important Role of Internal Change Champions

Technology is just a tool unless you can align and integrate it with your business to achieve success. Even if the organization is managing the rollout, everyone has a role to play in making it successful. After all, changing a business process requires individual changes on the part of every worker impacted. Here’s how champions can help lead this effort during the various stages of a technology implementation:

Before the project starts:

Workers may not be too thrilled to learn that “another system” is coming their way, so you need champions to help them overcome their skepticism and embrace the opportunity. They can help connect the dots between the new tool and everyone’s personal why—the purpose, cause, or belief that drives them. If someone can’t see how a change directly connects with that “why,” it’ll be very difficult, if not impossible, to get them on board.

While the project is ongoing:

Champions can reinforce your goals, value, and desired outcomes for the new tool—here’s what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. From planning and design to implementation and training, they can spearhead efforts to regularly provide updates, so everyone feels involved. Champions also help ensure the expectations that have been communicated at the leadership level get passed down the line.

Immediately after the project is complete:

During the project, your technology vendor or training team will lead the way—communicating what’s going to happen and collaborating with you on how to get there. But what happens when they leave? If no one is there to keep pushing things forward, you’re more likely to revert to your old ways. Champions can help sustain the initial energy and excitement, provide coaching and mentorship, and hold staff accountable.

In the future:

Months or even years after a project ends, champions will continue to play a key role in creating space for workers to share their experiences, troubleshoot issues, and voice concerns. They also make sure everyone has the resources and support they need to continue moving forward with the technology as agency processes or policies change.

Divider in Northwoods blog on change management in human services

Identifying the Right Individuals to Lead Technology Projects

You know it’s critical to have the right people involved to make and maintain agencywide change, but how do you determine who should lead and support these efforts? We’ve been helping agencies embed technology for 20 years and counting, and we’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way.



  • Do include various internal roles and departments to help promote the change within your organization to ensure things go smoothly as you adopt the new tool.
  • Do include supervisors, as they’re not too far removed from the frontlines and have similar firsthand experience as workers. They can encourage and model adoption.
  • Do select individuals who communicate well, are respected by their peers, work well under pressure, and respond positively to change.
  • Do include staff who see the value to be gained from technology. They are likely to support the journey from the very beginning and will become your most vocal advocates to help others seeking the same rewards.
  • Do have a plan for how you’ll transfer ownership if your team changes. Put measures in place to sustain your new processes without losing momentum if a champion leaves the agency or needs to shift focus to another project.
  • Don’t overlook support staff, community partners, or other business units in the agency that will be impacted by the process that’s changing with technology, even if they’re not directly involved.
  • Don’t put the sole burden on leadership. They may set the expectations and determine success measures, but you need people across all levels of the organization to participate.
  • Don’t default to the people who have the most time available. If they don’t bring the right energy to the project, they’re not the right person to lead the initiative.
  • Don’t overlook people who have been hesitant to embrace change in the past. They could quietly spread seeds of doubt if they don’t feel heard. It also carries a lot of weight with staff if this person responds positively to the new tool.
  • Don’t overburden your champions, or you’ll cause them to burn out. As much as they’re supporting the rest of the agency, you need to support them too!

Divider in Northwoods blog on change management in human services

Technology continues to shape the future of human services in ways we never anticipated. But no matter how much things change, people will always remain the highest priority. View the guide, “Change Management 101: Empowering Human Services Agencies to Embrace Innovation,” for more advice on approaching change in a way that positively impacts clients, caseworkers, and your community.

New call-to-action