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3 keys to integrating change management with project management

May 18, 2023 | Admin, Advisory Services, Change Management, Latest News

What would happen if you came across a genie in a bottle who granted your every wish? Just imagine receiving every opportunity or thing you could want all wrapped up in a big, fancy package, ready for you to open it up and enjoy? The problem is, it’s a BIG package, and the possibilities are a tad overwhelming. That’s how many of our customers feel after implementing Salesforce. That’s why pairing project management strategies with change management has been an essential and successful model for Simplus. 

First, let’s clarify the focus of both teams.


Project Management

As the technical component in this partnership, project management focuses on moving tools and processes from the current state, through transition, and reaching the new and improved state. Through a process that relies on analysis, design, and ultimately implementation and closure, the PM leads the technical team using tools to clarify the tasks, work structure, budget, resource allocation, implementation scheduling and tracking the progress. Not a whole lot of “feels” to it, is there? That’s why the role of change management is so important to the overall process. 


Change Management

Change management touches on the human side of this transition by preparing the client and end their end users for changes, reinforcing the value of this improved state, and ensuring employees use it. 


Where they intersect

Experts at Prosci describe the relationship like this, “Project management and change management both aim to increase the likelihood that projects or initiatives deliver the intended results and outcomes. Although each discipline can function independently, the most effective approach is to integrate change management and project management to create a unified approach to implementing change on both fronts.” 

Project management focuses on creating a superior technical solution, while change management focuses on working with the client to  create buy in, support, training, and adoption with end users.  If either team loses sight of their purpose, the messaging gets muddled and so does the customer. 

“Although they vary in terms of focus and approach,” explained change management expert Tim Creasey, “Each discipline is essential to moving your project and people from the transition state to the desired future state.” 

In some cases, the PM and CM teams work together but may not be truly integrated and that can affect the overall success of the project. You can develop the best solution in the world, or even cure cancer, but if no one uses it the solution can’t do the project’s intended purpose.  So, if you want effective PM/CM team integration, these three factors should be part of the process.


1. Be clear on each team’s approach to the common objective

Yes, PM and CM carry different roles, but they need to recognize how each role contributes to the common goal. Sometimes the customer responds to those approaches in different ways and both teams need to be able to understand those responses in order to anticipate the clients needs.  

Let’s face it. A new system in the workplace makes its presence known quickly, and some employees may find the changes overwhelming. When they see their outdated (yet cherished) workflow processes bite the dust, they may be more likely to voice those concerns to the team that isn’t currently tearing out their beloved spreadsheets software. This is when the CM team can explain the process from the PM team’s point-of-view, confirm why it’s happening, emphasize the benefits that lie in store for the end users, and encourage their engagement. When employees receive consistent information from both teams, their direct managers and understand the steps, they’ll be more invested. The result? A smooth and quick transition with higher adoption in the short and long term.


2. Provide a structured approach 

Using a structured process is standard practice for the Project Management team. Detailed deliverables are an essential resource for them and the customer to track progress, budget, schedules, etc. But when the CM team steps in to reinforce the value of these changes, now is not the time for vague, abstract strategies. Customers want (and have been accustomed to) specific, tangible, measurable information. 

For consistency, the CM team should present a structured plan and set of deliverables that lay out the implementation and reinforcement plan. At Simplus, we use an Individual Change Model, conduct a readiness assessment, devise a communications plan, and build a client sponsor roadmap. Then we follow up with a formal coaching plan, navigate through resistance management and training plans,follow up with reinforcement and adoption strategies. In this way, employees know what to expect, they have a contact to share feedback, the CM team stays on schedule, and employees can better prepare themselves for impending workflow changes. 


3. Understand that PM takes the lead but CM anchors the last lap

Although it may appear that the PM team does the heavy lifting in a system integrationwhat with all of the analysis and complex designsbut in order for the project to succeed, the change management role needs to be acknowledged as an important part of the project delivery process. While it’s easy to appreciate the work of the PM team, don’t overlook the value of change management. 

“Change management reduces the risk that a new system or other change will be rejected by the enterprise,” explains Bart Perkins, CIO contributor. “By itself OCM does not reduce costs or increase sales. Instead, it increases the teamwork required for the enterprise to accept the change and operate more efficiently.” 

A successful PM/CM team integration means the change management team understands the technical, analytical, and organizational side of project delivery. And the project management team understands that human nature can be unpredictable, and that it’s the responsibility of the CM team to encourage customers to welcome new workflow changes, abandon the old ways of doing tasks, and get excited for the new resources now at their disposal.  


By creating a unified balance of technical efficiency and “feel good” support, your clients will be better prepared to not only utilize but enjoy the features and capabilities of their new work system. Long term, successful PM and CM team build a culture of end user trust and participation in organizational initiatives. Thus, leading to more successful projects as well as increased user participation in future solution development. This will then lead to obtaining the goal any project aims for: beneficial change for the client organization, higher recognized efficiency and revenue. 



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