Linking Change Management Processes to Projects Early
IT projects usually represent change, so why aren’t there stronger links to the change management process at the formative stages of projects? Is there benefit to connecting the dots between business case approval, aligning the project portfolio with corporate objectives and change management? You bet there is!
There are many who would say that business cases need to be approved based solely on the merit of their benefits, costs and the risks associated with them. This isn’t wrong. But just because it passes this bar doesn’t mean the project should be given authorization to proceed. To make it onto the project roadmap the investment needs to be both viable and fitting to the organization. What does it mean to be both viable and fitting? It means that not only does the economic upside of the project have to be good enough, but the organization must also possess the ability to do the work (or get someone else to do it) and to make it pay off.
This is where integration with the organization’s change management process comes into play. According to a recent Tripwire podcast 35 to 50% of time in IT operations organizations is spent on unscheduled work dealing with poorly introduced changes.
Effective change management processes have several features that can help projects get off to the right start. Let’s first consider the progression from business case to project initiation and then see how this fits with the change management process.
Once the business case is shown to meet or exceed the threshold for investment, a project portfolio analysis exercise can be undertaken to assess the investment as being both viable and fitting to the company’s strategic objectives. The project is prioritized against other projects vying for the same total project budget dollars. Then it’s given a placeholder on the project roadmap. Having a placeholder means resources may be made available during a window for the duration necessary and to the extent outlined in the business case.
Has anyone had the experience of a business case understating the cost and duration of a project? Before the project is even initiated there is considerable schedule, budget and scope risk.
This is where an effective change management process can help. And assuming there are portfolio management practices in place, this is where it gets grey for many organizations.
Ideally, before that placeholder on the project roadmap gets inked in, a few things should be in place to keep the risk profile of the project low. First, an initial cut of the project estimate (perhaps budgetary only) and time line with a preliminary scope will confirm the early pre-project cost/benefit assertions of the business case. Second, the rest of the organization needs to be tuned in to the impact of the change.
Using the nomenclature of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) the change management process is triggered by an RFC (request for change). This initiates several activities involving all potential stakeholders, internal and sometimes external to the organization, to evaluate the impact of the proposed change in their area. This is vetted by the change board which has significant authority over when, and how, a change request is incorporated into the working fabric of the business processes.
While approving a change is a formal process, the act of developing an approach to introducing the change is facilitative and change management offers an excellent framework to support project managers as they develop the project plan. Visibility and participation is higher when project planning is integrated with change management.
IT project managers win big time when solid change management frameworks are in place. The structure of many of their planning sessions is already served up in readily understood templates to identify and assess the impact of the change. The business wins because budget, schedule and scope risks are uncovered early by the broad audience of the change board. Finally, those involved in the business processes win because new initiatives large enough to warrant a project manager are now brought forward by the change process, giving them a voice early in the project life cycle.