Change management and communications for IT success

Change management and communications for IT success

Summary: Change management and poor communications among stakeholder groups on IT projects is a key contributor to failure. Follows these ideas to solve the problem.

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TOPICS: CXO
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Change management and poor communications among stakeholder groups on IT projects is a key contributor to failure. For many organizations, cultivating communications on technology-enabled business projects appears an almost insurmountable problem.

Communications in this context means explaining the business impact of technology decisions to a non-technical audience. That impact likely includes process changes that may affect employees in a variety of ways. For example, a new CRM or ERP system can change workers' jobs, roles, and even dictate future employment status. Obviously, these changes have a potentially large impact on people working in the organization.

Change management and communications are difficult because they are "soft," and depend on aligning expectations and perceptions among various groups.

An article in the MIT Sloan Management Review (download PDF) explains that poor alignment between those creating business objectives and the people responsible for IT delivery is a core reason for project failure:

As the CIO of a major manufacturing company explained in an interview, "The business side did not realize how critical their involvement was. They were used to giving us rough ideas, and we would use our imagination to define what we thought they wanted. In addition, our attitude was, 'Call me if you have a problem' kind of thing. The challenge was to break through this behavioral traffic jam."

The MIT article describes the importance of communications on overcoming these challenges:

The key to bridging the business-technology divide and improving results is early communication. Not only must senior business managers understand more about how IT affects both strategy and the bottom line, but CIOs also need to learn to communicate the vision, strategies and goals of the IT organization in terms that non-IT executives can understand.

There are two distinct communications issues at stake here: IT / business effectiveness and change management associated with business transformation.

Increasing IT / business effectiveness requires deeper levels of cooperation than is typical inside many companies. To solve this problem, both sides need better training; the business needs greater understanding of the constraints under which IT works, while the IT department needs to learn how lines of business operate.

The change management associated with business transformation is an essential component of successful IT projects. Without interactive listening and communications, even the best-planned projects are doomed to fail.

Advice for enterprise buyers: Communication is foundational to business success, whether or not IT is involved. For IT projects, the problem is particularly acute, because many business people don't understand technology constraints and vice versa. When end users are involved, problems often multiply and become worse.

The ultimate key to success is recognizing that effective communications is a dialog and conversation, rather than a one-way transmission of information to an uninterested audience. And then putting resources behind that conviction.

Photo from iStockphoto

Topic: CXO

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10 comments
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  • RE: Change management and communications for IT success

    There is a need for common vocabulary for both business and IT people, as well as a map connecting business terms with technologies, such as applications.

    Too often, IT products are described in technology terms only. This lack of business dimension complicates creation of business case and aligning IT and business.

    http://inlevel.com/howitworks
    inlevel
  • Communication is Only One Key Success Driver

    Communication, in support of change management that addresses the impact of both organizational and operational change can be a game-changer (success) for [i]sound[/i] IT-backed business initiatives. Communication can be used to help those who will be affected by the IT-backed business initiative prepare in advance for the coming changes, provide visibility into how the project is proceeding, and to help stakeholders provide input or feedback that will improve or confirm the initiative. <br> <br>Project updates, documentation, training, and capturing business requirements or business processes are all different forms of communication.<br><br>However, communication will not prevent a business initiative that is severely flawed (whether or not it's supported by information technology) from failing.
    elizab
  • RE: Change management and communications for IT success

    All this post is not related to IT in specific however it is still relevant. Communication is very important when it comes to any Change not only IT Changes, it becomes critical where changes are going to happen. Success or Failure of Changes/Change Management Depends on Change Management
    http://bit.ly/gSMYO7
    FiredNeuron
    • RE: Change management and communications for IT success

      @FiredNeuron This blog is focused on IT failures, therefore I write about the IT context. That said, issues around business transformation change are certainly applicable to a far broader set of domains than just IT.
      mkrigsman
  • Change Management and Organizational Culture

    I agree. Effective communication or the lack thereof is often one of the root causes behind project failures. It?s hard to remember when the last project lessons? learned session that I attended where this wasn?t an area that could have been improved.

    But, I think to be truly effective, leaders have to go further than just focusing on communication, but they really must be aware of the organizational culture and how the change the seek is either in synch with the culture, or opposed to the organizational culture.

    I actually recently wrote a short blog post about how one company was investing considerable energy to reinforce their culture - http://bit.ly/hlfQGb

    John
    jjeremiah1
  • RE: Change management and communications for IT success

    "As the CIO of a major manufacturing company explained in an interview, ?The business side did not realize how critical their involvement was. They were used to giving us rough ideas, and we would use our imagination to define what we thought they wanted. In addition, our attitude was, ?Call me if you have a problem? kind of thing. The challenge was to break through this behavioral traffic jam.?"

    Translation:
    Most people deal with in-house issues using the same techniques and expectations they themselves use in their day-to-day operations. ...Despite the fact they are working with people outside their segment...

    Good to know but hardly news
    mist42nz
  • Change management communications planning

    Nice post. You make a good point about the two distinct areas where communication can break down.

    Breakdowns can be minimized, if not averted in full, with a communications planning approach to even the smallest of projects, with or without IT. It helps to define the issues, the way they'll be communicated, when the communication will happen and who the messengers will be. You don't always need a magnum opus. A basic but complete strategy will make sure all of the bases are covered.
    http://bit.ly/eTJKJ8
    danpecc
  • RE: Change management and communications for IT success

    I believe the change management discipline in IT shops is no longer relevant in its current form and has become an impediment to effective organizational efficiency.
    Any change management process in an effective IT organization needs to 'pay it's way' just like any other program. If effectiveness cannot be demonstrated or tracked, then the change process needs to go.

    IT as a discipline needs to bust up this traditional slow, inflexible behemoth/sacred cow that we call change control and look at new more dynamic paradigms for availability and systems management.
    civikminded
  • Change management and communications for IT success

    IT/Business communication is plenty challenging with any IT project. But there's yet another layer: communication with the troops who must use the new software. We've found an odd side-effect of training that may prove useful: when all staff receive writing training, suddenly they become enthusiastic advocates for the new CMS or ERP. Because they get it, for the first time?
    Rachel McAlpine
  • RE: Change management and communications for IT success

    Usually higher management takes the rap. After all, the people at the top call the shots. So on the surface it seems fair to accuse them of being a main source of the emotional strain and pressure. Plus, if upper managements actions seem to be the problem, doesnt it make sense to hold them responsible for providing the solution?<br><br><br> Change Management

    www.pritchettnet.com
    change_management