Change Management and its Importance to Project Success


The only certainty in project management is change. Our core assumptions change over time. Our stakeholders change their minds, leading to changes in our requirements. Even if we do everything right upfront, no plan ever survives the realities of execution. And in fact, the primary purpose of any project is to deliver change in some form.

No matter what cost, schedule, or project scope a project manager sets, in the beginning, a project is not done until they deliver an acceptable product or service to their stakeholders. The definition of “acceptable” is often a moving target, despite our best efforts to establish precise requirements during project initiation and planning. That’s why change management is such an essential skill for PMs and critical expertise for organizations that manage projects.

Understanding Change Management

Change management, at its core, is about solving problems and blasting through unexpected impediments.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines it as “a comprehensive, cyclic and structured approach for transitioning individuals, groups, and organizations from a current state to a future state with intended business benefits.” A typical example of an event that would trigger change management activities occurs with project scheduling. Take a scenario where a company plans a new mobile app with a scheduled release of 15 months. The PM works with the stakeholders to baseline a schedule to meet the timeline, but three months in, a competitor announces a similar product with a release date only nine months out. The project schedule is no longer in line with business objectives, and the team will have to manage how that change impacts the project.

Effective change management is the difference between project success and failure. The reason it’s so important is that it often isn’t sufficient for projects to deliver on what was initially promised. Project delivery is only successful if it provides value to the organization, stakeholders, and customers. When business objectives evolve, the project must be agile enough to change along with them. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Managing change that allows projects to finish with sufficient quality in the face of disruptions to timelines, resources, and processes requires a high level of organizational maturity and specialized skillsets in and surrounding the project team

Why Change Management is Difficult

For even experienced PMs and project teams, change management is a challenge. Delivering on large-scale projects can be like herding cats, with end-users, influential stakeholders and sponsors, and outside forces in the market or industry introducing change and uncertainty at inopportune times. It’s pretty common for the priorities of these forces to be different or even conflicting. Various stakeholders have different levels of influence and interest in the project, with each potentially holding their unique viewpoints and resistance or openness to change. PMs, change managers, and the project team as a whole must be well-trained and highly experienced to manage the sensitivities and complexities of these relationships because they can make or break a project.

Why is it so hard for organizations to internally manage change on their projects?

While project management and change management experience several intersections and interdependencies, it’s important to note that they are not synonymous. Change management often requires a different and independent set of processes, people, tools, and training to function correctly. It’s tough for large companies to build a competent project management shop in-house. The need for a flexible, independent change management division to support projects can leave significant competency gaps in the organization.

Organizations seeking to improve or build their change management competencies from scratch face significant challenges. Customer expectations are higher than ever. Organizations don’t have time to wait until they establish mature, repeatable change management processes. Attempting to build up organizational processes and skills mid-project is also tricky. Organizations new to the discipline usually lack the tools, training, and experience to pull it off. 

Change management requires specialized tools, repositories, and training even beyond those used for project tracking. Tracking change means providing linkages back to sponsoring stakeholders and the resources needed to execute the work. Specialized toolsets require specialized training, and organizations need to hire skilled labor to operate the technology and processes required. Suppose they manage to procure the technology and employ the staff. What happens to these resources when the project is over?

Why leading companies outsource their project management departments

Managing projects means managing change. Many organizations need to deliver successful projects even if project management isn’t their core business in today’s world. Leading companies turn to outside help for specialized institutional knowledge and experience in change management. 

Outsourcing carries significant benefits for companies looking to level up their PM departments, change management teams, or both. The business can immediately benefit from partnering with a company with mature processes and standards. That can significantly enhance the organization’s ability to navigate confounding changes to requirements, cost constraints, or schedule goals. 

Maintaining the skilled labor, technologies, and processes required for a high-performing change management competency can be pretty expensive. Companies specializing in these sophisticated processes can accomplish more with less. Outsourcing the change management department allows companies to benefit from the economies of scale because their partner has spent years investing in change management excellence. That helps keep projects on schedule, within budget and maintains quality deliverables even when change happens unexpectedly.

Change Management with eCore

So many projects fail because of the inability to manage change effectively. It’s not for lack of trying. Organizations pump millions of dollars and dedicate some of their most talented resources to stand up PM capabilities, but many don’t receive a great return on investment.

Organizations that partner with eCore to manage their PM departments and resources benefit from certified project leaders with the experience and knowledge to deliver projects successfully and drive change management practices throughout the lifecycle.

Many project management firms come in, put bodies in seats, and take their knowledge with them when the project is over. At eCore, we measure our success by improving the PM competencies of our partners. We value long-term relationships and implement sustainable processes, always seeking to build lasting improvements. We learn right alongside you, emphasizing cultural change rather than short-term fixes. 

If you want to talk about building a high-performing change management organization together, reach out to us.

By Vanja Stojiljković Cakić
Founder & COO


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