Project failures as change management failure

Why do we keep re-learning and re-discovering important issues when ti comes to technology innovation?

Over the years, I have seen a number of new technology products introduced into organisations. These were introduced to improve business processes as well as access to information. The projects I have participated in include:

  • starting an Information Centre (IBM’s term in the mid-1980s for …
  • implementing a data warehouse
  • piloting an executive information systems (EIS) solution
  • various ERP and CRM projects

All of these involved a degree of innovation and dispruption to people working in the organisation. Most of them had successes, and all of them encountered problems and areas of failure.

It wasn’t the technology as such that led to the problems and failings – although in the early projects the user interface was a mainframe terminal – but rather the implementation approach and the lack of attention to people factors. In many cases, it wasn’t the technology but the people issues that led to failures.

Recently I saw two articles pointing out that the discipline of change management, so critical to the people aspects of these kinds of projects, may need to be reviewed.

One critic noted that it is management that often fails manage it properly, not taking it seriously enough and handing it over instead to someone else. The other article states that change involves four elements:

  • execution
  • leadership
  • organizational engagement
  • effective governance

Ignoring or down-playing any of these results in sub-optimal (at best) results.

I am now seeing a new wave of technology coming, in the form of enterprise social networking. If it’s seen as only a fad by management, the project will fail. People have got so used to email that getting them to adopt a new platform, like Microsoft’s Yammer, will be very difficult unless the change management elements are managed actively. I work for a technology company that is trialling Yammer, and I’ve already seen comments that indicate people don’t see the need or benefit of changing from something they are used to and happy with. So it’s interesting to see stories of large companies like ABB who are going the Yammer route. I would love to see their change management plan.

If anyone has a case study of an enterprise social network implementation that is implemented, has been adopted readily by users, and is delivering benefits, please let me know.

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One thought on “Project failures as change management failure

  1. Hi Simon,
    I’ve just read your post about change management projects and some of the factors in their limited success. You mentioned that you were interested to see any case studies about enterprise social networking tools.

    Our IT and internal communications customers have found employee communication channels such as desktop alerts and desktop tickers to be extremely effective when notifying users about systems implementation and changes. They are easy to set up and don’t get buried or overlooked like emails and can be made to be very visual and interesting. Even better, readership can be monitored and measured.

    I’m happy to share more information with you if you are interested. Just flick me back an email. Kind regards, Jo

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