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Change Management vs Project Management in IT implementation [Blog]

Image of two people engaging in IT change management processesHaving been engaged to provide contract IT personnel for many organisations, in both the private and public sector, I have noticed a distinct increase in the recruitment of Organisational Change Management (OCM) resources to help facilitate new IT implementations and migrations.

IT service providers are increasingly identifying the need to have Change Managers, either in-house or through partnerships, recognising the value they bring to clients and through ensuring the full benefits intended for the project.

IT and Change

The need to provide benefit back to the company in the form of shareholder return or benefit to the community pushes organisations to improve and automate business processes to deliver greater operational efficiencies. The rapid evolution of IT systems and their adoption by competitors, pushes organisations to improve their own systems and processes. Additionally, companies utilise IT to enhance externally facing functions such as websites and call centers. The rapid cycle of change is underpinned by exponential and disruptive improvements in areas such as machine learning (narrow AI) which is beginning to perform and/or enhance tasks previously restricted to professional employees. Big data combined with advanced learning algorithms are providing previously undiscovered business data. Historically, as organisations have embarked upon IT projects, the focus has been primarily on delivering a technically sound product or system. Software now being implemented across industries is having an impact far beyond that of a new tool for employees – it is changing both jobs and business processes. Not paying enough attention (if any at all) to the impact these changes have on its people and culture, can result in under utilisation or failure to deliver the desired outcomes.

Managing IT Projects:

Proven Project Management (PM) methodologies, have been prominently utilised in managing IT projects for many years. They provide structures, parameters, reporting and delivery mechanisms which help facilitate the planning and execution of projects. However, these methodologies tend to focus on the tasks of the projects rather than how people interact with the new systems and the more intangible aspects including the effect that the project delivery and implementation will have on employees’ productivity and emotional stability.

Consider the doctor who has to work with a medical diagnostics implementation of IBM’s Watson which can instantly draw on every known diagnosis that has been absorbed into its data bank and be 100% accurate every time. Radiologist’s with Australia’s Capitol Health are already contending with automated medical scan evaluation software from Enlitic. The impact on professional esteem of such advanced software has the potential to be devastating. Ignoring the dynamics of the human/software interface can be detrimental to the long-term benefits and results that the business is seeking.

An Integrated View – OCM and PM

When implementing any new technology, the tendency to focus solely on project delivery can be quite overpowering. A broader view of the organisational outcomes and culture will help ensure take-up and successful embedding of the changes long after the project is finished. PM provides the tools to design, plan and implement the technology while OCM provides processes, tools and techniques to help manage the people side of change. If stakeholders and employees are engaged effectively and the change and its impacts are communicated in an effective manner, organisations are more likely to achieve sustained success with regards to their new IT innovations.

Project Management methodologies and tools are essential to deliver the tangible outcome and they are an imperative part of successful project implementations. However, an integrated and combined view of both disciplines i.e. OCM and PM is optimal. Key to this will be:

  • Project Managers and Change Managers working closely together from the start-up phase of the project until completion
  • Change design and planning developed in parallel and integrated into the overall project or program plan
  • A good assessment of the current state, the key stakeholders, people and culture to ensure the right strategies are put in place to deliver the change holistically
  • Identifying and utilising key influencers to assist during the process and bring others along on the change journey
  • Together, developing a project governance approach which delivers both the optimal business systems outcomes as well as the people and culture outcomes to realise the benefits
  • Developing up the capability to implement the technology, as well as the people leadership and cultural change needed to make the technology and associated cultural change a success
  • Realising the benefits of the change, recognising the benefits cultural change can bring to a technology implementation

To help ensure the success of the project, the project manager and change manager need to work together on the IT implementation, organisations must find a balance between the technical (tangible) and people, culture and communication (intangible) elements of a change in IT systems and processes.


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TMS Consulting