Elise Olding

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Elise Olding
Research Director
7 years at Gartner
32 years IT industry

Elise Olding is a Research Director covering the complex challenges of organizational change and business transformation from a people perspective. Her areas of focus include organizational change, communications strategies and emerging trends in employee engagement from a hands-on practitioner view. Ms. Olding provides research on a worldwide basis, advising clients on best practices to achieve sustainable change and business transformation. She is a member of Gartner's Business Process and Transformation team. Read Full Bio

Is A Lack of Accountability Eroding Effectiveness?

by Elise Olding  |  April 29, 2013  |  1 Comment

Accountability is at the foundation of business success. Many organizations implement technology or new business processes but don’t consider their current cultural norms for accountability. What’s the cost of overlooking this? 

As an example – I use a parking app on my mobile in my hometown. The other day I returned to my car as the parking enforcement officer was creating an expensive parking ticket for me. I showed him my phone clearly displaying I had 15 minutes left. He told me I wasn’t on his list. Upon closer examination we discovered I was in zone 222 and parked in zone 221. (The app states you can park anywhere in the city with a valid session.) I showed him the nearest sign to me was 222 but he still left the ticket and told me to contest it.  

Given we live in cities struggling with tight budgets this seemed crazy. Now my ticket will need to be processed by someone at the parking citation center which will cost the city money they don’t have. The parking officer had new technology, but no new accountability. In the old system, once a ticket was written, it was not an option to reverse it. He now has the information he needs and the knowledge that this ticket would likely be reversed yet not the accountability to be able take action. Had he been able to use his judgement and remove the ticket from his handheld the cost would be zero and everyone would be happy. 

When I talk with clients about why they aren’t getting the expected benefits from their technology implementations, many times one cause is a  lack of defining accountability. If the culture of accountability isn’t there to begin with, implementing new business processes and technology aren’t going to magically change people’s behavior. And, as in the case of the parking ticket, you may actually be incurring increased costs.

Mastering organizational change skills can be daunting, but perhaps starting with identifying the need to establish a culture of accountability can be a good place to start. Ask if employees are equipped with the education and information they need in order to make the decisions that let them be more effective (and likely happier) in their jobs. Assess if responsibility is aligned with accountability and the authority to take action in order to achieve the full effectiveness from process and technology changes.

What are some of your experiences with a lack of accountability?

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Category: Applications BPM employee engagement Gartner Organizational Change     Tags: , , , , , , ,

Vision Alignment Challenges? Create a Collage

by Elise Olding  |  April 8, 2013  |  2 Comments

The challenge in many organizations is that we have a strong propensity to jump to the solution.  When the going gets tough merely having a solution in mind doesn’t get us out of the quagmire – particularly when it may not have been the 100% right solution to start with. It’s easy to lose our way, let the scope of the program expand, waste resources and money and leave our organization feeling like there is a lack of direction. All this quickly contributes to lack of adoption, change fatigue and that “here we go again” feeling.

How do you get everyone on the same page? Hours of meetings obsessing over mission statements and words can be frustrating leading to passive-aggressive behavior and mixed messages. To achieve the benefits from a transformation effort it’s critical to communicate a cohesive message. This starts with the leadership and executive sponsors. The trouble is – how do you do this? Herding cats is possible. Read on… 

I recently returned from a Gartner engagement with a government agency. (The perception is that often government is “different” and not “good at change.”) They struggled with a multi-year program that could be moving at a faster pace. In addition, while the executive sponsor team worked together and each had their vision, they didn’t have a cohesive shared vision that would align their decisions and engage their employees. It was the classic communication and organizational change challenges I see across many clients and conference attendees.

How do you cut through years of culture and baggage?  It’s not by doing trying the same techniques over and over. A mission statement or scope document won’t help.  This group bravely agreed to try something completely different – co-create a collage that captured their joint vision of the future and another that depicted where they are today.  

We had about 30 magazines for the group of 10 and a blank poster on the table.  The instructions were simple: find pictures that represent a feeling or experience and cut them out.  Each executive pulled out several pictures. They then began to lay them out, explaining their portion of the story.  This iteration happened over the course of the next 20 minutes. 

