EP 08

The Champions Model Moves Organizations Forward

If you're looking for a way to roll out new technology or new ideas and really get some momentum behind them at your organization, you should consider the Champions Model. The Champions Model involves building a team around the idea that new ideas are great, but need to be vetted before launching to the whole organization. The Champions Team is able to easily validate the ideas, give feedback, and have a balanced mindset on how the new concepts should be used.

We're going to dig a bit more into this model, talk about the pros and cons, and help you identify who the Champions on your team should be.

Please enjoy the conversation with Mike Bodell and Matt Dressel.

Episode Links
Hosted By
Matt Dressel
Mike Bodell
Produced By
Mitch Herrema
Edited By
Mitch Herrema
Music By
Eric Veeneman


Mitch: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to make others successful. A podcast where we do our best to make you successful in your workplace and in turn cascade that down to make others successful.Today we're talking about the champions model. A quick overview of what the champions model is. If you're looking for a way to roll out new technology, new ideas, get movement behind a new concept at your organization. You could consider the champions model and build a team around the idea that Hey, new things are great. Let's validate them and let's see if they have legs and go from there. So we're going to dig a little bit into this model and talk about some of the benefits who might be cut out for the champions model and who it's not great for and all the in-betweens. So please enjoy the conversation with Mike Bodell, Matt Dressel and myself,

Mike: Matt. So remember the last time we talked, one of the things we actually brought up a topic in that podcast. 

Matt: I don't think you mean, we, I think you mean you.

Mike: Maybe I brought it up. That could be, it was a trap because I wanted to talk about it this time and that is the champions model. So now that I've trapped you, let's start talking about that a little bit. The first thing that I want to address though, is when we were discussing this topic a few minutes ago, you said I really don't want to talk about that. So let's start by having you tell us why you don't want to talk about the champions model.

Matt: So as an organization, Bulb has been involved in a number of organizations development of a champion model and trying to enable them to build a champions model that's effective for their organization. But we don't have a team of people who are doing that. I know other organizations, they have several people who are laser focused on communication and on transformation specifically around a champions model or something very similar. And because we don't have that, I feel a little bit of imposter syndrome, whatever you want to call it. About, Hey, I know we don't have people that are doing that. It's not that we're not familiar with it, but I don't necessarily feel like the expert.

Mike: Okay, well that's fair. But the reality is we do use it. And we use it with our clients. Let's talk about next. What is it? What is the champions model?

Matt: Yeah, so we call it champions model. A lot of that comes from Microsoft's branding around it. Microsoft calls, when you talk about office 365 implementation and all of that stuff, they talk about a champions model and developing a champions model. There are other organizations who have different names for the same kind of thing. The champions model is really an approach to how to involve business users with technology transformation within your organization. There are a lot of different ways to approach that type of transformation. 

This one espouses the concept of bringing a group of people who are already interested and may have some knowledge into, you might call it a focus group, you might call it a community. There are lots of different names for it, but it's saying you are a little bit special and we're going to work with you to help figure out how to apply these technologies to the organization as a whole. 

Mike: Okay. So you mentioned a special group of people and it also sounds like we're talking about organizational change focused on technology. What is special about having a focused group of people be part of or participate in that, in leading that change?

Matt: Let's say somebody's trying to bring in new technology for an organization's CRM system. When you're doing that, you might try to get a group of beta testers or a group of people who are knowledgeable about how the business uses a CRM system to try to pilot it and stuff. But that's for one small piece of technology. The champions model really says take that, a similar type approach, but apply it broadly across all the technology that you have in your organization. Instead of having, these are my beta testers for the CRM, these are my champions and they know CRM, maybe that's their primary thing, but they also use, maybe an ERP system or they might use some of the other sales tools within the organization. 

And it's all on the table. This isn't just a conversation about one particular thing. So when we talk about a small group of people, it's really meant to say, Hey, this group of people are really good at understanding a lot of different areas in our business. And they can really speak to the broader user base as it relates to technology, a number of different technologies.

