GEOG 871
Geospatial Technology Project Management

Change Management


Change Management

Change Management Context

The easiest way to control change of scope during a project would be to have no changes required. To this end, many organizations seek formal acceptance of the scope of a project from all interested stakeholders, a process called scope verification. This can work well if all stakeholders can be identified, and all of their potential needs documented. Important stakeholders, and the true clients of the project deliverables, are the end users. Special care should be taken to get input from team members and users, include stakeholders in scope definition, work closely with users during project execution, and query users upon delivery to improve future scoping work.

As the project progresses, additional work may be recognized that could be beneficial to GIS users but is not within the scope of the project. Although human nature often urges us to do the work because it is important, it is vital to keep the organization's and project's system boundaries in mind. The PMI uses the term, "gold plating", referring to a tendency to the addition of scope features to a project without any formal process to adjust tasks, resources, or schedule. This is a recipe for a failed project. There may be decisions to adjust scope during project execution (e.g., adding functionality features to a custom GIS application), but if this is done, formal changes to the project plan should be made and changes should be communicated to project stakeholders.

Additional work, agreed to by project stakeholders, can be included by formally changing the project scope/deliverables--along with changes to the schedule, budget, and team members assignments that are necessary to accomplish the revised scope. Change request forms can be used to redefine the scope, sometimes with corresponding changes in compensation and resources. Alternatively, a new project could be proposed by the client or GIS contractors to define and complete the additional work. In both cases, new system boundaries between the organizations have been drawn.

Change Management Explanation

"Change management" is a topic that may be considered a first cousin to "risk management". The term "risk management" is mainly used in project planning and management, whereas "change management" generally applies to overall programs. As described in Croswell, subsection 3.5, "change management" is defined as, "a structured approach to change in individuals, teams, organizations, and societies that enables the transition from a current state to a desired future state". There are two important perspectives for examining change in a GIS environment: a) Changes that impact a GIS program or project, AND b) Changes to the organization and its business processes that are induced by the adoption of GIS technology. Establishing effective change management practices first involves the identification of "change agents" and their sources. Change agents are events or conditions that exert change on a GIS program or project. As describe in Table 8-3 below, change agents may be internal to the organization or have an external source:

Table 8-3: Internal and External Change Agents
Internal Change Sources and Forces External Change Sources and Forces
  • Policies and strategy decisions from GIS governing authority
  • Executive decisions on organizational structure
  • Budget and fund allocation actions
  • IT and GIS policies and standards
  • Personnel actions resulting in changes to management or staff
  • Project conditions and events
  • Changing, expanding needs of the user community
  • Staff member problems and conflicts
  • Political environment (changes in political priorities and elected officials)
  • Mass media--broadcast or written news articles
  • Economic/Financial conditions
  • Technology changes
  • Disasters and emergencies
  • Personal and family circumstances of staff members
  • Disruption/Problems with contractors/suppliers

Successful change management works with project risk management to create an effective environment for identifying and handling changes to GIS projects and programs. This touches on a range of technical, organizational, and human resource issues. It means having plans put in place to respond positively to changes and, in many cases, to use GIS implementation as an opportunity to "force" worthwhile changes to programs and projects. An approach that addresses inherent inertia and resistance to change in many organizations and which looks at change as an opportunity for making improvements is ideal. Table 8-4 below lists some key ways to prepare for change and practices for effective change management.

Table 8-4: Preparation and Practices for Effective Change Management
Preparation for Effective Change Management Practices for Implementing/Managing Change
  • Well-defined strategic plan and goals for GIS program
  • Clear project plans
  • Formal program or project mandate (Charter, executive order, legislation)
  • Formal change management and risk management planning
  • Enterprise networking and organizational relationships
  • Staff training/professional development program
  • Project/program promotion and communication
  • Put in place sound project management practices
  • Establish organizational partnerships and resource sharing
  • Carry out ongoing monitoring of change/risk event triggers and indicators
  • Communication with staff and project teams (direct, personal communication)
  • Prepare plan for change and monitor progress
  • Engage senior management and sustain their support
  • Engage GIS users--ongoing monitoring of GIS use, satisfaction, and ideas for improvement
  • Strong, effective leadership

Changes that impact project scope, cost, and timing can rarely be avoided. The important thing is to recognize changes and take appropriate action--make necessary, formal changes to the project plan and resource allocation and communicate these changes to staff, management, and stakeholders.