Managing Change

According to Leslie Jaye Goff, change management really boils down to getting users to accept a new business process and the technology that enables it. Although the topic of change management may seem abstract for many people, it is an important area that project leaders, business analysts, applications developers, help desk staffers, trainers, managers, and executives should know about and understand. Gabriel Cooper, a consultant in Santa Rosa, California, believes, "It is human beings that make companies work, not technology. Technology is just a tool, and users have to be excited about it, believe in it, (be) trained in it, and supported in it. And change management is about making sure all of those things are included from the beginning as part of a project." In fact, International Data Corp., a research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts, estimates that services for change management in the U.S. will exceed $6 billion by 2003.

Not every IT project requires a formal change management approach. For example, upgrading an operating system or installing a new voice mail system would probably not create a great deal of stress among users. On the other hand, new applications that fundamentally change the way people work and their relationships with others may create a great deal of anxiety. For example, implementing a new ERP or e-commerce site will drastically alter a person's job. While some people are invigorated by new technology, others may be frightened by such changes. Often people become frustrated, feel powerless, or rebel against rapid change.

Change management is about helping people deal with their emotions. IT professionals should be willing to put themselves in their users' shoes in order to understand how change will affect them. To reduce anxiety and help people accept change, consultants suggest finding a business champion for the project, including line workers in the design and development activities, communicating constantly about the project's progress, reiterating the business reasons for taking on the project, and providing adequate education and training. In addition, it is important to remember that you cannot separate people, processes, and technology. Many projects have failed because of someone's inattention to the abstract, touchy-feely things.

SOURCE: Adapted from Leslie Jaye Goff, Change Management, Computenvorld, February 14, 2000, http://www.computerworld.com /news/2000/story/0,11280,41308.00.html.

prepared for the impact that the new system will have on them. It is easy to underestimate this impact and, given human nature, downplay the response people will have. Managers and technical people may be given to false beliefs:

• "People want this change."

• "Monday morning we'll turn on the new system and they'll use it."

• "A good training program will answer all of their questions and then they'll love it."

• "Our people have been through a lot of change—what's one more change going to matter?"

• "We see the need for helping our people adjust, but we had to cut some thing..."

• "They have two choices: they can change or they can leave."

The above statements reflect the view that it is easier to gain compliance than it is to gain acceptance. This supposition is faulty because it assumes that everyone will comply and that compliance will be long-lasting. The results may be quite different:

• People will comply for a time and then do things to get around the change.

• Users will accept only a portion of the change.

The full benefits of the project are never realized or are realized only after a great deal of time and resources have been expended.

The central theme of this text has been the concept of measurable organization value. The MOV is not only the overall goal of the project, but is also a measure of the project's success. It is how we define the value our project will bring to the organization after the project is implemented as originally envisioned. It provides a means for determining which projects should be funded and drives many of the decisions associated with the project throughout its life cycle. If the project's MOV is not realized in its entirety, then only a portion of the project's value to the organization is realized. Organizations today cannot afford to mismanage change initiatives. Competitive pressures provide little room for error. There is also the potential for lawsuits arising from stress-related disabilities and wrongful discharge (Bridges 1991). Therefore, while it is important that we manage the development of our project well, we also need to ensure that the project's product is transferred successfully and accepted by the organization with minimal adverse impact.

Acceptance by the users of the system is much more powerful and longer-lasting than compliance, which means we need to ensure that the people within the organization are prepared properly before the system is implemented. The discipline called change management is the area of IT project management that helps smooth the transition and implementation of the new IT solution. The Gartner Group defines change management as:

The transforming of the organization so it is aligned with the execution of a chosen corporate business strategy. It is the management of the human element in a large-scale change project.

The remainder of this chapter will focus on how change may be viewed as a process and on the emotional aspects normally associated with change. A framework for developing a change management plan and several techniques for dealing with the resistance and conflict that are a natural part of the change initiative will be introduced. Although this chapter deals will the soft side of IT project management, it is an important foundation for planning the implementation of the IT solution that will be discussed in the next chapter.

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Project Management Made Easy

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