Can IT learn from Change Managers?

Anyone who has ever been a project manager, or had any PM training, will be under no illusion that the single most important feature of a successful project is to have senior management support.

I have done a bit of project management in my time, and like most PMs, have fallen into the trap of how to measure the success of a project.  Tradition says that a project comprises cost, quality and time.  So if you deliver your project within budget, to specification, and within the planned timeframe you have succeeded, right?  Well, only in a small minded way, in my opinion.

What if you’ve delivered a cart, when the organisation really needed a horse?

I’ve been talking recently to some Change Managers in the banking and utility sectors.  These guys are responsible for driving change in the enterprise, freeing operational managers to worry about the day to day fire fighting.

A change directorate is a common feature in these industries.  In times of yore, change people used to sometime report to IT and sometime the business, alternating like corporate amperes on the sine wave of executive whim.  More recently, Change Managers/Directors are finding higher positions with their own direct reporting line into the board.  Is this an acknowledgement that change is a key organisational function?

The change experts I have been speaking to do not measure the success of a project the traditional way, instead evaluating what is contributed in terms of measurable business value.  This may not be the same thing as delivering to time or budget, or even scope.  Furthermore, whilst senior management support is essential, this must come from the business.

Can you think of an IT driven project that didn’t succeed?  Was lack of business sponsorship a problem, despite IT support?  I can think of a few, mostly the expensive ones (say, greater than $25M).

Perhaps IT can learn from Change Managers?  After all, their careers are in the ascendancy whilst the CIO’s board role seems to be threatened right now.

One Change Manager I spoke to refuses to help any business unit with a change project, unless they can identify exactly what it is they are trying to achieve, in measurable business value.  Add the senior operational management support, and then there is a recipe with a higher chance of successful delivery.  If more IT projects worked like this, I wonder if this would improve the chance of success, as well as the reputation of IT.

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