It was amazing to watch. The images were compelling and the stories convincing. There was complete collaboration and sharing of ideas, building on the narrative as each picture was placed on the poster board. At the end of the allocated time, we went around the room – with each of them talking about one component of their vision and story. The final product was a story that encapsulated the spirit of the massive transformation they were undertaking and the guide rails for how they were going to do this.  

We closed the session with each executive writing their commitment. I was impressed by the depth of the commitments. Many were focused on the need to better communicate and engage their employees, rather than just focusing on the external outcomes from the program. The executive team is going to use the collage going forward and share with the organization.

Why did this work?  Because it created a “toward” response, the group collaborated and co-created a common vision. There was no hierarchy or dominant leader since everyone had a picture to contribute and even the “quiet” ones participated – who are often the good listeners and synthesizers. It created a shared emotional experience and also built a shared story. There’s a lot more neuroscience behind this and I will leave that for a later time. I highly recommend Dr. David Rock’s book “Your Brain at Work” for the detailed insights and explanations. The key is the “toward” response and co-creation which builds trust and commitment. 

Look for more written Gartner research on this topic in the near future.  In the meantime – I’m happy to discuss further and welcome your comments. What techniques have you used?


Category: BPM employee engagement ERP Gartner Organizational Change Strategic Planning Uncategorized     Tags: , , , ,

Communicate Better – Tell, Listen and Adapt

by Elise Olding  |  March 11, 2013  |  1 Comment

Just returned from a couple of days visiting executives in some of the leading organizations in Spain. Amazingly, it’s not technology that is top of mind for many of these executives. It’s organizational change. Why? Because any technology implementation requires a change in the behavior of those using it. This skill is not one that has been well developed in many IT types.

The research I have been doing defines a framework for how to think about communication. It consists of three easy concepts: tell, listen and adapt and was well received with the executives I met with.

Executives are usually very good at telling. This style of communication is top down and directive. It creates the imperative for change. What it lacks is the motivation needed from others in order to achieve the desired change. It is only part of the equation.

Listening is seldom used as part of a communication strategy. Listening means asking for feedback and ideas. This can be done through two way conversations, social media and other interactive methods. Peer advocates, who represent a stakeholder group are an effective way to ach into the orga ization and promote this discussion. Middle managers are also key and as well just be engaged do that they can have discussions with their employees and support them in the change process.

The final and necessary component is to adapt. Once the feedback has been heard, the direction of a program or project many need to be modified. The adapt step is critical to acknowledge listening. Without it, employees will soon become frustrated and disillusioned, feeing that the requested feedback is not being heard. Adapting in the face of valid feedback shows employees that their input is valuable and critical to success. It is also critical to the organizational change.

Consider using an organizational change methodology. It may not be a perfect fit, but you can tailor it along the way to best suit your culture.

Change is a processes and it happens one employee at a time. Respect the pace of change (or change cadence) in each stakeholder group, and apply the concepts above to get better at supporting organizational change. The benefits will pay off for years to come.

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Category: BPM EA Gartner Organizational Change Strategic Planning     Tags: , , ,

Has BPM Lost Its Luster?

by Elise Olding  |  February 6, 2013  |  10 Comments

It seems each week I’m hearing more and more challenges – political battles, lack of support, methodology wars and skills shortages. Some highly acclaimed enterprise-wide BPM programs have bit the dust recently. Is the shine is wearing off BPM? 

I have some thoughts about why this is and will keep the list short:

  1. Tinkering – many BPM projects tout results from automating paper intensive routine activities, many times with little, if any breakthrough re-thinking about the work. This is often because the automation is at the task or activity level. Getting a bunch of people in a room and asking them how to improve their work in a two hour meeting can’t possibly yield innovative results.
  2. BPM is Special – some organizations create a BPM empire from scratch and don’t play nicely in the sand box with already mature disciplines like enterprise architecture, project management and applications development. Some seem surprised to discover that business analysts can do process modeling! BPMers tout breaking down process silos while they blindly build their own methods, governance and competency centers.
  3. We Do BPM - the BPM group becomes a bottleneck because they are doing the detailed work. Pretty soon transformation teams, aligned with strategic processes begin to sprout up – especially in large organizations.
  4. One Process For All – standardization has become synonymous with BPM. Whether right or wrong, I hear many execs refer to “standardizing business processes” as their view of what BPM achieves. As an expectation, this road is fraught with politics at the front end and shadow processes at the back end.
  5. Cost Cutting Mode – doing things more cheaply is not always the answer. Bloomberg Businessweek, 1/28/13, alludes to Boeing’s focus on cost savings as one factor in the Dreamliner challenges. Efficiency is a short term win – there’s only so much efficiency you can wring out of your organization. Then what? Effectiveness is boundless and radically rethinking how work is done creates long term value that pays forward.

