We’ve highlighted before that the fundamental route to delivering the expected results and outcomes from technology projects is just as much – and arguably more – to do with people than it is with the technology itself.
So, when the people side of change is ignored or not managed well, the project – and the broader organization – is exposed to potential costs and risks. It seems obvious that this would be the case, given that the successful adoption of new technology depends on the people knowing how to use it properly and to the best effect, and being willing to embrace it – but it’s sometimes difficult for to make the case for doing the people side of change in a technology project.
Managing the people side of change (what is often called organizational change management) can be a key success factor in securing the expected results, outcomes and benefits and can also avoid costs and mitigate risks.
Read on to find out why effective organizational change management is such an important part of a technology project, what costs it can help to avoid and the risks it can help to mitigate.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF POORLY MANAGED CHANGE?
Many people will have been involved in technology projects where change has either not been managed at all or not managed very well. We at DNASTREAM know from experience that the lack of effective change management is a key contributor to technology projects not achieving the desired results and outcomes – which are often manifested by the users not fully adopting the new technology, being less proficient than required or wanting to go back to how things used to be done rather than embracing the future – all of which leads to diminished returns.
Not having effective organizational change management can have tangible impacts both on the project and the broader organization, as discussed below.
The project itself can suffer visible impacts from not employing effective organizational change management, such as having to rework designs due to lack of appropriate input or failure to engage sufficiently with stakeholders, disruption due to not understanding the real-world impact on people’s roles and, ultimately, resistance by end users to the new ways of working and technology because they don’t buy in to it.
These impacts can result in measurable problems such as:
Challenges with securing the necessary involvement from key stakeholders
Lack of buy-in from stakeholders to the new ways of working and technology, leading to difficulties getting approvals and sign-off
Difficulties during training due to lack of engagement with those impacted by change
Slower rates of adoption by end users, requiring increased effort or extended timescales during roll out
Reductions in project performance due to missed milestones and delays to project activities, leading to financial impacts such as overspend
Loss or reduction in the actual efficiencies or savings achieved by the project compared to those expected
The wider organization can also suffer impacts due to the lack of effective organizational change management in technology projects. After all, projects do not simply exist in isolation but are undertaken alongside ongoing operations and with the involvement of people from within the organization. If staff feel excluded, isolated or not involved in the introduction of change it can leave a legacy felt far beyond the scope and lifecycle of a specific project, such as:
Disillusionment of staff and decline in morale
Increased absenteeism due to stress
Increased staff turnover
Loss of valuable employees
Lack of trust between employees and management
Reductions in operational performance and productivity with resultant impacts on customers, suppliers and the organization itself
Resistance to change or even open hostility from employees
Difficulties in introducing future change
Considering the broader organizational context
Whilst the impacts highlighted above are all important and potentially costly, it is also worth considering the broader impact that poorly managed change can have on the organization.
When organizations attempt and fail to introduce change it can reduce the likelihood of trying to introduce change in the future, thus stifling innovation and putting up barriers to ongoing improvement. This can give rise to significant risks, including:
Lower levels of innovation leading to loss of competitive edge or failure to keep pace with competitors
Reduced ability to take advantage of new opportunities
Reluctance by senior stakeholders to invest in future projects due to a perceived track record of failure
Lack of confidence in the organization’s ability to successfully deliver projects
Skepticism among staff regarding the benefits of technology due to experiences of past failures
When put in this context, ensuring there is a focus on having appropriately scaled and effective organizational change management included in all technology projects should be considered as good business practice. Indeed, we at DNASTREAM view this as a key trait of organizations with a mature project delivery capability.
The case for having effective organizational change management as an intrinsic element of technology projects is clear as it can help to ensure the expected benefits are achieved, avoid unnecessary costs and mitigate risks to the project and broader organization.
Even so, it is important to have clear messaging when making the case to senior stakeholders for why they need to include organizational change management in technology projects. A powerful and effective approach could be to use positioning statements such as the following:
New technology can only deliver the expected benefits if people use it properly, therefore managing the impact of change on people helps to ensure they want to get involved and adopt the new technology
The risk of this project failing to deliver the expected benefits is increased by not addressing the people side of the change, because we need to help people to understand the new ways of working and make sure they are properly prepared to adopt them
It is important to include a focus on the people side of change in this project to endure that our staff can get up to speed quickly and start making best use of this new technology, and to do that we need to deal with how this project is going to affect them
At DNASTREAM, we can help you to create the business case for organizational change management in your technology projects by focusing on the real-world factors that drive tangible business returns, such as speed of adoption, end user competency and actual levels of successful adoption.
DNASTREAM is a customer-focused IT consultancy that helps organizations of all sizes drive tangible benefits from technology by ensuring robust and enthusiastic adoption of change by the user population.