Change management lies at the heart of every major IT deployment. Experts agree that building systems and deploying them is barely half the challenge faced by IT departments and their businesses.
The crucial challenge is managing the processes, tools and techniques needed to ensure that systems meet business needs and that end-users are able and willing to use them.
Failure to consult users adequately can lead to frustrations and controversy, which undermine the project. The complaints from clinicians about lack of consultation over the national programme for IT in the NHS are a warning to us all. But it is not just the public sector that suffers such problems.
The inability of so many businesses to get full value from their ERP and CRM systems is often in part due to the failure to manage their introduction properly. The fact that this is so well known makes the results of a survey of senior IT staff in blue chip companies and major public sector organisations (IT programmes risk failure when the focus is on technology, not end users, says report) frustrating reading.
The study’s authors say the major cause of failure remains an “organisational mindset” that focuses on installing the hardware and software and ignores the bigger need to change the way people work.
It is clearly time to change the way we approach projects – and the report contains practical advice that should be taken up. It suggests IT departments build their own change management capabilities as part of a process of getting closer to the business units they serve. Those that do so are generally more able to deliver successful projects, the report says.
Businesses should allocate a specific budget for managing the people aspects of IT roll-outs. When all funds are held in one pot, a technical overrun can drain the training and change management budget, which in turn can compound a project’s problems.
There should be a separation of responsibilities between the project manager and the person responsible for change management.
The project manager is tasked with and paid to implement an IT system without disruption to the business, which can make it difficult for them to offer independent advice.
Finally, there should be some formal accounting. We work in an industry that is rightly focused on metrics, yet only one third of the organisations surveyed carried out any formal evaluation of the effectiveness of the change management processes they instituted.
Organisations and IT professionals that refuse to learn from their mistakes are condemned to repeat them. IT professionals that refuse to learn from their mistakes could be destined for the dole queue.