Time for Change – Why IT Project Managers need to adapt

Posted by Rachael Pullen on October 20, 2014

I recently read that 60% of IT projects fail to deliver on time and on budget. It’s not hard to see why – in the last decade new technologies have changed the way a business works considerably. Information technology has reached every last corner of industry moving at break-neck speed.

IT projects are no longer confined to implementing one system in one area of the business and with larger IT projects becoming far more complex with tightly integrated solutions, IT Project Managers need to move beyond the comfort of the IT department to interact with others such as Operations, Finance and Shared Services, which means that they will have to lead the organisational change required to meet their project goals.

IT Project Managers used to be safe in the knowledge that they were called upon for their technical skills alone, it wasn’t imperative that they think strategically or have to communicate complex plans to anyone outside of their immediate project team and sponsor. Today however, IT Project Managers are not only required to deliver complex projects on time and on budget, they are also expected to address the impact on the business, align technology strategy to the business objectives and consider the approach to change required to ensure the project is a success. In short, to succeed IT Project Managers must think like business professionals not just technical ones.

A new set of skills

In order for IT Project Managers to succeed in their new roles it is essential that they build their Communication, Leadership and Business Change skills.

In every project there is a demand from the relevant business areas for subject matter experts to advise and facilitate the business impact and change management. Whilst this is critical to all project deliveries, the impact on the day-to-day business operation is often underestimated and not planned as well as it could be.

By enabling and empowering IT Project Managers to manage and influence relationships across the business, whilst simultaneously championing the new technology they are implementing, businesses can avoid the sudden pull on key resources. These core skills will allow Project Managers to look at the broader context of the project across the organisation and understand the impact that this will have on people and culture, and importantly allow them to create joint IT and business plans to pre-empt the resource requirement.

IT Project Managers need to be equipped to deal with the human side of IT projects, ensuring that change is embraced, adopted and utilised and in turn this will allow them to be more aware of the impact upon people, process and technology across the organisation.

Business Transformation is no longer an event, it is a method for continuous improvement. By embracing the change in concept and through robust succession planning the IT Project Managers of tomorrow can help businesses to avoid the associated cost spike of a business-wide transformation programme, provide accurate capital investment plans that align to the business strategy and manage the change as though it were business as usual.

A unified approach

The most effective projects will take a unified approach, implementing change on both technical and people fronts. By enabling IT Project Managers to look at both the technical and human side of projects, the efforts become focussed toward a singular objective. The flow of information is integrated so that at the front-end employees are receiving timely information and appropriate messages whilst at the back-end, the project team is receiving effective feedback on usage and adoption. This allows a fluid and dynamic approach, a blend of the traditional ‘Agile’ and ‘Waterfall’ without the rigidity and restrictions but inclusive of the appropriate methodology required to ensure that the right steps can be taken at the right time in the project lifecycle, engaging employees and allowing them to embrace the changes being made.

IT Project Managers need to be held accountable for the success of the project as a whole – not just hitting the go-live date. After all, the success of an IT project should be measurable through results and outcomes – not just time and budget, but by tangible, realised business benefits, a reduction in ‘run-the-business’ costs and how the solution has been embraced, adopted and utilised by the organisation.

IT Project Management and Business Change are complementary disciplines with a common objective. If IT Project Managers of the future are enabled to deliver a unified approach then far more IT projects will be successful.


This article was originally featured in Issue 3 of Field Service News