Mike: Sure. So rather than focused on a particular function in the business, you're looking at, what does the business do as a whole and how can these people help me integrate this new process or this new tool in there, in what they do on a daily basis. So what are some things that it is not good for them. 

Matt: Yeah. So it's interesting when you first start up having a champions model, a lot of times you'll go ask for people to join. And you'll get a couple different types of people. One challenge is when you start to get people who are like, I just want to be up on the latest technology. That's not the point of the tech champion model. Yes. A champions model is going to give users in that group a head start in understanding technology that might be rolled out to the rest of the business. But it's not about just teaching these people about all new technology. 

It's really supposed to be a two way street. If you have somebody who's super tech savvy and really wants to be on the leading edge, they may not be the best person to be in a champions model because unless they have knowledge about how the business works and want to contribute that knowledge back into the champions group, it's not a good fit. So if somebody's trying to start off a champions model to help training and understanding about all these things, it's probably not the best thing to do. That would be one example. 

Another thing that a lot of people look for is they look at the champions model. If I just have a champions model, it'll fix all of my adoption problems. Yes. The champions model will help with adoption, but it's not the only thing you need to be doing. Saying, I'm going to start a champions model and it's going to fix all of my maybe governance or adoption, it's only one piece of the overall strategy.

Mike: And I would say, it sounds to me like it's more human focused. It's on, how do the people interact with the tool, use the tool, the framework in the business?

Matt: It's focus is really about opening a dialogue between the people who are in charge and manage some of the IT components with actual business users in a broad sense. So this is where IT might say, Hey, we're about to roll out some governance to make some changes in how emails are accessed on devices that aren't owned by the company or the organization. Let's get some feedback, like that, the intent here is to say, Hey, wait a minute, I have a bunch of contractors that don't have company owned devices. How's this going to impact them? And you can have that conversation well before you've decided the rollout plan and when it should happen and all of these things. And they can give you some basic feedback.

That's just one example of the way you can use that in that model. It's, more of it looking for help. The other model is people and champions start to say, Hey, I'm really struggling with this requirement. We had this change in our business and I don't know what to do to fix it. And then it's the technologists that come in and say, Hey, here's some different things you can do to try to alleviate that with the technology we have, or here's another piece of technology that we might need to invest in. That we didn't even know we needed.

Mike: So we talked a little bit about what is not good for maybe some of the people involved, but how do you pick champions? Like how do you know that someone would be either qualified or be a good champion in your business? 

Matt: So let's start with this. Let's start by talking about the size of a champions team. If you have a 500 person organization, you don't want 100 people in your champions group, it's just too many. You really want a mix of people. You want enough people to cover all the functional areas. So first of all, if you have five people all from the same functional area already, you don't want another person. In addition, you want someone who's already passionate about technology. 

So if you have somebody who knows everything about the business, but is like, I don't want to learn a new thing. I can't handle this. I'm going to get upset when somebody says they might change something on me. That's not the right person for this type of group. The other thing I'll say is that relying on managers and leaders to select people that they think would be a good fit is probably a good choice as well. You can also have managers and people in more leadership roles be part of the group. But often times who you really want is someone who is doing this on a daily basis, who can also come in and provide that perspective.

Mike: Speak to the day to day.  

Matt: Speak to what they're really having a problem with right now. 

Mike: Okay. So let's say I don't know how to run a champions model. Never heard of it. What are the alternatives?What other things do people do or do organizations do to bring change to either technology or to their organization?  

Matt: So a lot of organizations have a spectrum of things that they can do. Champions model is a function for enabling change within our organization. It's really about the feedback loop.There's a lot of other approaches, like I mentioned before, about a specific technology, rolling out a specific technology or a specific initiative with an organization, a champions model, if it's done properly is really way more broad. It really is a collaboration across your organization. Everything else that I've ever seen has been really focused on a particular technology initiative, whatever you're trying to do as an organization. It might be a group focused on a particular business goal that you have for the year. 

