I recently came across a benchmarking report on employee annual salary and contractor day rates for people involved in IT related projects. It's not really surprising, but yet again the salary and rates for organisational change managers bears no resemblance to the key role they play in delivering IT-based projects.
While I accept that reports of this type are very broad brush and the report participants tend to apply a ‘technical’ lens, it’s still disappointing to see a view of change management ‘value’ positioned at the lower level of salary and day rate range.
The value of organisational change to an IT project
An IT project can deliver a whistles-and-bells solution that hits the technical requirements and scope of the brief, and it may well be seen to be delivering the required output. However, have the impacted end users embraced the change and fully adopted to new technology, processes, and ways of working? The new capability delivered by the project team will not be fully exploited by the organisation if end user adoption has not been achieved. Failure to deliver organisational change often diminishes the project benefits. Again and again we see the outcomes for organisations not being achieved, and the organisation picking up the pieces of yet another IT project that failed to deliver expected results.
The role of Organisational Change Managers
A project delivery team is tasked with delivering against a specific set of requirements, to a project delivery schedule and to make sure that the solution is fit for purpose and is stable under normal business operations. An IT project team will provide a period of warranty and then manage project close-out activities. However, the realisation of project benefits will often take several months to materialise after project completion.
Whilst Organisational Change Managers are integral to the successful delivery of project outputs, they will also be the members of the team looking beyond the project closure date. They help the organisation to navigate an outcomes-based approach to ensure that benefits are delivered in a business-as-usual environment. Key to this is ensuring that end users are fully adopting the new ways of working so that new capability is being fully utilised (as designed) and that end users are fully proficient in operating new functionality (as trained).
Organisational Change Managers - at the centre of any IT project
Ensuring that project outcomes and business benefits are successfully achieved requires Organisational Change Managers to be positioned and recognised at the centre of any IT project where a change in colleague behaviour and ways of working is required. For me, Organisational Change Managers should sit alongside Project Managers so that the ‘technical’ and ‘people’ sides of change are managed collectively and are kept ‘in sync’ during the life of a project.
Organisational change management planning starts at the beginning of a project and should not be inserted as a mid-project stage. Unfortunately change management is often wrapped up as communications & training, which in my experience is the norm on many IT projects.
Early engagement with change management puts end users at the centre of all stages of an IT project. But not only that, it also ensures that a robust and engaged change community is established so that ownership of change resides within the organisation and not with the IT project team. This will ensure that the changes required to deliver the project outcomes are baked-in post project completion and benefits realisation can be achieved in a sustainable way.