Organisations rely on different layers of intervention in order to yield benefits for their change projects.
In my direct experience working with projects across several industries, e.g. staffing and recruitment, oil and gas, Academic, marketing services, IT, Manufacturing and others, change sponsors are trying to achieve primarily one, two or all of the following:
A) FIT FOR PURPOSE: Roll out a fit-for-purpose technology solution that delivers the right functionality to the right stakeholders;
B) ON TIME AND BUDGET: Ensure A) is implemented on time, on budget and with strong accountability against the right deliverables;
C) BUSINESS BUY-IN: Achieve business buy-in and full technology utilisation whilst reducing disruptive impacts to the business.
My background and expertise is in Organisational Psychology (BSc) and how people behave through change. Over the last several years I’ve started noticing some patterns that seem to differentiate successful projects from the less successful ones. Here are some of the distinctions:
- Business strategy is meaningless without effective execution and your change/project teams play a pivotal role in doing the latter well;
- Designing and implementing a wonderful technology does not guarantee business buy-in. This is only half of the story. Value realisation manifests itself through technology utilisation and adoption;
- Business buy-in is the responsibility of the entirety of your project team including sponsors and product owners. Technical professionals are often unsupported, untrained in communicating the value of a technology, its narrative, in business-friendly jargon. This can be extremely detrimental to your strategic project because their conversations consistently build up over time and, if not done well, will negatively impact the credibility of your project by creating confusion and blame;
- Technology has little or no value if it does not get utilised to its fullest;
- “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later”. I came across this quote through Jeff Sutherland, the co-creator of SCRUM. It's called "Brooks Law"and found it to be true in all cases;
- Uncertainty and resistance to change are determined by a ‘lack’ or ‘partiality' of:
a) The right information, I.e. relevant to the audience;
b) Appropriate timing;
c) Sufficient Context;
d) Adequate Reassurance;
- Transition is not transformation. If you want to win hearts and minds you’d need to be willing to move away from transactional team experts and start developing change professionals that model visible leadership behaviours.
Each project outcome, including the ones underpinned by the actions above, can be deemed successful by utilising both ‘hard’ as well as ‘soft’ metrics.
- A hard deliverable. It’s a fully functional financial reporting system, fit-for-purpose and tailored to the reporting needs of finance audiences. The system either works, or it does not. It’s a binary metric.
- Soft deliverables. These are behavioural in nature. Are your finance audiences able to move away from collecting data and crunching numbers, towards making sound recommendations that empower decision making?
Soft skills are the primary elements that can ensure a return on your investment. It’s how the technology gets utilised that unlocks value. Value Realisation is in the ‘soft’ and the ‘behavioural’. Technology is binary: it either does what it’s supposed to or it does not, behaviour isn’t. People make decisions, judgments, absorb, learn and implement information in a way that is organic, it requires reflection, and time. Only a well designed, holistic, tailored learning and communication approach can truly ensure your business is on board with your initiative.
Worryingly, many IT projects systematically underdeliver against expected value metrics: 56 percent, according to a study by McKinsey and the BT Centre for Major Programme Management at the University of Oxford. The study assessed 5,400 large IT projects - https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-digital/our-insights/delivering-large-scale-it-projects-on-time-on-budget-and-on-value
What can you do?
The first step is awareness. Look at your portfolio of projects during the last twelve months and indicate:
- What proportion of projects was delivered on time?
- What proportion of projects was delivered on budget or with limited cost overruns?
- What proportion of the desired benefits were identified, understood and utilised?
If the findings concern you then ask yourself what soft and leadership skills should have been in place, but weren’t. Things such as clear jargon-free business communication, strong leadership accountability, clear change process and deliverables, influence, structured engagement, among others.
This assessment is likely to uncover systemic weaknesses and suggest course of actions to correct them.
Manuel Giudice is a Business change consultant with a background in entrepreneurship he specialises in helping executive sponsors and programme teams to deliver US and UK-sponsored, $1M+ new initiatives on time, on budget and with minimal disruptions to the business. His work was recognised for helping to shape the brand that underpins the identity of the new IS organisational capability. He has managed and led change readiness, adoption and communication activities for US and UK-sponsored technology-enabled change projects across a variety of industries including Energy, Telecom, Staffing, Internet, Marketing, FMCG/Manufacturing and Academic. His work included ERP roll-outs, Mergers and Acquisitions, divestments, digital transformations, restructurings, global reporting and others. Qualified Coaching practitioners (AIP) with over 200 hours of coaching experience, a background in Organisational Psychology (BSc), Marketing and International Management (MSc) he has been exposed to a wide variety of implementation methodologies including Agile Scrum, Prince2, hybrid or in-house and understands the leverage points to make change stick and improve team effectiveness. An improvisation comedy enthusiast with over 400 hours of training he leverages insights, strategies and ideas gained through acting and stage performance to help project teams navigate change in unfamiliar and unpredictable situations. An amateur podcaster his 'Leading Your Change Initiative’ has achieved over 1000 plays.
He is currently developing the ‘Value Realisation Methodology, a blend of disciplines (change management, leadership coaching and skill training) and partnerships to ensure his clients develop a flexible change capability that ensures:
- A sound accountability system;
- Business buy-in and minimal disruption to operations;
- Development of essential change skills.
Manuel's mission is to help organisations to become far more adaptable when introducing change by developing and protecting the work and capability of their most committed change professionals.