The champions model is kind of outside of all of that. It's really truly about what's going on a regular basis between technology and the business activities that are going on within the organization. One other thing that I didn't mention before that I think is also interesting is that when somebody decides that they're going to be a member of the champions model or a champions group, the other thing they're signing up for is to be named as a champion, that's part of the adoption piece that we probably didn't talk about too much, but part of the idea is that they're someone who can be looked to within their organization as a resource to provide that conduit. 

And it's also one of the reasons why we want that group to be small, because the intent is to force multiply if you will these people into saying, when somebody in your organization is having a question about this new announcement that just happened, you don't have to come to IT. You could, but go to your champion and say, Hey, what do you know about this? And they could provide insight into maybe hit some behind the scenes things. How do we come to this decision? How does it impact my organization?How does it impact my group and how does it work? You want to be having these people be okay with being a resource. It's not like they're supposed to answer all the questions and have everything known everything, but they're supposed to help in that way. 

Mike: So let's go there a little bit more because I think you're right. I think their willingness to help and be the champion is part of it. But when you're choosing them, I think, and we've talked about this analogy in the past, you're also choosing people or individuals that you consider to be maybe influencers in your organization. It's kind of like, Hey, I want what the cool kids have. And so then it helps bring the rest of the organization along. And so those are the types of people that you'd be looking for. Not only people who are willing to give of themselves to help and answer questions, but also people who others look up to and admire and things like that.

Matt: Yeah. I mean, it's definitely a benefit to have someone that the rest of the organization looks to already and tries to follow and emulate what they do. That for sure is someone you'd want to consider including in the group, for sure.

Mike: Absolutely. What are some of the, I guess, pitfalls or challenges that we might run into when trying to run through a champions model?

Matt: So there's a lot of them, I'll talk about one first and there's several other I think we should talk about.The first one is doing a champions model because Microsoft says that it's the way to do it. If you're doing it because Microsoft said, this is what you need to do in order to have good adoption in their technology. That's a problem. If you don't believe in it. Because the truth of the matter is it costs money to do this. Having a champions model is not cheap. It's not free. You've got the time for the meetings that you're going to be doing. You put a cadence on it. If there's a lot going on, it might be twice a month. There's not a lot going on. It might be once a month. 

Mike: What you're saying is it's not enough to pick 5 people and hope. 

Matt: Yeah. I mean, like I said, there's the meetings, there's training. Like these people should be getting early training, often training about what's going on and it's all time and it takes money to develop the training, especially if you're doing new procedures or processes. There's a ton of work that goes into this. And so just doing it haphazardly because either somebody said to do it, or maybe you're starting a project with someone and they're saying, this is the way to go about it, unless you believe in it. And you're going to actually listen to the people who are coming to the table. And IT is actually going to be involved and support these people, you shouldn't go about doing it. It's a waste of time. 

Mike: So if your organization is one where you've got office 365, and it's very IT top down, everything's locked down, IT is in control of everything. It might be a challenge because that flexibility and open dialogue between IT and the champions may not be there?

Matt: So that's very interesting. So in my opinion, that is the type of organization where the champion model can benefit the most if you do it. The question is whether or not you're the central, IT group and the business users have enough rapport to actually build a team, has that conversation. If they can, that's where you're going to see business users have real conversations about this piece of what you're doing isa struggle for me, it's real, like it is costing the business money, time, effort, and IT going, oh, let me see if I can find a solution to that problem.  

And that's where the value comes in. That's where a lot of the value comes in with the champions model, is having that conversation. And in that model where you're locking everything down, you're going to get a lot of value because you're going to have better communication. It'll be a better delivery to those people. They'll be happier with what they're getting, because they feel included in that discussion.

Mike: What about in the scenario where IT is weak? And we moved to office 365, but I really don't have IT and nothing's locked down?

Matt: Yeah. So in that model, it's a little bit of a challenge, honestly, because the challenge you have is that without having someone who can engage from the IT perspective, you're not going to see a lot of change. Now maybe the champion team can come up with their own rules and guidelines and kind of self-regulate. But it's definitely a challenge because trying to enforce those things and say, Hey, this is how we're going to use this technology is a difficult thing without someone in IT to be able to say, Hey, this is the approach we're going to take. And honestly it takes both sides. 

