? IT project management: internal communication
SEEOcta

SEEOcta – Successful and Purposeful Communication with Staff

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Project Management: Staff

SEEOcta is a holistic consulting approach for project leaders and managers of a company that wants to introduce IT systems within a project.  A key component in the success of an IT project are the staff.  However, in order for employees to be able and willing to fully contribute to the success of a project, three factors play an essential role: communication, change management and training. This post will be looking at communication.

The SEEOcta blog series highlights the eight most important perspectives for successful project management. Discover all the areas you need to consider when planning digitalization and integration projects in your company. Armed with the ideas and knowledge in the articles, you will have a solid foundation for planning your IT project and a guide to help you ensure that no one gets left behind.

What is SEEOcta? In our introductory blog post, you will get an overview of the strategic orientation of a company when implementing IT projects. This post is the first part of a series looking at SEEOcta from an employee perspective: from which communication plays an essential role.

The introduction of an IT project always includes change management.And the impacts of change spread in several directions. They certainly affect the processes which the IT project aims to improve. However, change has an even stronger impact on people.  And this is not just on the people directly affected by the change, but also on those involved in the change process.

The Standish Group, an independent IT consultancy with over three decades of experience in IT project management, has studiedwar around 40,000 individual projects and has published both the success and failure factors it has found in regular ʽCHAOS reportsʼ. They have come to the following conclusion:

 

Success factors in IT projects

Figure 1: Success factors in IT projects[1]

Two thirds of the whole IT project’s success depends on its people and the way in which you involve your employees. To this end, we’ve given the factor ʽstaffʼ a particularly prominent position in the SEEOcta series.

Staff perspective in SEEOcta
Figure 2: Staff perspective in SEEOcta

Communication should play a key role when introducing new IT projects

The introduction of new IT processes involves change at many different levels in an organisation. Processes which have evolved over a longer period of time are reconsidered, completely redefined, or simply done away with. The whole organisational structure is made to fit these new requirements and circumstances. However, requiring staff to let go of old habits and to learn a new way of working can lead to uncertainty, and even complete resistance.  In order to promote a good attitude towards an IT project among your staff, clear communication alongside consistent change management is essential.

  • Clearly communicate the advantages of the changes to your employees. This can help them to accept or even embrace them.
  • Identify the key users in your company and give them the right information at the right time to increase willingness and acceptance among staff.
  • Start by working on status and hierarchy thinking. An improvement benefits the entire company. The stronger the cohesion in an organisation, the greater the willingness to engage with the process.
  • Use these methods to increase acceptance for the higher workload in the initial project phase. This is the phase where, for example, paper-based and digital processes need to run simultaneously. Employees who understand that such transition phases are unavoidable, are more willing to help ensure that this phase is dealt with fast and smoothly.
  • Have the backs of your key users and provide the necessary space and conditions for them to do their jobs well. This will allow them to prioritise the tasks they need.

Continuous, consistent change management alongside clear communication are significant factors in successfully introducing a new IT project. The correlation between productivity and well-managed change is clearly illustrated in figure 3.

Change management and productivity

Figure 3: Change management and productivity[2]

Through close cooperation between the project lead and the key users, you can start gaining insights in the preparatory phase as to what positive and negative effects an IT project will have on employees’ everyday work, and how high their acceptance is of these changes. And in general, acceptance tends to be low or even non-existent. This is why it is so important to clearly communicate the purpose and the advantages of the project, underlining the desired results of the project. Only in this way can you increase the likelihood of your staff accepting the project.

There are three further factors which significantly contribute to your employees helping to carry an IT project along. And these factors revolve around basic personal needs that we all have, namely:

  • Security
    Reassure your staff that the changes resulting from the project are not going to threaten their positions.
  • Appreciation
    Involve your employees and make them feel that they are making a significant contribution to the project.
  • Personal prospects
    Offer your employees new opportunities to grow, such as the prospect of new tasks or areas of responsibility.

Intelligent communication – the impact and benefits of the IT project

How can you successfully reassure your staff that their needs are being met? Through good, targeted communication.  However, ʽstaff‘ should not be viewed here as a single, homogenous unit. It is instead helpful to create target groups, based on company structures, to communicate how the new project will impact and benefit those particular employees. As can be seen in the figure below, the various communication measures at your disposal have different levels of reach and consequently different impacts on changing employee behaviour. However, what is also clear is that committed managers make a significant contribution to promoting acceptance for a new project through targeted communication

impact/reach of communication measures

Figure 4: impact/reach of communication measures[3]

Create a communication plan for targeted change management

As already mentioned, staff shouldn’t be viewed as a homogenous group. Instead, employees make up several target groups, from corporate and divisional management to departments, units, key users and multipliers and employees/users in the individual departments. The communication channels which can be used to reach the various target groups are illustrated in figure 4 in the context of their impact and reach. When creating a communication plan, you need to decide which target group should be addressed through which medium in order to

  • Clearly and transparently communicate project goals, current status, the next steps and who is responsible for these.
  • Communicate the benefits of the IT project
  • Build a relationship of trust.

Once you have defined the relevant target groups, the information they need and the communication channels available, your communication plan can be planned in detail:

  • What information does each target group need?
  • What communication options do we have at our disposal?
  • Which communication channel should be used to communicate which goals in which project phase to which target group?

This communication plan can take the form of a simple chart, as shown in figure 5:

MeasureInformation on project progress
Project phaseInformation gathering / main survey
Target group/sEmployees at department level
MediumCircular
Content
  • Project aims
  • Results from the preliminary survey
  • The way forward
Whenw/c DD/MM/YYYY
Recipient’s time5 minutes
Who to doProject lead
Figure 5: An example of a communication plan[4]

A successfully managed project needs well planned, focussed communication with staff.

Comprehensive communication management is essential in complex IT projects. Clearly defining needs and providing information to meet those needs ensures more transparency for all involved. To this end, your communication plan plays a central role in ensuring that relevant information regularly flows between those involved in a project at any level. In today’s economy, a well-organised communication concept is a deciding factor in the success of a project.

Two further factors relating to staff in the SEEOcta approach play a decisive role in the success of an IT project: change management and staff training. You can read about these in our blog posts.

With 35 years experience in designing, consulting on and implementing IT projects, the SEEBURGER Consulting team has been able to support over 10,000 customers worldwide in planning and rolling out new IT projects.

This post is part of the SEEOcta series. Look at our blog category SEEOcta or use the search term SEEOcta to find further interesting posts on launching a new IT project.


[1] Based on ‟Warum IT-Projekte ohne Changemanagement scheitern” by Ingo Sauer in UPLOAD Magazin, November 2016

[2] Figure taken from BMI Organisationskonzept elektronische Verwaltungsarbeit – Projektleitfaden  Page 18, based on IBM Making Change Work Studie 2017, Page 6

[3] Figure taken from BMI Organisationskonzept elektronische Verwaltungsarbeit – Projektleitfaden Page 19, based on Berner, Methoden der Veränderung, https://www.umsetzungsberatung.de/methoden/methoden.php

[4] Source: BMI Organisationskonzept elektronische Verwaltungsarbeit – Projektleitfaden

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Andres Mathot

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Andres Mathot has been working for SEEBURGER AG as an e-invoicing expert since 2015. As a customer contact for SEEBURGER e-invoicing solutions, he is responsible for consulting, planning, implementing, monitoring, testing and signing off implementation projects. Working together with our customers, he defines a customer‘s e-invoicing needs and how to best implement them, whether cloud-based or on-premises, for both incoming and outgoing invoices.