As I said before – there is a long history of change programmes dependent on IT failing. At the very least they usually carry a high level of risk! But you can avoid the pit-falls. This series of posts is based loosely around the UK Government’s “Common Causes of Project Failure” (NAO/OGC) but the interpretation is mine. Here is the next post in the series, (For reasons 1 to 3 follow the link)
Lack of effective communication and engagement with stakeholders
Your programme will be of interest to as number of different group and individuals – they are your stakeholders. Some will just have a passing interest! For others your activities may mean a significant change in life style (e g potential redundancies) or working patterns! You may be committing a large part of the organisations resources and other senior managers may resent their loss of control – but you may be dependent on them for your success. You need to identify all those with an interest and what that interest is. Then work out how they can influence your programme. That will show you where to target your communications. Once you have the map, work out your communications’ plan. Who needs to know what, when and how are you going to tell them – newsletters, emails, meetings? Then make sure you implement the plan. Make it a dialogue and ask them if they feel their communications’ needs are being met – it will pay dividends!
Lack of skills and clear roles in the programme team
Change programmes are complex to deliver! They require a number of different skills – skills in communication, project and programme management and risk management are particularly important. Change programmes are high risk – particularly if you add in IT! In an ideal world you would have people in the team with a strong track record in demonstrating all these competencies and you would have them in clearly defined roles! The roles need to be clearly defined so that efforts are not duplicated but even more important to make sure things are not missed. They will be if there is a misunderstanding about who is responsible for what. You can define the roles clearly but you may not find experts in every field of expertise – experienced and successful project and programme managers are hard to find. Be prepared to pay for good people! Where you are light – compensate with access to good advice from within your organisation or from consultants. Try to get a mix in the team itself of expertise and ambition – people who are anxious to learn! Make sure people share knowledge. If you do hire consultants make sure they are accountable and truly committed to your programme.
Big Bang – failure to break down the change into segments/modules and implement in manageable steps
Big Bang (whole organization or whole system change) IT implementations are notorious. They fail and fail again and still people fall into the trap. It can be very seductive particularly for Type A senior managers leading from the front – “ come on let’s go for it! We’ll al change on A Day”! The whole organisation depends on the technology working well on day one and then it doesn’t! For some, the self-belief has been so strong, they have not even made a credible contingency plan. Just think of it – your whole business depending on hardware, software, your people and probably people down quite a long supply chain ,not only doing the right thing, but a new right thing, all on the same day at the roughly the same time. Doesn’t make any sense does it? But people kid themselves – oh its not big bang – when they have made the whole organisation dependent on a particular platform from which to develop! If you do have to do it – at least test and test well before hand and make a really robust contingency plan. Thank goodness, these day most reputable IT suppliers will work long and hard to advise you against big bang – their reputations have been tarnished by it too much in the past. In a change programme it is much safer to start by changing something small – show you can do it . Show that works then build people’s confidence in the possibilities of larger change later. It takes longer but it also last much longer and gives you real value!
Four more to go – on 6 May we tackle low price versus true value, misunderstanding your contract, not integrating client and supplier teams, and lack of effective quality review. I would love to hear what you think about this – do you agree or disagree and do you have examples to quote please. If so, I will turn your comments into posts!