Organizational Change Management in IT Projects

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Newsletters


Most of IT projects depend heavily on users and stakeholders adopting new tools, complying with new policies, following new processes, and learning new skills. You need to facilitate the organizational change resulting from these projects, ensuring that the intended business outcomes are realized.

While IT takes accountability to deliver the change, accountability for the business outcomes is opaque with little or no allocated resourcing. Project management practices focus more on the timely implementation of projects than on the achievement of the desired outcomes thereafter or on the behavioral and cultural factors that inhibit change from taking hold in the long term.

Organizational change management has been a huge weakness for IT departments and business units, putting projects and programs at risk – especially large, complex, transformational projects.

In most of cases, project planning tends to fixate on technology and neglects the behavioral and cultural factors that inhibit user adoption; further, accountabilities for managing change and helping to realize the intended business outcomes post-project are not properly defined.


What is organizational change management?

OCM is a framework for managing the introduction of new business processes and technologies to ensure stakeholder adoption. OCM involves tools, templates, and processes that are intended to help project leaders analyze the impacts of a change during the planning phase, engage stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle, as well as train and transition users towards the new technologies and processes being implemented. OCM is a separate body of knowledge, but as a practice it is inseparable from both project management or business analysis.

Anytime you are starting a project or program that will depend on users and stakeholders to give up their old way of doing things, change will force people to become novices again, leading to lost productivity and added stress. OCM can help improve project outcomes on any project where you need people to adopt new tools and procedures, comply with new policies, learn new skills and behaviors, or understand and support new processes.


Completed projects aren’t necessarily successful projects

The constraints that drive project management (time, scope, and budget) are insufficient for driving the overall success of project efforts.

For instance, a project may come in on time, on budget, and in scope, but……if users and stakeholders fail to adopt…and the intended benefits are not achieved…then that “successful project” represents a massive waste of the organization’s time and resources.

Here are some statistics on the success of projects and Organizational Change Management:

  • 50% of respondents in a KPMG survey indicated that projects fail to achieve what they originally intended. – NZ Project management survey.
  • Only 56% of strategic projects meet their original business goals. – PMI.
  • Lack of user adoption is the main cause for 70% of failed projects. – Collins, 2013.
  • 82% of CEOs identify organizational change management as a priority (D&B Consulting), but only 18% of organizations characterize themselves as “Highly Effective” at OCM (PMI).
  • On average, 95% percent of projects with excellent OCM meet or exceed their objectives. In the other hand, for projects with poor OCM, the number of projects that meet objectives drops to 15% (Prosci).
  • 82% of projects with excellent OCM practices are completed on budget, but for projects with poor OCM, the number of projects that stay on budget drops to 51%. – Prosci
  • 71% of projects with excellent OCM practices stay on schedule, but for projects with poor OCM practices, only 16% stay on schedule. – Prosci


Improve project outcomes with organizational change management

Effective change management correlates with project success due to:

  • IT projects are justified because they will make money, save money, or make people happier.
  • Project benefits can only be realized when changes are successfully adopted or accommodated by the organization.

Without OCM, IT might finish the project but fail to realize the intended outcomes. In the long term, a lack of OCM could erode IT’s ability to work with the business.


Who is accountable for change success?

To its peril, OCM commonly falls into a grey area, somewhere in between project management and portfolio management, and somewhere in between being a concern of IT and a concern of the business. While OCM is a separate discipline from project management, it is commonly thought that OCM is something that project managers and project teams do. While in some cases this might be true, it is far from a universal truth. The end result: without a centralized approach, accountabilities for key OCM tasks are opaque at best – and the ball for these tasks is, more often than not, dropped altogether.

A centralized approach to OCM is most effective, and the PMO is already a centralized project office and is already accountable for project outcomes. What’s more, in organizations where accountabilities for OCM are not explicitly defined, the PMO will likely already be assumed to be the default change leader by the wider organization. It makes sense for the PMO to accept this accountability – in the short term at least – and claim the benefits that will come from coordinating and consistently driving successful project outcomes.


Some key aspects to consider with OCM

In IT especially, project planning tends to fixate on technology and underestimate the behavioral and cultural factors that inhibit user adoption. Whether change is project-specific or continuous, it’s more important to instill the desire to change than to apply specific tools and techniques. Accountability for instilling this desire should start with the project sponsor, with direct support from the PMO.

Persuading people to change requires a “soft,” empathetic approach to keep them motivated and engaged. But don’t mistake “soft” for easy. Managing the people part of change is amongst the toughest work there is, and it requires a comfort and competency with uncertainty, ambiguity, and conflict. If a change initiative is going to be successful (especially a large, transformational change), this tough work needs to be done – and the more impactful the change, the earlier it is done, the better.

Transformation and change are increasingly becoming the new normal. While this normality may help make people more open to change in general, specific changes still need to be planned, communicated, and managed. Agility and continuous improvement are good, but can degenerate into volatility if change isn’t managed properly. People will perceive change to be volatile and undesirable if their expectations aren’t managed through communications and engagement planning.



  • Plan for human nature. To ensure project success and maximize benefits, plan and facilitate the non-technical aspects of organizational change by addressing the emotional, behavioral, and cultural factors that foster stakeholder resistance and inhibit user adoption.
  • Make change management as ubiquitous as change itself. Foster a project culture that is proactive about OCM. Create a process where OCM considerations are factored in as early as project ideation and change is actively managed throughout the project lifecycle, including after the project has closed.
  • Equip project leaders with the right tools to foster adoption. Effective OCM requires an actionable toolkit that will help plant the seeds for organizational change. With the right tools and templates, the PMO can function as a hub for change, helping business units and project teams to consistently achieve project and post-project success.



  • The Value of Organizational Change Management – Larry Powers & Ketil Been, Boxley Group.
  • Master Organizational Change Management – Info-Tech´s blueprint, 2020.


DilettUX can help you to implement an effective OCM approach in your organization. Contact us!

Share with:

Join Our Newsletter for Updates 

Abrir chat