Recently, I completed two successful projects which involved delivering new technology to the Classroom – but were they really ‘successful’? The business case was approved, the budget and plan agreed with the sponsors, vendors and resources were engaged and there was enthusiasm from the project team about the innovation that would be delivered to students and staff as a result of this new technology.
As the project progressed through design, procurement and implementation, some key business decisions were required from key stakeholders. Fortnightly meetings were held with the steering committee to present project status, issues, risks and to gain input for the key business decisions. What quickly became evident to our project team was a gap in stakeholder engagement and management. What we really needed was a Change Manager – someone who could articulate the project requirements and business benefits and communicate these with the stakeholders to gain their buy-in.
Fortunately, the project was finally able to secure two additional resources to assist with these important change management activities but they were only engaged towards during the end of the delivery phase of the project. As a result, this meant the business deployment activities were delivered in a less effective manner. For example, although training was planned and organised, attendance and participation was poor due to a lack of awareness of the project and its purpose, objectives and benefits.
Similarly, finding willing participants for the trial period proved to be difficult and resulted in some classrooms with new technology that nobody used.
So back to my original question – would you consider these projects to be successful?
Ultimately – the answer has to be no. The expected business benefits of such technology could not be realised if no-one is using the technology.
So what are the lessons learnt from these project examples? Here are my key take-aways;
- Don’t underestimate the importance of change management requirements in any technology project. Secure a Change Manager and ensure they are part of the entire project journey.
- Stakeholder communication and engagement is absolutely critical to the success of a project. This requires regular communication with all stakeholder groups throughout the entire project duration in order to take them on the journey as well. They need to become the ‘owners’ of the business benefits.
- Identify some willing project ‘champions’ from the business – these are stakeholders who act as ambassadors for the projects, who are willing to trial the technology and greatly assist in raising awareness amongst their peers.
- Regularly publish and promote project communications to provide broader stakeholder groups with key messages about the project, its goals and benefits – another key method to raise awareness.
- Finally, it is critical to understand the ‘impact’ of technology on current business processes and workflows. Develop strategies to assist business users to embrace the technology including training, help-guides and on-site support.
So can a Project Manager also undertake the role of Change Manager in such projects? Given the right experience and size of the project, I don’t see why not.
I would definitely be keen to hear from other Project Managers and Change Managers who have encountered similar experiences and hear how you managed stakeholder engagement.