Sue Tan, CEO of Miragroup, a change management specialist company, looks at how IT can better cope with change.

IT has become the scapegoat that is readily blamed for failed change programmes. The reality is that change is only successfully delivered by integrating processes, systems, organisation and behaviours into the design. 

IT is in control of only one element of the change and yet is utterly dependent on all other elements.

The lack of success of change programmes is rarely due to the failure of any one element. In fact, specialists, skilled in their particular discipline of change, manage each element. The failure frequently lies in the lack of integration between each element.

Programme Model

Every change programme, regardless of size and complexity, must have the same functions. In large change programmes each function may be delivered through a specialist team. In smaller change programmes a single person may deliver multiple functions.

No function within the programme model can operate independently of the other functions. It is fairly well understood that business processes need to be designed and that a system's requirements are based around the business processes.

Less well understood is how to integrate the critical programme functions:

  • Sponsorship and stakeholders;
  • Change management;
  • Communications;
  • Organisation design;
  • Programme level design authority.

The language of failure

No one ever says their programme model didn't work properly and yet it is the inability to create an integrated programme team that is the core of the failure. What we usually hear is:

  • The stakeholders are not engaged.
  • The business users are not sufficiently involved.
  • There's no buy-in.
  • There are too many uncoordinated initiatives.
  • The overall solution doesn't go far enough.
  • Oddly we hear less about problems regarding time and cost and more complaints about the change.

What's really going on?

  • Stakeholders not engaged - this usually means they have grave doubts about the approach to delivering the full business solution but don't know how to fix the problem. Programme management is failing to work through issues with the stakeholders.
  • Business not involved - this is frequently a failure in communications. The business desperately wants to be involved but change management and communications teams are failing to involve them in a meaningful way.
  • No buy-in - No-one will buy into something they don't understand at a personal level. Organisation design and change management teams are failing to make the change meaningful to each and every person.
  • Uncoordinated Activities - Stakeholders, programme management, communications, change management and the design authority need to take responsibility for fitting within the wider frame of change.
  • Solution not broad enough - Stakeholders and programme management are making the change fit the programme rather than the programme fit the business need.

What does this mean for IT?

The IT department is often in the weakest position to solve these problems and yet are swept up in the overall disgruntlement at the programme.

As systems are frequently the most tangible and measurable aspect of the change any frustrations are easily attached to the systems. It's unfair but understandable. IT departments end up becoming defensive and equally as frustrated.

Challenging the programme

The real solution lies in improving change and programme management capabilities within the business. The need for an integrated approach to programme delivery is generally understood but there is most certainly a gap between the 'knowing' and the 'doing'.

In the meantime IT remains an easy target to blame. Without being defensive (or aggressive) IT needs to challenge the programmes that they work for. 

To some extent IT needs to be able to fill the skill gap for the business. The next time you are involved in a change programme take the programme model with you and ask how each and every function will be addressed and, more importantly, how will be it integrated.