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Managing Change in PM Systems Implementations

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Managing Change in PM Systems Implementations

change management PMI has recently released a new document, Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide. It’s the first practice guide, and it’s designed to complement the other PMI standards. The focus on change management for this first document is interesting, but it makes a lot of sense. As PMI says, change management is “an essential capability that cascades across and throughout portfolio, program, and project management.” So it’s a discipline that everyone involved in projects at any level needs to be aware of.

Project management systems implementations are no different. In fact, they are the perfect example of the sort of initiative where change management can really help. Typically, introducing a new enterprise portfolio management tool like Primavera fundamentally changes the way that projects are tracked, monitored and reported. As a result, project managers and their teams may need to do some of their project management activities in a slightly different way. While the main project management approaches, like risk management and stakeholder management, won’t change, some of the data capture methods and other tasks will be potentially done in a completely different way.

Humans are naturally resistant to change. We like things the way they are, and it’s an upheaval to bother to learn to do things differently. In fact, one of the main schools of thought behind change management is the ‘burning platform’. In other words, unless where we are standing is on fire, we won’t jump. So what does this means for your launching your enterprise project tools?


Create a burning platform

We don’t mean to literally set your old tools on fire, but there are things that you can do to make it easier to use the new enterprise system than the old way of working. For example, you can remove the links or shortcuts on people’s desktops so that they can’t access the old reporting tools. You can take manuals off their desks and disable their logins.

This isn’t meant to impede them from doing their job, but it’s an easy way to point people in the right direction for the new change. Making it hard for them to slip back into old habits and use the old ways of working should be part of your project plan. Disconnect old tools so that they can’t go into them for their project management requirements.

It won’t always be because someone hates the new enterprise tools that they want to use the old ways. Old habits die hard, and you’ll probably find people using the old management tools from time to time simply because they have forgotten about the new product and are acting out of habit. By disabling this option you’ll prevent them from having to do rework by entering data into the new system as well.

Make it easy to use the new tools

A key factor in the success of any new change is that you make the new way of working as easy as possible. Just as you can disable logins to the old system, make sure everyone has new logins for the new system. Add shortcuts to their desktop. Put crib sheets on their desks and posters up in the office explaining key functions. Hold webinars and training sessions, and buddy up project managers with experienced users so that they have got someone to turn to when they’ve got questions. In other words, the transition to your new enterprise project management system should be as straightforward as possible.

Move the data

You can also help the transition by exporting data from your previous management tools and importing it into your new system. This will mean that project teams aren’t working from a blank piece of paper. They will see information about their project already in the product and they won’t feel as if they have to start from scratch.

Of course, if you are using the implementation of a new system as the opportunity to bring in different types of reporting and management tools like Earned Value Management, then there won’t be any data for these and you’ll have to explain that the information will be built up over time.

Explain the rationale

People don’t like change for change’s sake. It’s a big deal to learn a new system so it helps to know why. Take the time to explain why a new enterprise system is being implemented. There are plenty of benefits and you probably put together a full business case detailing the rationale and advantages, so it’s a simple job to share the highlights with the project stakeholders and those individuals who will have to use the new tools.

You can do this through product demonstrations, workshops or town hall-style meetings. Leaflet drops, the corporate intranet and company newsletters are other ways to get the message across. You can also do a follow up a couple of months after the implementation, explaining how the new system is already increasing standardization and providing better tools for project teams. It’s sometimes better to do this as a case study, or with examples, so you could explain how this new approach to portfolio management has led to better project prioritization, giving details of a few projects that have been approved since the launch.

change management 2Change management is another thing to think about when you’ve already got a lot on with launching new tools. But it’s essential if you want to make sure that the investment in Primavera, or another enterprise portfolio management system, pays off. It would be far worse for the business if you found that after a few months, people went back to spreadsheets and guesswork when it came to planning and estimating, when you know that the tools are there to do things more professionally.

As PMI says in the practice guide, “while many leaders dislike change and resist it, the alternative to change may well be obsolescence or irrelevance.” And no one wants that for their business, which is why it’s so important for change management to be embedded in every initiative that the company runs.

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