Experience shows that change management is perhaps most important ingredient in implementing a successful transformation. Enterprise Resource Planning and major IT transformation projects bring multiple dimensions of change—technical, structural, and human. However, technical change is progressing faster than people can adopt and adapt. This is even more of an imperative in today’s digital space.
The key to success is ensuring everyone affected by change believes in its value. Unless agencies apply effective change management, and ensure stakeholders understand and accept the benefits of the change, IT transformation won’t work. Competing priorities and a lack of commitment will cause delays and increasing costs.
This failure to understand the importance of change management is why major transformational initiatives carry a success rate of just 30%.
Research shows that people-related issues such as leadership, communication and end user buy-in are at the root of most technical project failures. Those factors account for seven of the top 10 reasons for project failure. Agencies and IT organizations tend to focus on the tangible aspects of change—a new IT system or a governance structure, for example. Those are indeed key components, but a misstep in those realms is easier to recover from than neglecting agency culture.
Agencies must include robust change management practices as they plan for large scale transformational initiatives. Change management is becoming a requirement in large federal transformation and ERP bids in order to maximize the chance for a successful implementation. In examining recent large transformation failures, we see that even the best technology will not provide the intended value if people don’t utilize and adopt new processes and practices.
Keys to succeed
We can learn a lot from past large federal transformation projects. Best practices have emerged and agencies can better their chances for success if they pay heed to those. These four provide a good starting point:
- Plan and incorporate change management into every transformational project. Even the best technology will not deliver the intended value if people don’t engage with and adopt to the new ways of working. An effective change management strategy that focuses on people will help them understand the importance of the change and commit to supporting it.
- Encourage the adoption of the technology throughout the process with communications and training. Important: Customize the training and communications to stakeholders based on their job roles. “One-size-fits-all” approaches rarely fit anyone well.
- Build sustainable, repeatable approaches and methodology when planning a project. As technology and process change continues, these projects will be a regular occurrence; repeatable processes will make future ones easier.
- Examine the magnitude of multiple changes that affect end users. If too much changes too quickly, fatigue and sense of being overwhelmed can set in. In these cases, constant communication, continual end user measurement and feedback, effective training, and agile principles will help end users stay focused.
Change is constant and here to stay, at an increasingly rapid pace. Any degree of transformation success will rely on agencies focusing on people and their impact in a way that is as constant and lasting as change requires.