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Nationale Nederlanden – Management of Change

"Pulse gives us an insight into each team’s perception, so we can define targeted and customised interventions". Tino Otsen, Change Management

By far the majority of IT change projects place the emphasis on implementing new tools, systems and processes. That’s surprising, however, because it’s the people who have to work with them who determine their ultimate success. And yet they’re often forgotten. But not at the insurer Nationale-Nederlanden, which is working with its IT partner Fruition Partners on a fundamental IT transformation. This will lead to a change in roles, responsibilities and necessary competences, with work being carried out on the basis of service chains. The whole change project is being supported by professional Management of Change. This involves the use of Pulse, a special tool that takes measurements at specified times during the project to gauge changes in the relevant employees’ perception and acceptance with regard to the new way of working.

The results lead to targeted interventions which boost the likelihood of success and accelerate the achievement of the intended benefits. That’s why Tino Otsen, who’s responsible for Management of Change (MoC) at Nationale-Nederlanden, is enthusiastic about Pulse.Together with his colleague Aad Timmer, Programme Manager at Nationale-Nederlanden, and Robert Jan Simons of Pulse vendor.

Securing broad acceptance

Tino explains: “Projects are set up to achieve a new, desired situation. That’s done on the basis of a schedule. The emphasis is generally on processes and systems. But people themselves develop, and what good are new processes and a good system if the people don’t believe in it? If they don’t understand why they have to work with it and even start to resist it? Then you achieve nothing. It has repeatedly been shown that a successful installation of processes and systems does not amount to a successful implementation and is no guarantee of a successful project. With Fruition Partners we therefore decided right at the outset that we would focus on MoC. Choosing a best-practice model means you make no changes to the working method and conform to the solution as delivered. That’s a conscious choice. Securing explanation, continuing involvement and proper guidance, before, during and after the implementation. And I got enthusiastic when Robert-Jan came here and said he had a digital tool that could genuinely measure changes in adoption by relevant employees in order to take the right action. To that end we also appointed change agents (these were the team leaders, ed.), who have an important role in the communication and interventions as part of the change process.”

Behavioural change

Aad: “At the kick-off of the project we informed everyone and explained why we had opted for this out-of-the-box solution. It’s a solution and we said it must also be suitable for Nationale Nederlanden. These are things we no longer have to discuss ourselves. That explanation is important because it means people really will have to work differently. It isn’t that easy to change behaviour. People often try to have extra things included because they believe they’re better or fit in with the old working method. We didn’t do that. That was sometimes painful and left people in the wrong position. You have to take that into account. You have to deal consciously with the emotions, questions and doubts that arise at a particular time.”


“We had to deal with three groups of stakeholders,” Tino continues: “Employees in Functional Management, Application Management and I&FS (infrastructure). That’s a total of around 400 people whose perceptions we’re tracking closely, even for a time after the completion of the project. In my opinion the great thing about this tool is that you can decide for yourself which items to measure. We did that in a workshop with the change agents at the kick-off. Everyone had an opportunity to say what they considered important for the success of this project. Those subjects were translated into 20 or so statements and incorporated in the survey. Statements like: ‘I’m convinced that my team will work better as a result of this change’, ‘I’m enthusiastic about this change’ and ‘I understand my new responsibilities’. In that way change agents can see that their own criteria have been included.

Baseline measurement

Shortly afterwards we conducted the baseline measurement. Everyone received an e-mail with a link to the survey. The tool translates the survey results into an adoption status for each team. That gave us an insight into each team’s perception, so we could define targeted and customised interventions. That was a major benefit. In projects you often hear people voicing vague gut feelings by the coffee machine and you don’t know whether they’re shared by more people. So there’s not much you can do with them. This tool makes those feelings concrete and tangible. The results even give rise to overall recommendations such as ‘Don’t accept the complaint, but ask what’s necessary to resolve it’ or ‘Celebrate the successes’. That’s an enormous help when mapping out actions. In addition, the results are always shared with the teams through the change agents. Openness is very important at MoC. It creates support, including for subsequent projects. These change agents are actually crucial throughout the MoC process. They are closest to their people and also have 3 to do something with the results of the measurements. Sometimes that’s difficult for them because they have to continue to back the chosen direction while also wanting to stand up for the interests of their people. From a project communication perspective we support them with articles on the intranet, there are training courses, walk-in sessions and we provide information in the team sessions. But the change agents are themselves responsible for their own team, the communication on the results of a measurement and the necessary interventions. In some cases they’re friendly and helpful, whereas at other times they really target incorrect behaviour. Because one thing has to be clear: there’s no turning back.

Specific intervention after the measurement: Operational Test Environment

The results of the first measurement already revealed that the organisation needed practical experience with the new tool. The measurement clearly showed that in this phase there was mainly a need for the ‘what’ and less need for the ‘how’. It therefore ran in parallel with the old environment. This gave employees a risk-free means of experiencing how ServiceNow works. And a lot of use was made of it. It was a unique opportunity for Nationale-Nederlanden to try it out and it worked very well.”


Robert-Jan: “A MoC process like this can only succeed if there’s a will on the part of the customer to learn to deal with change. And a change manager who takes the lead helps enormously. Tino knows the people, the culture and the technology. At Sentensor we handle the sending of the surveys and the analyses of the results. We interpret these in consultation with Tino and then jointly agree interventions. We can see precisely where teams are on the ‘change curve’ and what they need to take the next step. The change agents and the project team can then target their work very specifically.”

Need for change

Tino stresses: “It’s very important that people understand the need for the intended change. Otherwise they won’t really change their behaviour. So you must emphasise the ‘why’ and communicate it repeatedly. You often see companies still focusing on the ‘can’: if we keep them on course, it’ll all turn out fine. Forget it. That never works. It means there’s no movement. Give people space to do it better themselves. And see their results as a tool not for judgement but for improvement. That’s the new way of thinking. MoC contributes to that.

Learning process

Did we gain a lot from it? Certainly, and we’re still fully engaged in it. People themselves develop, as I said earlier. Every measurement gives new insights and we try to respond appropriately. It’s a learning process and that’s something we chose deliberately. For example, we saw a downturn when people started using the tool themselves. We tackled that in a targeted
way. You can do something about it. It’s important that this tool gives us a total picture of the way in which the change develops among our people. Sometimes it involves a search for the right interventions, of course, but we’re very consciously engaged with change and the people. That’s where the biggest gain is to be made and it certainly pays off. Because people
are our most important capital.”