Did you know that 21% of global services decision-makers cite change management as one of their greatest challenges, according to a Forrester survey? For professional assessment programs undergoing change—whether it’s adding a delivery modality, changing exam format, implementing new technology, or switching vendors—clear communication and solid documentation processes are paramount. Just like with any project, they help eliminate barriers to success by establishing expectations early on while enhancing the user experience and strengthening the vendor relationship.
Why Are Communication and Documentation So Important?
Good communication and documentation serve as the foundation of a successful program change, acting as a bridge between the old and the new. Closely collaborating with your vendor during the entire life cycle of your relationship is important, but it’s especially critical during a program change. By working together, you can ensure that your goals are aligned, requirements are clear, and expectations are understood by all parties.
Communicating effectively from the start around roles, meeting cadence, documentation-sharing policies, deadlines, and more is of the utmost importance. You can then create a clear roadmap for you and your solution vendor to follow by documenting important decisions about the change—such as scope, milestones, processes, and workflows. Having set clear expectations around communication and documentation practices will ensure that everyone feels informed, engaged, and confident throughout the process.
Documentation and Communication Barriers That Stymie Successful Change
Navigating an exam program change is not without its challenges, many of which originate from misaligned expectations between you and your vendor. This disconnect often indicates a breakdown in communication that can hinder effective collaboration and cause problems that permeate your change management plan. Below, we’ve outlined some common documentation and communication barriers for you to be aware of.
Barrier #1: Failing to Understand Your Project Scope
If you and your assessment vendor aren’t fully aligned on project dependencies, you run the risk of changing its scope and derailing its implementation. Your dependencies may vary in size and consequence, but recognizing and planning for them is essential for completing the project according to your program requirements and timelines.
Should your vendor lack awareness of your dependencies, it could change expectations. That could make solution configuration or technology integration difficult to estimate and add complexity to your project. For instance, consider a scenario where your program aims to introduce remote test proctoring as a new modality. This change might involve several dependencies, including formatting the exam correctly for remote delivery, seamlessly integrating your chosen test driver and proctoring technology, ensuring scheduling capabilities, and adjusting existing testing program policies and procedures. Without a proper understanding of these dependencies, you and your vendor may not allocate sufficient resources for your project.
The repercussions of misjudging project dependencies can be far-reaching. Delayed timelines can result in unmet expectations, program disruption, lost revenue, and reduced confidence and trust in your program change. Moreover, failure to understand your dependencies can lead to increased effort for you and your vendor—adding friction to your relationship. Your teams may struggle to coordinate effectively, encounter unexpected obstacles, and face difficult negotiations. These effects can ultimately hamper your project’s progress and rack up financial costs.
“It’s important for the client and vendor to establish expectations in terms of desired output and execution timeline. Deviation from either is a risk to the program and test-taker experience. A clearly documented transition and onboarding plan—inclusive of dependencies, exceptions, and decisions made during the process—helps mitigate such risks.”Artika Jain, VP of Implementation, Meazure Learning
Barrier #2: Misjudging Your Stakeholders’ Communication Needs
As someone implementing an exam program change, your success depends on how well you understand your internal stakeholders. Each stakeholder group may have different responsibilities and levels of influence within your program, requiring tailored communication approaches. A common hurdle you may encounter is neglecting to tailor your communication strategy to the unique needs of each stakeholder group.
After defining and describing the full scope of those involved—such as program owners, exam administrators, IT staff, board members, executives, educators, and other relevant personnel—you must then outline their communication needs. Those who make sure the program is set up properly, including technology, integrations, data flow, and more, require the most detailed information. Those who directly interact with test-takers also require comprehensive resources, such as prep materials and step-by-step instructions. Finally, those who aren’t as involved in the daily operations of the program often require only a high-level overview of the change.
Failing to identify and address these varying communication needs can have several negative impacts. For example, your colleagues may become confused and frustrated by the change if they don’t receive the necessary information with adequate time to prepare. This can result in increased support requests and a drain on resources as they seek clarification and assistance. Reduced productivity may also occur as they struggle to adapt to the change without adequate guidance. Furthermore, potential disruptions to the assessment process may arise if your stakeholders aren’t properly informed, compromising the integrity and smooth execution of your exam.
Barrier #3: Keeping Information About the Change Siloed
Chances are, you and your assessment vendor have worked hard to establish a clean, effective process for navigating your program change. Your organization may typically rely on email to document and share key decisions around that process, but failing to store and organize your documentation in a centralized and accessible way can create as many problems as lacking a process altogether.
For example, your project team may struggle to align their efforts, follow established procedures, and stay informed about important decisions. As a result, they may overlook or misinterpret crucial information, potentially creating errors, inconsistencies, and a lack of accountability. Additionally, failure to effectively share documentation may result in legal and regulatory risks because of the difficulty demonstrating adherence to compliance requirements.
“Program owners care a lot about how they’re communicated to by their vendor—and how that process affects the project. If communication is clear, that’s going to feed into a smooth and efficient workflow.”Julie Boyce, Product Marketing Manager, Meazure Learning
Barrier #4: Ineffectively Communicating the Exam Program Change to Your Test-Takers
The extent to which you should communicate program changes to your test-takers depends on the nature of the changes. If you make a small or behind-the-scenes change, your test-takers require less information. However, if you make a highly visible change or a change that impacts their user experience, you should share it with test-takers early in the change management process. While this may increase your team’s workload up front, it will remove unnecessary confusion and provide an additional touchpoint with your test-takers.
Say you’re rolling out new features in your existing exam driver. For first-time test-takers, the communication plan would be straightforward because they haven’t used any other test driver. Therefore, they don’t need details about what’s changed and why. For repeat test-takers, however, the communication plan would be more in-depth because they’re used to a particular experience that will be different this time around. They, therefore, need more communication around the change, how it affects them, and where they can find support.
The effects of inadequate communication on your test-takers can be significant. For example, it can lead to misinformation, confusion, anxiety, and a lack of preparedness—all of which can increase customer service volume as well as negatively impact test-takers’ performance during an exam. By communicating effectively, however, you can increase trust and satisfaction among test-takers, enhance your brand reputation, and help your program be more successful.
We cannot overstate the importance of effective documentation and communication during a program change. By committing to open communication and close collaboration with your vendor, you can avoid common barriers that impede successful deployment and erode your internal and external relationships, including the one you have with your test-takers. Emphasizing the reason you’re making the change and its positive impact can strengthen your brand and show your test-takers and others that you care deeply about their success.
To better gauge a vendor’s readiness and ability to ensure a smooth program change, check out our guide “12 Questions About Communication and Documentation to Ask in an RFP.”