The advice here is obvious – think bigger, play nice with others, tackle unstructured and knowledge work, embrace effectiveness and focus on long-term value. BPMers need to radically rethink what the role of visibility, accountability and adaptability will be for the future of their organization. How can you make these  enterprise competences? Get out and understand the work your enterprise does, find the unknown opportunity. Invent, rethink. Promote everyone being responsible for improving and innovating, not just the elite few. Be really good at communicating – really, really good.  This includes listening.  

This blog really isn’t about how giving advice on how to fix this. Hopefully your blood pressure is going up and you are murmuring how wrong I am. I’d like to get your thoughts – are you hearing the rumblings?  Can you add to the above list? Are you in violent disagreement? Do you have a success to share? 

Want more?  Come to the BPM Summits (London, Washington DC, Sydney) where I will be presenting “Stop Tinkering, Start Innovating.”  If you are a Gartner client – set up an inquiry and let’s tackle your challenges and put you on the path to process success.


Category: BPM Gartner     Tags: , ,

“Engagification”of the Enterprise – Gamification and Employee Engagement

by Elise Olding  |  November 14, 2012  |  12 Comments

I had the pleasure of crafting one of Gartner’s top predicts for 2013:

By 2015, 40% of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations. (Gartner’s Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2013 and Beyond: Balancing Economics, Risk, Opportunity and Innovation)

Why do we need to consider gamification in our workplace transformation efforts? According to John Kotter, 70% of business transformation efforts fail. Add to that the impact of 71% of American workers who are not engaged or actively disengaged from their work (according to Gallup), and less likely to be productive. This paints a dismal picture for business change and transformation efforts as organizations are clearly not addressing the fundamentals needed for success. Technology, the program plan and/or a lack of vision are not the root issues; it’s the lack of engagement and buy-in from employees who need to embrace new ways of working. When transforming business operations, organizations will need to cement behavior changes and engagement as part of the work activities.

Gamification can help organizations make the workplace more engaging and productive. The same incentives that inspire game players to strive for the next level in a computer game can also inspire your employees to reach for a higher level of performance and engagement — if they are properly applied. Gamification hype is rampant, and the uses inside the enterprise are still emerging. My recent research found only a handful of effective implementations that demonstrated measurable, increased employee engagement. Gartner expects to see that continue over the next few years as lessons are learned and effective techniques are honed.

In presenting this topic at Gartner Summits and Symposiums around the world this year, the reception has been surprisingly positive. The number of organizations exploring the use of gamification for employee engagement continues to grow. During each conference there are a handful of attendees (some from very large organizations) that share with me their forays into using gamification to increase engagement.   

Here are a few tips when applying gamification within the enterprise:

  • Strive for collaboration. Gamification is often associated with competition, but it is great tool for enhancing business collaboration and maximizing business outcomes.
  • Define your transformation objectives, metrics and desired outcomes. Then consider what kind of behaviors you want to reinforce and apply the appropriate gamification techniques.
  • Understand what works in a particular culture. Not everyone is motivated by the same techniques. Even within a single organization, there can be many different cultures — some competitive and some more collaborative, some assertive and some more passive. Each group will have its own motivations.
  • Plan for iterations and “upping the game” to avoid fatigue, foster continued engagement and promote continuous improvement.

There has been some negative reaction to the term gamification – most recently at the Gartner Symposium in Barcelona – so I’ve been trying out “engagification.” So far, there has been positive reception. It seems to get at the root of the challenge – which is employee engagement.

What’s your reaction to using the term engagification? Please, please comment!  