The other way is true. Let's say I have a strong IT department, but everybody in the business just says, we suck. And I don't like what you do. And I just want to do my own thing and doesn't want to engage. That's the same kind of problem. IT can try until they are blue in their face to say, Hey, I want to help with this. And I want to make it better. But if they're not receptive to learning a new technology, changing some of the ways they're doing things, it's not going to change. 

Mike: Sure. So what happens to the champions when something's done? What do they do? What's their next?

Matt: So you mentioned Office365, we've talked about a lot of different things. So a lot of people look at the champions model and say, Hey, I'm going to stand up this champions model. And the goal of it is to drive adoption of office 365. That's why you start, back to what your previous question, that's why you're starting it. It's probably not a good idea. It's maybe an okay place to start. If you're in a big Office365 implementation or stage in your organization's life. It really needs to be about all technology. And it really needs to be about how we use technology within an organization. 

And in that context, technologies used in an organization should be changing all the time. There are new things all the time. There are new releases all the time of different things, not just Office365. Let's say you're using Salesforce. Salesforce is coming out with new stuff all the time. This should be the same forum to say, Hey, we've got this new thing going on with any enterprise level IT thing. Now the big reason people talk about Office365 in particular. And that's where a lot of the focus is, is because that's a piece of technology that is ubiquitous. 

It's email, everybody uses the same email and it's always the same email. And that's the type of technology that you should be talking in this forum. It doesn't mean it's the only technology. But if you're talking about a particular change for a particular piece of software that only affects the shipping team at my organization. You can bring it up in the champions group, but it's not really going to be a focus of it. But if there's any other enterprise wide technology.  

We're rolling out new windows or new office clients, we're rolling out new VPN, we're changing how password management's done. We're changing how our expense reporting is done. The technology is changing, not necessarily. If it's a process thing that maybe this isn't the best place, but we're rolling out a whole new payroll system. This is the forum to do that in.

Mike: What you're really saying, what I'm hearing is the champions model or using the champions model really is something that should be looked at as a higher level tech strategic approach to change at the organization. So if you have teams champions, for example, for that adoption of teams initially. The reality is teams are changing every day. Microsoft is constantly rolling out changes. So those champions need to remain engaged at some level and understand what's coming and whether or not it's applicable to their scenarios and what their organization is doing. Things like that. 

Matt: 100%, I would also say that it should be something that is changing, that group is changing over time as well. Let's say you're heavy into a new team's migration, you probably do want some different people to come into the champions group during that period of time. And once it's all done, and you're just kind of doing maintenance, maybe that list of people changes to something else that people are [19:28 inaudible]. It's more focused on the next thing you're doing. 

So, yeah, I mean, there's definitely the concept of a core group of people who are the main people, but then, as those things are ebbing and flowing, bring other people that would be useful. When we do it, we like to talk about it not just about an intranet, not just about teams, not just about outlook, not just about Office365, but what's going on in your organization tech, about technology. And let's talk about that. Let's figure out what's not going well and what is going well.

Mike: And have the champions sit in a room and raise their hand if they think they have a solution to a problem or have an issue that they need solved?

Matt: Correct. 

Mike: So we talked quite a bit about IT and their function in all this, can we talk a little bit deeper about the roles, specifically that it would play in a champions model process?

Matt: Yeah, sure. So we talked a lot about how to choose people for the champions model, from the business perspective. But let's talk about choosing people from an IT perspective, whichI think is also interesting. So what I recommend is actually number one, having somebody from communications involved, which would maybe be a little bit unusual. People might not think of that.

Mike: Why communications?

Matt: So assuming your organization actually has a communications department, you want somebody there who can help translate between IT and the champions or the business. You also want someone who can help to eliminate or manage the messaging that's going on.And the reason for that is when we talk about actually choosing somebody from IT, if at all possible you want to choose someone who knows the technology really, really well, but also has a heart for the business users. So bringing in somebody.

