An Insider’s Guide to IT Project Success

Change management - arrows leading up or straight ahead

An Insider’s Guide to IT Project Success; Guest Blog by Philippa Reader

If you’re looking to implement new technology, you might try googling “success rate of IT projects”.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t make for pretty reading.  Countless research articles year on year suggest partial, or total, failure rates of up to 70%. It may be nothing new but it’s a big concern if you are about to invest.

There’s a clue to some of the reasons for this in the title…

If we think of it only as a ‘systems project’, we’re probably looking at it from the wrong angle. When we consider implementing new technology, what we’re really trying to do is make a change in how things work in our businesses. But it’s not the system that makes the difference, it’s what people actually do with it.

And therein lies the challenge.

The success of a project relies on hundreds, or thousands, of individual decisions to act and think differently.  Unfortunately doing things differently isn’t something most people are that keen on.  No wonder it’s hard to get right!

But the world of technology constantly creates new possibilities and opportunities; and so somehow we need to ensure we are in the 30% that get things right.

Fortunately, it isn’t rocket science, but it does require a bit of time and thought. Commonly known as ‘Change Management’, having a well-thought-through and executed plan to transition the way people work makes all the difference.

The latest research by Prosci suggests that only 15% of projects that had struggled with poor change management had ‘met or exceeded their objectives’, compared to 93% where there was excellent change management*. It’s worth considering, especially with the cost of change management activities only forming an average of 20% of the overall project budget.

*a leading international change management research and training organisation. Results from 2020 survey based on over 1800 projects including many major international brands.

So, what does it take to ensure this side of your project gets the attention it needs? 

Prosci’s well-established change management methodology is used by Microsoft and takes a very practical approach.

Understanding WHY you’re doing the project

This is the starting point, and it might sound obvious but it’s surprising how often businesses have a rough idea but haven’t specifically defined what success would look like, both from a project and an organisational perspective.

Where new technology is involved, sometimes we just don’t know what to expect and so working with an IT partner to understand what new systems might make possible is a great place to start.

Understand WHAT the impact of the changes will be

To do this well, we need to look at each of the key groups of stakeholders and understand exactly what is going to change. We usually consider changes in ways of working but often there are wider implications for roles, attitudes and behaviours.

Whilst some of these changes may be positive, each individual will react in different ways and understanding exactly what the attitudes to the various changes are likely to be can be very helpful at an early stage.

Create a plan for HOW the change will take place

Once we are clear on what change needs to take place to successfully deliver the project outcomes, we can design a series of change management activities to run alongside the technology implementation plan, ensuring that the people side of the project is fully managed.

Prosci’s approach using the ADKAR methodology:

Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement.

A good plan will take each of the stakeholder groups affected through the five stages above with activities linked to key project milestones.

Typically, organisations do reasonably well at the Awareness stage in communicating what’s going to happen and the Knowledge stage with training being provided.

It’s the other three stages that can be rather neglected:

Desire

If I have no interest or desire in learning a new way of doing something, the training is hardly likely to be effective and I certainly won’t be motivated to change the way I work

Ability

Training will invariably be provided but if there is no further support, it is unlikely users will ever become confident. This typically leads to a very limited uptake in the use of a new system. Failure to take advantage of the full functionality can significantly reduce the anticipated value or benefits

Reinforcement

Possibly the most neglected area. Once the technology is ‘live’ the project team may well be disbanded, with the project objectives completed but the organisation benefits yet to be realised.

The research showed that, where this stage was poorly managed, only 17% of projects met or exceeded their objectives vs 70% of projects where there was a continued focus.

Ongoing communication, measurement and sustained leadership interest can all help to ensure the project fully achieves everything the organisation hoped it would.

What can you do to help?

Ensuring you have a well thought through plan is a good start but it doesn’t end there.  Showing positive leadership through the change process is critical; communicating, understanding and maybe even coaching others.  Actions will speak louder than words – if you want things to change in your business you may need to start with yourself.

Perhaps it’s best summed up in the words of Roy T.Bennett…

“Change may not always bring growth, but there is no growth without change.”

 

About Pip Reader, Brilliant Business Ltd

Pip is a Business Coach and Consultant who works with business owners and management teams to create clarity, focus and action. She uses a combination of coaching and consulting skills to get clear on business goals, map out how to achieve them and supports the team in making it happen.

She is passionate about making businesses enjoyable, by ensuring they are ‘well run’, positive places to work, where people have the energy and desire to support each other and do a great job for their customers.

Her strengths as a business coach are in ensuring the delivery of quantifiable commercial results and enabling successful organisational change.

Pip has been running Brilliant Business for 12 years, working with over 60 businesses including large corporates, smaller owner-managed businesses, charity and public sector.

Her early career was spent in a large blue chip multi-national where she worked in a range of senior management positions within customer facing businesses, both in the UK and overseas.

She holds an MA in Human Resource Management, is a Prince2 trained Project Manager and a Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner.

To speak to Pip you can call her on 07771 976136  or email at pip@brilliant-business.co.uk \

www.brilliant-business.co.uk

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