Check out the upcoming webinar presented by Daryl Plummer : Top Technology Predictions for 2013 and Beyond 

Follow me on Twitter:  @eliseolding


Category: BPM employee engagement engagification gamification Gartner Organizational Change     Tags: , ,

Get Your Game On at the Gartner BPM Summit in Baltimore

by Elise Olding  |  April 24, 2012  |  5 Comments

Next week’s BPM summit will have something for everyone from beginners wanting to know the right steps in the journey – to emerging trends for our advanced practitioners to explore. At this years conference we are adding a layer of fun based on our gamification keynote by Gabe Zichermann (Twitter @gzicherm and his bio is here )

To help raise the level of engagement and interaction and fun at the conference we will be using a few simple game mechanics; badges and prizes!

Game Rules: Some of the Gartner analysts and BPM advisory board members will be awarding badges to attendees (actually they are stickers which you will attach to your conference nametag). You mission is to get as many badges as you can by completing the challenges.

Here are some clues to help you get started:

  • Find and tell me your favorite scuba or snorkeling spot, or best vacation – the more exotic the better. For scuba/snorkel tips you will get a fish badge, for vacations you get a pineapple. If you totally WOW me you get both.
  • Michele Cantara is a history buff. Wow her with an obscure historical fact and collect a badge.
  • Jim Sinur will have guitar badges and he will be posting his challenge on Twitter @jimsinur
  • Jenny Sussin will post her challenge on Twitter @JSussin
  • John Mahoney enjoys opera. Impress him with the name of your favourite leading opera character and the composer.
  • Shawn Solomon, one of our BPM advisory members, will be hosting a pre-event session – if you are attending you can collect your first badge from him on Tuesday.
  • Bruce Robertson wants to hear about the best rock concert you have attended.
  • Get research from Solution Central. Tell them about your favorite job.
  • Joel Kiernan, one of our BPM advisory members is a baseball fan. Share your favorite baseball moment and he will give you a glove or baseball badge.
  • Wade Wallinger, another BPM advisory board member from Chevron, is interested in hearing about your favorite movie star. Do this and we awarded a cool star badge.
  • John Dixon is interested in your BPM nightmares. He will reward you with a beer badge to ease the pain! Oh and yes, sharing someone else’s story is OK too!

There will be other Gartner analysts and BPM advisory members who will be giving out badges at the show as well so you will need to follow the clues to figure out who they are. Follow #gartnerbpm hashtag on Twitter as well as analyst blogs for more information on who will be giving out badges at the show.

At the end of the conference we will pick one winner. The person with the best creative display of badges or best overall story will get the prize, which will be a full pass for next years BPM conference. Find me or Jenny Sussin and share. I will announce the winner at the close of the show so be sure to follow me on Twitter @eliseolding


Category: BPM Gartner     Tags: , , , , ,

The Language of Successful Organizational Change

by Elise Olding  |  February 28, 2012  |  4 Comments

The majority of my interactions with clients lately have been about organizational change. It is becoming more of an executive level conversation as leaders are realizing the importance of paying attention to the people dynamics and understanding the consequences when they don’t. “Where to start?” is a question I’m commonly asked. Here’s the 100,000 foot view that I recently shared:

  • First – stop using “change management.” It’s a myth, change can’t be “managed.” All of us certainly know we can’t change someone else and likely have learned this well in our personal lives. It holds equally true at work but somehow we don’t take this into consideration and continue to pursue managing change at work. What you can do is influence, entice, engage, suggest, mentor… “Change management” sounds like something that gets delegated to lower levels to “manage” in the organization. While there is certainly a project component, the overall concept of an adaptable and flexible workforce is a strategic concern in an organization and one executives should be involved with. Consider using “organizational change” or “leading change.”
  • Second, stop using the word “new” to descibe your subsequent state. New implies a change from here to there and then it is done. It sends the message to employees that once you master the new way of working, they can relax as they have arrived at “new”. The truth is there’s another “new” waiting in the wings. So, call it what it is. It’s “next.” This alerts employees to expect more and that “next” will be a way of life. Offer career development and training in how to live in a “next” environment. As employees gain the skills to embrace change they can move towards creating an adaptable and flexible workforce.

This is the 100,000 foot view, but it’s a place to start. Oh, and don’t forget change fatigue, but more on that later…

Your thoughts?




