There was a time in the not-so-distant past when a line item for “project management” in the budget of a technology implementation seemed like an option, not a requirement. Now, with the complexity of moving parts that need to be precisely coordinated, dedicated project management time is essential to project success. As an industry we’ve learned the value of project management methodology and tools, and recognize that a project’s timeline, milestones, budget, and scope need to be monitored to ensure project success.
Change management is a term that organizations are starting to hear more often during implementation planning. Much like when project management was emerging as a discipline, change management hasn’t yet been recognized as an essential part of technology projects. We expect that to change quickly as both clients and industry service providers understand how project management and change management work together to ensure the success of complex projects.
Project management is a process for organizing the tasks, timelines, and requirements of a project. It helps control what will be done, when it will be done, and who will do it. Think of it like building a ship. You have a design, acquire the the materials, hire the craftsmen, and define the step-by-step process for putting the ship together. When you are done, you have a complete ship. But was that your goal, just to have a ship? Chances are, the goal was to be able to use the ship to sail somewhere else. A technology implementation is very similar. The goal is not to just have the technology, the goal is to use it to support and impact your mission.
That’s where change management is comes in. Change management focuses on how people are guided through a change, recognizing that each individual experiences change differently. Some are excited and ready to jump in, while others get more nervous and resistant. If project management is building a ship, change management gets people into the ship, informed and prepared for their role to sail out into the sea. It makes sure that the everyone on the ship understands how they are part of the upcoming journey, and what they need to contribute to shared success. In a technology implementation, change management focuses on making sure that everyone knows how they contribute to the system, how to use it effectively, and how everyone’s efforts will benefit the organization. Much more than a last-step training session, change management starts at the beginning of a project to influence decisions, ensure staff and constituent support, and ease fears during an often challenging transition.
Isn’t this just being a good communicator? Something to be covered by HR/personnel management? Shouldn’t the the focus be on getting the system up and running so the people can learn it? In reality, change management encompasses all of the above and more. Buy utililizing effective two-way communication techniques it allows an organization to understand, accept, and prepare for the coming changes instead of reacting to them in a stressful moment. Skilled project management and active change management complement one-another, working together to ensure the project’s success.
There are many benefits to an active change management strategy. Having successful change management leads to a pro-change organizational culture. With each successful project, the organization learns that changes won’t be “the end of their world”, and a positive culture is reinforced. In large projects, successfully managed early phases strengthen the organization’s trust in the plan, making subsequent and often more complex phases easier to manage and adopt.
Unfortunately, the opposite can be true as well. Negative associations with change can perpetuate and create a change-averse organizational culture. For example, if an organization had a bad implementation which resulted in low user adoption, the legacy of this previous project could make staff reluctant to adopt and change for a future project. Bringing proactive and measurable change management tools and methodology to a project can help organizations build a culture that views change as a positive evolution, and something to be embraced.
Change management can also reduce risk of turnover of valuable employees. When staff is informed and understand their role during a system transition and go-live, they view the change as positive and don’t get frustrated or insecure. With effective communication techniques, organization leaders can be equipped with the skills and insights to allow them to guide their team through change, addressing issues before they escalate into larger problems.
Read more about the ROI of Change management in this article: https://www.prosci.com/change-management/thought-leadership-library/roi-of-change-management
Heller Consulting is certified in PROSCI Change Management methodology and application of tools to guide successful projects. For organizations looking at large-scale technology projects, Heller brings the expertise in the change and project management pillars, and the organization brings the leadership and sponsorship to round out the required components for project success. Find out more about how we approach change management in our paper Managing Technology Change at Enterprise Nonprofits.