3 Reasons Your Business Change Project Is Failing

Implementing business change initiatives can be a challenge for any organisation but they are inevitable. Only 8% of businesses believe their current business model would remain economically viable if their sector maintains its current speed of digitisation and transformation. (source)

That said, change management projects all too often fail to realise their projected return on investment. In my experience, in the implementation of SuccessFactors, all phases are correctly managed through IT best practice, with the crucial exception of business change.

That omission – and the delivery of a project which fails to meet expectations – often comes down to three fundamental issues:

First issue: Not considering the end user

Before design, testing and roll-out, it’s vital to ensure an ongoing understanding and connection with the end user. But it’s not unusual for the delivery team to become so engrossed in their project that they lose sight of the people who will benefit from its implementation. This typically occurs during the design phase.

Meeting technical expectations and delivery dates are vital but the project must be designed within the context of the end user experience. All too often, technical experts can lead businesses down a path that prioritises delivery over the real needs of the business.

As an example, working with a social housing company where the end users are care workers, the security on our systems was set at an ‘auto-lock’ screen time of a maximum 30 seconds. For a caregiver that is insufficient and hindered their ability to access vital patient information in a suitable timescale.

Second issue: Poor resourcing of the change stream

The change stream should be prioritised alongside every other aspect of your project. While the appointment of a qualified project manager or technical expert is deemed essential, the role of change manager is almost seen as optional. Bringing in a change manager at a late stage can result in constricted capability and a project that may fail to meet its objectives.

**In one example, the design phase on an onboarding process wasn’t validated sufficiently before implementation. On its launch, the new system was taking up to 12 weeks to onboard new hires – significantly longer than the previous system. The result was an increased demand for temporary workers with vital skills and an unanticipated rise in recruitment costs.

A change manager ensures projects are delivered on time, on budget and to the satisfaction of the end user.

Third issue: Poor sponsor alignment/engagement

Most change management projects are part of a wider business programme and all programmes should support an overarching strategy, usually defined at senior, or Board, level.

One function of the change stream is to act as the mouthpiece of the sponsor. To ensure success, however, the sponsor must define the vision and feed into strategy to ensure everyone understands their role in driving through change.

Delivering solutions for business change

My recommendations for the successful implementation of change initiative are:

Ensure your solution is fit for purpose before implementation begins: Carry out business change activity upfront and allocate appropriate resources at the point of design, not on project completion.

This requires:

  • Getting to know your client and the challenges they currently face.
  • Engaging regularly with them throughout the design phase to ensure the sponsor understands their change responsibilities.
  • Schedule meaningful engagement and meetings early in the process to ensure a quality end result of the change stream.

Establish an empowered, low level steering group : Successful steering groups involve end users as well as sponsors and senior stakeholders. The design team’s insider knowledge of their project may be a deterrent to people who aren’t able to easily grasp their explanations. In the social care example above, English wasn’t necessarily the first language of the end users, who should be given both a voice and the confidence to raise practical issues and concerns.

Ensure clear and consistent communication : To maximise the ROI on your project, your organisation needs to understand the what, why and how of change. Each business and project is unique. Tailor your change stream to your sector; it’s even better if you can embrace genuinely creative approaches that are sympathetic to your culture.

Keeping pace with digital change is vital to thrive. Organisations that focus on business change reduce the risk of failure by prioritising people and processes alongside technology and design.

If or any questions or comments regarding these tools, please feel free to send me an e-mail at Will Winfield Chislett.

Will Winfield-Chislett is a well-practised HR & Payroll Project Manager and Change specialist with nearly 20 years’ experience in the area. Literally embodying the cliché he started in Pearl Assurance’s HR Post Room and has worked his way up through administration, training consultancy, functional consultancy in to project and change management splitting his career between partner and customer roles. Working across many sectors with customers of all sizes he enjoys the variety of challenges Gavdi brings.

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