Category: Organizational Change Strategic Planning Uncategorized     Tags: , ,

Trading my “B” for a “P” – Farewell BPM, Hello PPM!

by Elise Olding  |  February 14, 2012  |  3 Comments

I have had 4 1/2 great years with the Gartner BPM team. It’s been fun shaping the research, meeting everyone at the conferences and writing research. I’m sad to leave good friends and wonderful collegues.  The good news is that I will be at all the Gartner BPM Summits this year!

I’m now onto my next challenge…effective Feb. 1 I have joined the Program and Portfolio Management team. They are a great group and I’m looking forward to expanding my research into this area. I will be taking the organizational change research with me and also continue to work on the intersection between the PMO and BPM – what Donna Fitzgerald has defined as the enterprise PMO. (And hot news off the press: we are continuing to see the convergence of the PMO, BPM and organizational change.)

I’m looking forward to keeping connected to those of you with whom I’ve worked with while on the BPM team and look forward to new connections in the PPM world.


Category: Uncategorized     Tags: , , ,

BPM Predicts 2012: Organizational Politics Hampers, Gamification Motivates BPM Adoption

by Elise Olding  |  November 21, 2011  |  7 Comments

Our “BPM Predicts” report for 2012 has been published.  It was a cross-team effort that included – myself, Brian Burke, Michele Cantara, John Dixon, Donna Fitzgerald, Janelle Hill and Teresa Jones.  “BPM Predicts” is published each year and I hope you find this year’s batch to provide insights for you to take BPM to the next level.   


The land of BPM is awash in opportunities but also speckled with landmines. This year’s predictions offer some of both. Starting with the landmines, organizational politics is emerging as a challenge and will continue to haunt BPI leaders Those not realizing the force of this challenge will face the stalling or demise of their BPM program, and we anticipate that will be one-third of the organizations today. The good news is that the opportunities offer hope to deal with this challenge and have a direct and positive impact. The enterprise program management office (EPMO) ties together people, technology and process enabling a better, more comprehensive reading on political challenges, and gamification offers engagement and motivation techniques to rally opposing forces to work toward collaborative goals. Shadow processes diminish the value of BPM, and creating visibility offers opportunities to coordinate work across organizational boundaries. The bad news is that politics will be a challenge that some will not overcome, but the good news is that this year’s predictions point to a path that will lead to BPM success.


  • Through 2016, organizational politics will prevent at least one-third of BPM efforts from moving beyond one-off projects to enterprisewide adoption. (John Dixon, Elise Olding)
  • By 2015, 25% of all redesigned processes will include one or more of the engagement practices known as “gamification.” (Elise Olding, Brian Burke)
  • Driven by the need to innovate, by 2016, one-third of enterprise-level BPI groups will combine with the Program Management Office (PMO) to form the EPMO. (Elise Olding, Donna Fitzgerald)
  • By 2016, 20% of “shadow business processes” will be supported by BPM cloud platforms. (Michele Cantara)



Category: BPM Cloud Gartner Organizational Change     Tags: , ,

Join Us for Gartner Chat on Social Media – Oct 4th, 3pm EDT

by Elise Olding  |  September 28, 2011  |  1 Comment

The wave of social business will be larger and even more disruptive than the e-business wave that preceded it. It is more than Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It is also more than the enabling technologies – wikis, blogs, social networks, etc.

Social media is really about engaging communities in new ways to achieve otherwise impossible business value. It is about strategy. It is about thriving, surviving or disappearing in a new age of human behaviors fueled by mass collaboration.

In this Gartner Twitter Chat, we’ll explore the critical trends that are upending social programs as business get social. Key topics will include:

  1. What makes social media so powerful?
  2. How can organizations take a strategic approach to social media?
  3. How can social media transform how you do business?
  4. How do you measure the value of social media?
  5. What are the major best and poor practices that mean the difference between success and failure?

The Gartner Twitter Chat will take place October 4, at 3 ET (noon PT for me!) on Twitter with Anthony Bradley, Carol Rozwell, and Elise Olding. Please join us on Twitter using #GartnerChat. Follow our hosts: @BradleyAnthonyJ, @CRozwell, @EliseOlding and @Gartner_inc

I’m looking forward to connecting with you!

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Category: Gartner Social     Tags: , , , ,