Change management is oft-touted as part of the business case for successful transformation, however, it is in the implementation that many organisations come un-stuck.

As long-term advocates of strong change management as an enabler of success, Quay has worked with clients to help them understand that business case benefits are not all delivered at once. More often than not, the benefits are not fully realised for between one and three years after a project has been delivered and the program/project team has been disbanded.

Yet it is so often the case that the change management effort post-implementation is what will ultimately determine the success or otherwise of the project and, by default, the realisation of the benefits.

Given the role that change management can play, how can an organisation ensure that it is adequately recognised when the business case is first established?

The Challenge of Successfully Delivering Change

Good, sustained change management will always improve a project’s odds of success and the opportunity to realise its benefits. That said, there are often barriers to that success. So why is the change management component of a project so hard to get right?

We put the question to a group of change leaders in a recent Quay Collaborate Change Management session and they identified the following challenges to delivering successful change:

  • Disconnects often exist between the problem the business wants to solve and what IT thinks the solution needs to be;
  • A lack of focus on the real success criteria for the project;
  • A focus on delivering a new system, not on how to use the system to realise the benefits;
  • Middle management change capability – Many organisations understand what change management is but not how to make the change;
  • The business is not held accountable for realising the benefits;
  • The business is not supported to deliver benefits with change management;
  • Benefits are poorly tracked;
  • No funding within the budget cycle to conduct analysis on benefits tracking and realisation;
  • Duration of deliver dilutes the ability to achieve the benefits.

The question then is: what does work to facilitate change management and the delivery of benefits?

What works: Change Management is a People Problem and Solution

The group recognised that there is complexity in realising business case benefits, as shown in the above challenges, with some being rather obvious but not easily resolved.

What is clear is that benefits are not realised by software alone. People need to be involved and the owners, leaders and managers of the people involved need to be accountable for achieving the intended benefits. It is executive and organisational change leadership that, when implemented, can significantly enhance the chances of successful benefits realisation.

The group also agreed that a strong governance structure that is fit-for-purpose with executive buy-in and accountability is imperative and that accountability from the business at all levels is essential.

Enabling Ownership

The group also had some tips for helping organisations to achieve the business ownership of change:

  • Program (system delivery), benefits realisation and change management reporting to the same executive sponsor;
  • Ensure members of the Executive and key general managers are clear on their role as Change Sponsors and Leaders;
  • Gain agreement from the group on what key behaviours they were going to hold each other to account against as the change programs continue;
  • Ensure that there was absolute alignment between the change approach, the program structure and the related benefits realisation approach.

Maintaining the Momentum

To the original proposition: once a system is delivered, this is where the real work of owning the change begins. Some critical insights and lessons learnt from the group during this phase included:

  • Create the right level of accountability and ownership with clear expectation from the leadership team: Link individual KPIs with benefit realisation; link benefit to the P&L for true financial benefit;
  • The role of the business sponsor may change post-implementation and this needs to be acknowledged and understood by all parties;
  • Track the benefits through the right information and KPIs;
  • Remembering at all times it’s not the system but people and process that drive the system that matter;
  • Maintain and effectively use the steering committee post system delivery to keep driving the benefit realisation.

Don’t Share the Blame; Own the Change

We see it all too often within programs: technologists point the finger at the business and vice versa when it comes to benefits realisation.

Change management is the glue and the enabler of successful benefits delivery. When it is properly incorporated into all phases of the project, change focuses the business on the ‘how’, which in turn help them to deliver the ‘what’. The ‘what’ is the benefits that were originally called out in the business case and the reason the project was established in the first place.

As project specialists, we develop fit-for-purpose change management strategy.  Contact us here to find out more about how we work with your teams or call 02 9098 6300.

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