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Driving Project Value Through Change Management and Project Management Integration

Today's blog post was written by Scott Hinton, Principal Consultant at Sonoma Partners.

I have had the opportunity to work as a Project Manager and with Project Managers throughout my career, and I've have experienced the value of change management and project management function integration directly. Although the Project Manager's primarily focus is the "Technical" aspects of a project and the Change Lead primarily focuses on the "People" side of change, the roles are complementary and share objectives. According to Prosci, "Project management and change management both aim to increase the likelihood that projects or initiatives deliver the intended results and outcomes. The most effective approach is to integrate change management and project management to create a unified approach to implementing change on both fronts." 

When I look back at my most successful projects as a Change Lead, the commonality is a good working relationship with the Project Manager. We worked in lock step and had each other's back on these projects. These Project Managers were advocates and understood the value and general tactics of change management and consistently allocated time in project team meetings for change management updates. This article highlights benefits and tips for integrating project management and change management functions and roles with system changes.

Integration Benefits

Increased project synergy
Change management and project management integration and alignment creates greater synergy between the people, process and system project components. Project benefits can be realized when the disciplines function independently, but integrating change management and project management creates a unified front to designing, developing, implementing and reinforcing the change which significantly increases the speed and degree of change and overall project success. "The efforts of both can be focused toward a singular objective—improving the performance of the organization by successfully implementing a change that delivers the intended results and outcomes," according to Prosci.

Greater project information sharingManagement_3-01
Integration helps uncover potential blind spots and facilitates a more holistic and faster response to schedule, scope, resource and budget changes. This also includes project risks and issues. The people oriented issues and risks should be assigned to the change Lead. I use the Project Manager as a sounding board and provide another vantage point on technical project aspects in my Change Lead role.

A unified approach also eases effective communication of milestones like project kickoffs and go-lives and fosters collaboration on crafting timely messages that translate into What's in it for me (WIIFM) for users. In one example, the Project Manager looked at upcoming communication topics and asked me to share a recently added feature with users because it was a hot topic during requirement gathering sessions. User felt the project had a pulse on what was on their mind.

The flow of information is generally improved with integration. On the front end, an integrated approach ensures that impacted employees are receiving the appropriate messages about what's coming, when and why. On the back end, it helps ensure that the project team receives effective feedback on adoption, user reaction to the change and success with the system.

Project Credibility
Project success is highly dependent on leadership engagement. When leaders have a better understanding, they view the project as more credible and will set a better tone and example for impacted users. On several projects, I conducted joint presentations with the Project Manager periodically to the executive committee. Based on sponsor feedback, attendees came away with greater clarity and assurance. The added level of confidence allows the sponsor to focus on being active and visible with the peace of mind that the project is being managed holistically.

Integration Tips to Drive Project Value

  1. Integrate the change plan into the overall project plan. This creates greater accountability, structure and better visibility of change milestones and deliverables and allows the project team and sponsor to clearly see what's coming and when.

  2. Incorporate change management updates into project meetings including governance committee meetings. This provides another way for key stakeholders to contribute directly to the change. I typically invite the Project Manager to change management touch points with the sponsor. This supports alignment and provides a unified voice.

  3. Educate the Project Manager on change management fundamentals. This creates a powerful and effective advocate. Gaining change management knowledge is an opportunity for project managers to revisit and shift their project management reference points. "Through change management, they modify their vision of project management: they learn a new or another way to think and to manage projects. Lehmann, V. (2014). The collaboration value is deepened when the Change Lead understands and appreciates Project Management fundamentals in turn.

  4. Share change readiness data with the Project Manager. Understanding readiness results intimately allows the Project Manager to proactively address potential adoption challenges based on system technical readiness. 

The value of integration is research based. In Prosci’s Best Practices in Change Management-2016 Edition,"58% of the participants who integrated change management and project management in their project met or exceeded their project objectives versus 42% without." Awareness and understanding of the respective functions allows the Project Manager and Change Lead to grasp project from broader perspective and perform their primary role better.

My project management background has served me well in Change Lead roles and I have observed higher performance in the Project Managers that get the people side of change. Integrating Project Management and Change Management will give your project the an added edge in realizing project benefits and overall success.

Topics: CRM Best Practices