HAVE YOU CONSIDERED THE IMPACT OF YOUR IT PROJECT ON YOUR PEOPLE?

The importance of change management

T-Tech Consultant Jessy Aspell looks at the importance of change management when implementing a new IT project within your organisation. 

Change management describes the approach required to support an individual and organisation through organisational change and, consequently, is fundamental to the success of any project.

In recent years I have found that, although its importance is more widely acknowledged, often, it is assumed that standard project planning and management incorporates the activities required to drive change. With this view not enough time is spent considering and preparing people, leaving the organisation ill-equipped and unprepared for what lies ahead.

Microsoft has just hosted their Future Decoded 2017 event and the theme of organisational change was a key focus throughout the day. Successful delivery of an IT project is particularly challenging due to the complexity of the change required. An organisation isn’t simply asking for employees to use a new system; they are asking their people to change business processes, behaviours and potentially adapt to a new working culture.

Next time you are starting a project, ask yourself if you’ve considered the following:

Have you prepared your people?

Change management differs from and complements project management activities and should run alongside project management – from conception, to implementation and beyond.

Throughout the life of a project, individuals will experience the impact of the change in different ways and at different times depending on who they are. It’s important to proactively and consistently address this with employees. Through identifying your end goal and how it aligns to the wider organisational strategy and vision, a case for change can be developed that articulates and reinforces the why behind a project.

Engaging and supporting employees needs to continue post implementation. Once a project goes live, it can be tempting to assume the hard work is over. However, embedding change long term requires longer term management.

Are your leaders leading?

Before your project starts, make sure that the leaders in your organisation are aligned and bought in. Moving into a period of change is unsettling and employees will look to the leadership team for support and guidance. Working through any resistance from your management team in the first instance offers the opportunity to proactively address concerns with the wider organisation from the beginning. Those in a position of authority need to lead by example and, if an organisation wants their employees to change culturally, their leaders need to be demonstrating the desired behaviours.

Do you really understand your organisation?

Change shouldn’t take anyone by surprise so it is essential to understand all layers of the organisation and how they will be impacted by a project before you get started. Spending time mapping the different stakeholder groups (and understanding how they interact and influence) will enable you to prepare and focus change activities throughout the life of the project.

It is important to acknowledge the culture of your organisation. Understanding the culture will allow you to assess your organisational readiness to change – this will inform your approach and where you need to target your efforts.

Have you got your communication right?

A lack of understanding is a key factor in an individual’s resistance to change. This makes communication the most important tool to smoothly transition your people to the new way of working. Organisations have formal and informal methods of communication and doing your homework in the planning stages of a project will inform how and when you engage your employees to maximise impact.

Communication needs to be honest, open and two-way. Employees need to be given the opportunity to feedback to management and management need to explicitly communicate the good along with the bad.

Who owns the project?

Projects should have senior sponsors responsible for the delivery of a project. However, creating ownership amongst employees will truly drive change. If an individual knows that they are integral to the success of a project, then they will be more invested in identifying problems and looking for solutions. Creating ownership for a project can be achieved through identifying and developing change champions across all layers of the organisation. These people are on the ground, proactively facilitating change within their sphere of influence.

What if things don’t go to plan?

As hard as you might try, it is unlikely that a project will be delivered exactly according to plan – it is difficult to predict how people will respond to change. If this is accepted from the beginning, you will be able to work flexibility into your plan.

Taking more of an Agile approach to delivering a project allows time to review and re-assess as the project is taking place. This gives the opportunity to update your change approach based on what is working, keeping the project on track and moving forward.

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