Change management accompanies any project and it is advantageous to start it as early as possible. This usually involves planning around expectations and encouraging early adoption through exposure to what the final solution will be, or what differences it will make to the business. Whilst this is a good start, a more effective approach is a collaborative effort with the project development team. Specifically the production schedule and whether or not this can influence change management.
The business should tune in to production to look for change management opportunities and Project Managers should plan the order of deliverables to empower change management. Incremental delivery is a key aspect of the iterative approach to software production. When used effectively, agile techniques deliver usable products back to the organisation for early return on investment. This is known as incremental delivery. The implication here is that some sort of value can be realised by the business during the production process. This usually enables something to be initiated such as content population, or data entry. Training can occur for various parts of the final project, even if the entire project hasn’t been completed. It means time can be saved by bringing tasks forward. In the case of a shopping site, it can be launched without all the planned features; so long as a customer can browse and buy from the site it may as well be available. Managing and mastering simple versions of the final output also means easier acceptance.
There can be no return on the investment of incremental delivery without some sort of change, or often many changes. If the schedule can be crafted to allow for incremental delivery it has been priming change management. Only if the project really understands the business can it create a truly valuable incremental release plan.
Processes that are realised by production, such as workflows and content curation, should be created as soon as possible. This not only informs and drives incremental delivery; it brings the business into consideration by stimulating the change management process. The production schedule literally dictates to the organisation the readiness of the product for the commencement of change management.
Incremental development processes can also enable incremental change management. As details are available within the developed product, change management can be further refined. As change management evolves alongside the product the outcome of the change management process can be nothing less than perfectly aligned to the final deliverable for transition to the users.
Initiating change management too early into an immature part of a project can be disastrous however. The main risk is involving people in something that is treated as usable when in fact the way it will be used or the final features it may have ends up being significantly different to the what the expectations are when the change management process started. The optional time for change management to occur is as soon as something is usable or interpretable – practical in some way. This is the point when a sophisticated level of maturity has been realised within whatever is being incrementally delivered, and when the practical application, knowledge or processes associated with it won’t change when the entire project is completed.
Project Managers and other development participants can also offer insight into 'what usually pans out' after a project is delivered. They should have a good idea as an experienced team has usually delivered many similar projects with many positive and negative lessons learned. The producers of the product are usually pretty cluey about what happens with it when it is in operation. The business should ask the suppliers what to expect.
Early delivery of value and effective change management can only be achieved when production is considering the business and the business is considering production. When incremental delivery and change management are part of the same process, the benefits to the business are enormous.