Mike: You're not saying something like IT people are hard to communicate with, are you. 

Matt: I don't think IT people are hard to communicate with, but I know that there's a lot of business users that have a difficult time understanding. And it's because as IT people, we have a focus on the technology and the technical details and oftentimes the business really cares about the end result and what it means for me. So that's part of the problem. The other problem is there's one piece, which is, I need to know the technology really well, but there's another piece of it is, I also understand why it's important for the business.  

So let's say that I'm someone who really understands compliance. And understands the technologies that we use for managing our compliance with regulatory things that we have. So I can talk to them while I'm blue in the face about all of the reasons, why we delete something after a certain period of time, or have a retention period of a certain period of time or whatever that might be.

You also want somebody who can say, this is the regulatory requirement that we have. This is why we have that regulatory requirement because X, Y, and Z customer or X contract, or whatever that is, that's important to this customer of ours. Let's say that you're trying to follow an ISO standard or something of that nature. And you can explain that other piece of it to the business users to say we're doing this so we can better adhere to this requirement. 

And so when you're picking somebody from IT, you want to have not only that technical piece, but like I said, you want communications. You want somebody from maybe, if you're going through a project that's really heavily being governed by a compliance requirement, maybe a compliance officer, that's going to come in and talk about things. You want to have this in the context of why you're doing it, you never want to go into a champions meeting or a champ communication where you say we're decommissioning certain servers. Why? The answer might be because SSL 1.0 is no longer going to be supported. 

Why does that matter to me? What is SSL 1.0?As an end user how do I know any of what that means to me? So you want somebody who can come in and say, Hey, this is the deal. We're not going to be able to run things because the world as a whole is migrating away from this technology that has security concerns. Like it's just not going to be supported by major companies and organizations. And if we want to keep our certification in X, Y, or Z, we have to do this or, Hey, maintenance on this is going to be skyrocket after this period of time. You don't want to just be communicating, this is the technical mumbo jumbo, if you will, for why we're doing it and so it's got to happen. 

Mike: So we need the IT people to be focused on the technology, its capabilities, any risks associated with it that might impact our business. If we're shifting from on-prem to the cloud, that's a whole another ball. We are sitting behind brick walls versus it's in the cloud now and the type of data that you have, like they need to be up to speed and aware of any issues related to that type of stuff so that they can inform that discussion.

Matt: Yep. And you also want, you bring up a really interesting one, which is the move from on-prem to cloud. There's going to be people on both sides of that. From the champions group, you might have a group of people that are like, I've been waiting for this forever. When can we have it? I don't care about how you're doing it let's make it happen. And then you may have another group of people that are like, whoa, whoa, whoa. I'm really concerned. What does this mean? How does this work? And you want someone not only from an IT perspective, but also from a business perspective who can talk about as a business, we've decided to make this shift because. 

And ideally you don't want that decision just to be, it's cheaper or it's got some cool, fancy technology. You want to have a conversation about how it impacts the user and that really needs to be the focus of how the IT group communicates with the champions team, which is why I said when we started, a communications person. Someone who can help translate that and present it well. 

Mike: Yep, very good. I think that does it for this conversation, Matt, thanks for all of the enlightening wisdom that you shared with us about the champions model. I think for those out there who are listening, who are considering something like this for their organization as a way to impact change, I think we would just encourage you to try it, look out there on the internet there's all kinds of definitions for what a champions model is. Microsoft, as you mentioned, provides a lot of documentation and kind of a little bit of, how to guidance, if you wanted to do that type of thing. And there are other organizations out there like us that use the champions model with our clients every day. Thanks for tuning in and we'll see you next time.

Matt: Thanks everybody.

Mitch: Thanks for joining us today. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app, so you'll always be up to date on the most recent episodes.This podcast is hosted by the team members of Bulb Digital. Special thanks to Eric Veeneman for our music tracks. If you have any questions for us head to makeothersuccessful.com and you can get in touch with us there. You'll also find a lot of insightful blogs and videos to help you modernize your workplace.Thanks again for listening. We'll see you next time.

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