If you grew up in a large family setting, you likely learned early on that each individual deals with their environment in totally unique ways. I was fortunate to be the youngest of a very large family and well positioned to observe how all my older siblings dealt with change. Some sought change and instigated change, some accepted change readily, while others approached change very cautiously. Their characters have not changed much over the years – these traits are simply part of their DNA.
Consider for a moment that when an organization embarks on a significant business technology project, they may be introducing change to 100, 500 or 1,000 unique individuals, and you start getting a sense of what you might be up against. Some will readily accept change, some will need time to assess and internalize the changes at hand, while others may decide to reject the changes outright for personal reasons.
The issue of how to manage change successfully has taken on added prominence in recent years, as organizations grapple with the challenges associated with the ever increasing operational changes necessary to remain competitive within a global economy. But what exactly does “managing change successfully” mean within the context of technology changes?
Business technology changes have typically been measured on three fronts: time, budget and scope. In recent years, a fourth metric has entered the equation: end user adoption. On the surface, these metrics appear to provide an accurate assessment of a project’s success. After all, if a technology project delivers all the changes identified within scope, on time, within budget and the new system is being used, it’s a success, right?
A better metric for measuring success is one that answers the question “Has this project created the business result it was intended to?” And to answer that question, one needs to clearly understand why business leaders approved the project in the first place. The traditional metrics of scope, budget, time and adoption are all relevant, but mean little if the changes don’t materialize in the business results intended. It’s not uncommon for business leaders to accept a cost increase or a delayed implementation and still deem a project successful if it delivers business results. In short, delivering business results is the only metric that really counts and the one that will resonate with business leaders.
This has serious implications regarding how to successfully manage business technology changes. It means that the business case supporting the change must be clearly understood by all project team members as well as all business stakeholders. It means that business results must remain at the core of the decision-making process throughout the project lifecycle. And finally, it means that the targeted business results identified at the start of the project can be, and are being, measured at some point following completion of the project.
In summary, here’s a quick recipe for successfully managing change on business technology projects:
- Start by identifying and gaining formal acceptance on what business results are expected by the business leaders (Critical Success Factors).
- Next, identify and gain formal acceptance on how, when and by whom these business results will be measured, both during the project lifecycle and following completion of the project (Benefits Realization).
- Fold in project management and organizational change management best practices to ensure that all stakeholders clearly understand why the changes are being undertaken and what their roles are relative to supporting the change.
- Recognize that each stakeholder is a unique individual that will process change in their own way, and ensure that change is managed at both the personal and organizational levels.
- Keep your eye on the ball! Timelines, scope and budgets often change through a project’s lifecycle, however targeted business results rarely do.
In the end, the business results envisioned by business leaders at the start of a technology change can only be realized through the support and endorsement of the people who are being asked to change the way they do things on a daily basis. Although change can introduce a plethora of emotions including anger, disorientation, confusion, sadness and even depression, employees will rally around change if they understand why the changes are required as well as what their role is in achieving the results. Successful transition requires that all aspects of project management and change management be aligned and focused on delivering business results. The traditional project management metrics of time, scope, and budget as well as user adoption are all important, but must be managed within the context of business results.