CQU Project Management education

Getting the change management right to realise benefits

Elissa Farrow
January 3, 2013

Did you know that successful benefits realisation is directly related to ensuring that people use the outcomes of the projects or programs? To do that we need to ensure that people affected by the project or program know what the change entails, how it links to corporate strategy and are ready for the change.

This is where a change manager can be of great assistance. While the project manager focuses on delivering the capability, managing the budget, time, cost and quality, resources, the change manager can support the project manager in his/her role by managing the people side of the change.

What is the people side of change? The people side of change typically covers those elements that assist in the psychological and behavioural change required to use the capability delivered by the project. It typically includes planned processes that cover communication, stakeholder engagement, learning and organisational development, readiness assessments and impact analysis.

Benefits that are identified in the beginning of a project are, in the majority of cases, linked to people changing their behaviour. An example: in a project that introduces a new software solution to replace a manual record keeping process, the benefits may include time efficiencies that may lead to staff reduction and decreasing rent from freeing office space. The benefit will only be realised as people stop their manual process and move across to the new automated system, so therefore people have to change their behaviour.

Given some jobs are on the line there may be resistance from staff here so, to minimise the chance of a boycott of the new system, a change manager can work with the affected staff to troubleshoot concerns, allay fears where possible through employee support mechanisms, train them in the new system and ensure that the sponsor of the project is visible and talking up why the change is necessary and how it contributes to the goals of the organisation.

Organisations become more benefits-focused in more economically challenging times. In times where the resources for change has been reduced, businesses need to justify more than ever before why one project is more important than another. It is not just the financial cost of the project that is being assessed, but what return we get for the investment. Return on investment will only come if people use the products from the project as per the original specification. A change manager is a key resource to make this possible.

Elissa Farrow
Elissa Farrow is the founder of About Your Transition, a business specialising in strategy development and implementation, the Director of Ethics of the International Institute of Project Coaching and the Global Secretary for the Change Management Institute. With extensive experience in strategic organisational change, portfolio, program and project management in the public, commercial and not-for-profit sectors, she has assisted organisations in increasing their delivery maturity by implementing enterprise-wide methodology and building the capability of the people who use them.
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