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Change Management, IT Leadership

It’s an IT Project – Real World Change Stories


Many of you read my article on “Success with IT Change” which identified 9 key things to remember:

  1. Ambition – make the change sufficiently ambitious.
  2. Project Name – name the project to reflect the business change required.
  3. Structured and Coherent Change Program – ensure you have a structured approach, like Kotter or Prosci.
  4. Leadership – strong leadership from senior management.
  5. Urgency – sufficient urgency to animate the business.
  6. Ensure it Resonates with the staff.
  7. Involve Everyone.
  8. Define “what’s in it for me”.
  9. Reduce Resistance (especially when caused by fear).

As a follow-up to my previous article I wanted to provide some more concrete examples of change, what happened and what could have been improved.


It’s an “IT Project”

The second change story comes from Europe and relates to the replacement of an ageing in-house software development with an off the shelf package for Property Asset Management.


The sponsor was a Senior Finance Manager (accountant) with no knowledge of property and asset management — the property service just happened to report into the Finance department. He initiated the project to replace the aging system. However, he was not a strong leader, had a very passive management style and disliked confrontation. So he focused only on replacing the system.


A business led project team was created that had a core membership of project manager, business analyst and system analyst – all full-time positions. The project manager had no previous experience of implementing a business application, but was appointed into that role by a unit responsible for managing business change. Proper Market research was carried out, including a good dialogue with other business units on what was happening. A sense of urgency was created around the project, partially due to a date dictated by compliance requirements.


The team looked closely at the current system and issued a tender based on those requirements, however, they did not look at the bigger picture of the business processes and how they could be improved or streamlined.


Other resources from IT were involved in requirements definition for the interfaces with financials, and supporting the procurement process. This included a solution architect and functional consultant (contractor). IT delivery teams were also engaged at appropriate points. That work progressed well and was effectively managed. However, the interfaces weren’t on the critical path.


Unfortunately, due to the focus on the system alone it became purely an IT project owned and run by an inexperienced business team. This then resulted in any change management being focused on systems replacement and not on the bigger business impact. Project planning was also very poor, mostly relying on the plan provided by the vendor.


The final solution when selected had a new look user interface, but it was simply a replacement for the existing system. Some even viewed it as a backward step as it was not tailored to their exact needs (as it was an off the shelf package). The bottom line: they had a new system, but gained little business value and encountered a lot of resistance.


So what went wrong?

  1. Leadership – There was inadequate sponsorship, the executive “just wanted a new system”. The benefits were not articulated. The leaders were not driving for business improvements. The Senior Finance Manager did not actively support the team and empower their people in the change.
  2. Ambition – Approaching the project as a system replacement rather than a business change project. Insufficient focus on business process improvement resulted in a project that did not motivate any change in the business and therefore delivered marginal benefits.
  3. Project Name – Promoted as a system replacement therefore it was largely perceived as an IT problem / project. This reinforced the lack of business process improvement.
  4. What’s in it for me?Do not procure new technology to replace old without good reason, e.g. to reduce maintenance costs, improve efficiency, make better use of assets etc. Otherwise, the benefits will be marginal. If people cannot see the benefits they will resist and the project will struggle.


This needed to be a business transformation project directly led by a senior business leader with clear business objectives, e.g. implementing best in class processes. The project also needed to have sufficient ambition to animate the organisation and drive those business results.


I hope you found the above change stories interesting and insightful. For more information please see the articles on “Success with IT Change”, “Step models of change” and “Change Capability framework”.


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