Leadership - Change Management:

The Myth of the Successful Technical Project

By Darrel Raynor, CEO/President Data Analysis & Results, Inc. & Director, St. Edward’s University Professional Education

Who should read this?

Those that manage technologists, projects, and departments, and project or development team members. All technicians of every specialty except pure researchers. Those interested in getting value from projects.

What are the Problems?

With all types of #STEM projects there is a distinct tendency, especially among technicians, even those who are very senior (founders, CTOs), to think that the efficiency and beauty of their solution will drive adoption. This is akin to the Build a Better Mousetrap attitude. This is true only in some cases, just enough to give hope to those who feel it a waste of time and money to have an adoption campaign or similar efforts.

In this blog we cover a few of the many reasons you should always bake Change Management into all your projects that are not just pure research or proof of technology. We have found a budget allocation of 15-20% of both hours and dollars of the total estimated project cost is the sweet spot for technology adoption, or process improvement for that matter, in real projects. Change Management should be a full project life cycle effort...

Problem #1 - Focus Just on the Technology

For those of you who have been in tech a long time, remember the PC graphic user interface options we used to have? IBM’s OS/2 was my favorite and I spent a good deal of time becoming an expert able to tune multiple running applications simultaneously. OS/2 was almost as good as Microsoft (MS) Windows was at its best, which was XP a decade before Windows matured. There were at least 4-5 other operating systems that were clearly or at least arguably better than Windows from every angle. Yet Microsoft pretty much won that battle quickly. MS had a Change Management Plan and followed through with presentations, testimonials, sales contests, advertising, public relations, and lots of other marketing efforts to drive ideas into everyone's’ heads and increase their mindshare. Although this was mostly marketing, MS also did many other Change Management activities such as incentivize a vast partner network, their employees, software developers, and even offered contests, training, and templates for end users.



Problem #2 - No Follow Through

Akin to Risk Planning, some projects actually do a decent job of Change Management Planning, only to have their recommendations declined across the board. One of our clients had us help them put in a major system. When we suggested a Change Management Campaign to win the user's’ hearts and minds, they approved nothing and did nothing. This happens for at least four reasons...


Executive Ego - “We will just tell them to do it!” Today’s world is one of collaboration, huge tool palettes, and no time for task management. It is doubtful anyone will use anything that does not yield almost immediate value to them, their department, or their customers. A quick analysis a year after implementation showed an incredibly dismal 11% of target adopters were using the system as intended, 35% were doing enough just to get by, and the rest either were not using the tool at all or had their department admin or intern enter just enough rough data keep them off of the naughty list… The software works fine; the value has never materialized.

Budget - The requested Change Management budget and time were quickly declined with reasons including no time or money or they would “never be able to get it through the IT Steering Committee…” A VP (who should know better) said, “We have enough to do without all this touchy-feely crap.” When we help our clients review project plans, we always look for the absence of Change Management items like training, presentations, incentives, and long-term performance criteria, to help make it popular and make it stick. For many projects, if there is no budget and time for Change Management, we recommend they not attempt the project! Who needs software or hardware that remains massively underutilized? There are few justifications that can stand up to 11% utilization and still have enough ROI to rise above most other projects.


Value - They do not understand the value of and sometimes even what Change Management is. When given a challenge to do some system work, most technicians can band together and get it done. When challenged to foster high percentage adoption, most do not have the skills, training, or tools to get that done. Sometimes we are met with blank stares as if the concept was new to them… Or that is was not their job. If not their job, then who’s job is it? Right, it it your job to plan and execute on Change Management along with other project deliverables.


Templates & Standard Processes - We seldom find Change Management in the standard set of templates, processes, training, or evaluations used by organizations. In fact, Change Management tools, budget, and processes are often missing on normal types of projects other than enterprise-wide transformation projects driven by external consultants. If Change Management is not required, it becomes optional and not commonly practiced. This is a huge reason many IT projects fail or end up with little realized long-term ROI. Even relatively sophisticated PMO templates and governance models often do not include Change Management deliverables, metrics, processes, and tasks.


Problem #3 - SHELFWARE! Declaring Success after Implementation, instead of after Adoption

Projects frequently are late. In fact, our estimate (after reading dozens of studies, papers, and doing some of our paid “Irritating Research™”) we think almost 80% of IT projects are “late”. This is not a dig at IT PMs or teams, but rather it reflects the western world trend to multitask project team members and schedule according to business needs instead of historical estimates… But we digress…

Since we can all agree some or most IT and product development projects are late (Tesla Model X new SUV for instance…) we know that this compresses completion dates. Testing gets crunched and adding Change Management to the timeline and budget may just seems undoable. This leaves users with a technically viable solution that they either do not want or do not care about.

What are some of the Possible Solutions?

Let’s take a quick look at a few things we could do.

Solution #1 - Plan Change Management Strategies along with Tech...


project schedule diagramThis is the Project Management / PMO process solution. Figure out basic Change Management strategies, processes, and deliverables and put them in place in your organization templates and review checklists. We can help you hone in on the most useful steps and processes. A great way to start is look at the projects that have the best adoption without coercion and do what they did! Not exactly of course, as every project has unique risk, stakeholders, constraints, and other aspects; but those successful projects will be a good general guide to what works for fast adoption and getting your target stakeholders to embrace change in your organization. To help ensure project success with minimal expense and time investment, add Change Management to your Critical Success Factors, review criteria, and any type of phase gating or other types of project governance or advisory areas. Budgeting Change Management at up to 20% of your project costs is reasonable.

Solution #2 - Follow Through with Change Management Processes

Drive a focus on Change Management into your Templates, Processes, and Review criteria as you go. Add questions like:


  • How are we reaching all of our stakeholders?

  • Have we surveyed or otherwise taken their thoughts into consideration?

  • Make consideration of Change Management mandatory.

  • Have we identified and communicated to all groups WIIFM points? (What’s In It For Me)

  • Have we solicited feedback on their adoption plans and challenges?

  • Rate of adoption often drives payback period and total ROI, how are we doing?

  • Add several organization or project type questions here too...

What are potential Next Steps?


Here is where the money, or at least ROI, grows… While there are books and how-to’s on Change Management, experience in both Change Management and your organization are critical to your project success. We have performed and advised on many projects and the most successful ones always include Change Management. Let’s sit down and review your current and future projects to see where Change Management can be affordably added to greatly increase your chances of success. Let’s get that planned ROI to actually materialize! +1-512-850-4402 to set a free initial consultation.


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