It was a trick question; ‘What’s the single most important factor in a successful systems implementation project?’
I should have known the answer he was looking for, given that he was standing next to the program’s Change Manager. But I was a brash young Project Manager, part of what used to be called ‘the arrogant IBMers’ and I said, without a pause, a strong group of experienced developers working with a competent PM.
‘You’ve got it all wrong son,’ said the experienced IBM Partner ‘If you don’t get your change management right, your project will fail every time.’
I scoffed and argued, but he was right of course, though it took me a couple of years and a tough project or two before I got it. I realized long after that my early career at IBM had been a succession of ‘implement and run’ projects, where we’d do the ‘heavy lifting’ during the build phase and typically be gone long before go-live – I hadn’t seen the outcome of my ‘great work’. Happy project team, happy client, what’s the problem?
The problem is that without effective Change Management, the most beautiful, flawless, ‘killer’ app or well-intentioned digital transformation can crash and burn, costing millions and causing heartache.