Switching from 'LINE' to Google Hangouts: What I learnt in my first Google Change Management Project [guest post by Yukari Sugiyama]

Version 3

    Hi all,


    I hope everyone is having a good week so far. I'm really excited to share the first ever guest article written by a Tokyo-based Googler - Yukari Sugiyama who recently joined my team.






    Hi everyone, my name is Yukari and I recently joined the International change and transformation team at Google where I am currently based in the Tokyo office. Kim asked me to share a story and some insights with you all about my first ever change management project that I was involved with.

    The first company that I was involved in with Change Management is a Japanese manufacturing company which went live with Google Apps in 2014 with 8,000+ employees. Manufacturing companies in Japan are typically pretty conservative. I had some initial concerns about this, but they were instantly gone when I met the CIO, as his leadership and goal was strong and solid. The CIO had assigned a person from the IT department as the Google Apps ‘friendly’ Evangelist. I was really surprised about how much the internal evangelist and the IT team understood best practices around transformation and how they were using Google Apps within their organisation.

    At first glance it seemed like everything with the Google Apps project was going very well. However, upon analyzing their usage rate for each product, I discovered that the usage of the chat feature of hangouts was very low compared to the other products. To understand the reason behind why this was the case, the evangelist and I analyzed the issue. We found that users on-site were actually using the consumer version of ‘LINE’ (a very popular chat app that most people in Japan use daily in their personal life). This was an example of shadow IT within the organisation and the IT team and leaders wanted to stop this for security reasons. Hangouts was something employees were not familiar with, both in terms of the user interface and how to utilize it, so when they wanted to chat with their colleagues or share files quickly with each other they defaulted to using LINE. This is the reason that the hangouts usage statistics were so low.

    Once this we had identified the real reason behind the low usage, we were able to ask the following questions to allow us to develop an appropriate change management plan.

    • What is our objective?
    • How should we go about changing people's behaviours?

    The first question is an easy one, the goal was to “decrease the usage of LINE while increasing the Hangouts usage.” The benefits for the organisation are that they would get more value from the Google Apps platform, and reduce the risks associated with employees transferring important corporate data through a consumer product.

    The second question took a bit more thought.

    We identified that the missing link for employees was the communication about the benefits of using Hangouts over LINE. We decided to schedule some refresher training on Hangouts. We shared the reasons why Hangouts is the best tool for them to use on-site within the company to chat and share documents and images. The main benefits we uncovered for this audience was PC / laptop to mobile compatibility, chat history recording and a higher level of security. These messages were also posted on the company blog that all employees read.

    Following these training and communications activities we saw a 20% increase in hangouts usage in just one month! This confirmed that the only thing that was needed was to highlight the benefits and increase awareness among employees.

    The CIO of this company provided huge support for this project which made things run efficiently for all of us. One statement which he shared with the team and to I, which I thought was really insightful and guided us along the journey was: “If you have questions about what to change and how - the answers cannot be found in meeting rooms, nor in managers’ brains. The answers are always found on-site, where employees are in action.”
    This really resonated with me and is something that I will keep in mind for future projects.


    In summary my key learnings from this first project are:

    • Strong, committed executive sponsorship is essential for helping drive change
    • It is really important to dive deep into a specific situation to uncover what the real reasons are for people not using a tool. If we were focused just on pushing Hangouts, but didn’t know about LINE we wouldn’t have been able to understand the use cases and perceptions of users and therefore wouldn’t have been so successful in this project
    • Finding evangelists within the organisation is really important, these people can have a massive impact when looking for the reasons there might be resistance, and also for helping to plan the best way to address how to communicate and train people
    • When communicating and training employees - it is really important to keep focused on finding what the benefits are to them
    • The best way of running a successful change project is by spending time with people on the ground - they understand more about the challenges and how to be successful than the leaders or managers will!


    I’d love to hear if any of the readers have had a similar experience either with LINE or any other consumer app. How did you deal with this and were you successful in getting people to change their behaviour? What was the key to your success or any lessons learnt that you could share with this forum?