People frequently experience sudden and dramatic changes in their work environment when organisations implement projects, especially IT projects, and as a result may resist strongly. In today’s increasingly complex project environment, project managers need to manage the “people aspects” of the project proactively if they are to achieve its objectives.
Understanding the level of change a project will cause is the key factor in determining the level of emphasis to place on human and organisational factors before and during implementation. The project manager should use formal techniques to assess the amount of change the project may cause in the organisation’s environment.
Using formal and proven methods for managing change is essential for implementing IT projects when the cost of failure is high and the probability of failure is real due to change resistance factors, lack of effective sponsorship, poor change agent skills and a variety of other risk factors. The purpose of using a proven change management methodology is to increase the likelihood of successfully implementing changes associated with technology projects.
Experience suggests that successful implementation of changes associated with IT projects requires careful planning, teamwork, commitment, and structure. Project managers must understand the significance of people in key change management roles and the corporate culture in which they operate. This understanding is important because many individuals involved in the project will function in more than one role and for certain people, roles will overlap.
Strong project sponsorship is essential. While a project should have one sponsor who initiates and effectively owns the project, there may also be several secondary (or sustaining) sponsors, each filling a different role in the change management process. The project manager must understand the criteria for effective sponsorship and must actively cultivate such sponsorship for the project.
Appropriate levels of commitment are also essential for successful project implementation. For IT projects, support from the user community is necessary. Effective communication with the user community is critical to obtain and sustain a high level of commitment and support for the project effort.
Project managers should recognise that resistance to technological change is inevitable. Identifying sources of potential resistance and developing a plan to manage resistance is essential to reduce project risk and increase the likelihood of a successful implementation.
This Execution Plan discusses principles involved with managing the changes associated with an IT project. In addition, the final activity discusses an approach for managing change that is most appropriate when major “transformational change” is envisaged.