IT programmes risk failure when the focus is on technology, not end-users, says report

Major IT implementations often fail because the organisation is so focused on the technical challenges that the need to help staff manage the change is overlooked, according to a report by change management consultancy Changefirst.

Major IT implementations often fail because the organisation is so focused on the technical challenges that the need to help staff manage the change is overlooked, according to a report by change management consultancy Changefirst.

Only 42% of organisations create a standalone budget for managing their staff through an IT-driven change programme. This is despite the fact that user acceptance is being increasingly identified as a prerequisite of successful IT change.

Findings in the report, The Unplayed Piano: Maximising the Value of IT Post-Installation, are based on responses from IT executives in 56 major organisations, including Barclaycard, BA, BOC, BT, Centrica, Deloitte Consulting, Ernst & Young, Lloyds TSB, Lucent Technologies, Nokia, Scottish and Southern Energy and Vodafone, as well as UK public sector organisations.

David Miller, founder of Changefirst and one of the report’s authors, said the low priority placed on change manage- ment by many companies was also demonstrated by the fact that 66% of IT change projects have either an untrained person in charge or no one taking responsibility for change management.

He said organisations far too often took a blinkered approach to IT projects.
“Too many individuals have a blind faith that the CRM or ERP systems they are installing are so powerful that people will have to change. They believe that the technology itself will drive the behaviour and people will not have a choice,” said Miller.

But he said the reality was very different, and firms were learning the hard way to take a more holistic approach.

“The interesting thing is the degree to which the adoption of change management is driven by the threat of business disruption or customer dissatisfaction, rather than by the desire to realise benefits,” said Miller.

“Above all else, it is the fear of project failure that seems to push change management up the business agenda.”

The report found that just under 50% of senior IT executives saw themselves as always or often effective at managing change, against 53% who saw themselves as effective only half the time or less. Next to this, however, only 34% of the organisations polled were making any effort to formally evaluate their management of change.

Changefirst said the positive lesson to be drawn from the research was that effectively managed IT change needs adequate funding and a clearly delineated change management approach.

It said line managers also needed to have the tools to lead users effectively through IT changes.

“Things are definitely moving in the right direction,” said Miller. “IT is now very interested in the whole issue of change management – that in itself is a step forward.

“IT has moved from viewing itself as a technical discipline to one that embraces people skills to one that is leading business transformation.”

Tips for implementing IT change

  • Develop the skills to predict the true impact on users of IT projects and take those factors into account when making project decisions
  • Ensure line managers have the tools to lead users effectively through IT changes
  • Develop tracking and accountability mechanisms for people-related actions to sit alongside financial, technical and logistical actions
  • Build a capability inside IT departments to support the business line managers in planning and executing the people-related change actions.

Source: Changefirst

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