Success! The day has finally arrived to implement your technology project and, as the project manager, you are feeling good. You mentally review the highlights of the presentation you're planning to give to the project sponsor:

  • Scope – all requirements have been met and tested, and everything works as designed. Check.
  • Schedule – the Go Live Date has been hit. Check.
  • Budget (Cost) – an even better story, since you're 5% under. Check plus.

You deliver your presentation, which goes well - the project team, immediate project stakeholders, and project sponsor are all pleased.

And then, it happens -- user resistance.\ Not all at once, and not necessarily too loudly at first or even communicated directly to the project team, but users are not happy about the launch of the new system, and complaints are growing. The talk at the water cooler is that the project is a failure, and even worse, anticipated efficiencies and cost savings are not being realized. The sponsor is becoming increasingly concerned both by the growing number of complaints, and the negative perception of the project throughout the company. Based on your metrics, the project has been successful, but even you are having a hard time telling the sponsor that, despite what users are saying, "The new system is working as designed." Fortunately, you and your project team have been staffed to stay on for several weeks to provide general support, but what was anticipated to be a fairly light schedule after a solid project is now looking like long hours, lots of firefighting, re-training, and ad hoc communications.

In terms of classic project management, measuring a project's success using scope, schedule, and budget metrics is a widely accepted practice. Furthermore, even when project managers expand their project assessments to include Quality, Resources, and Risk, this often still ignores what is commonly referred to as the "people side of change." In other words, project management metrics can be short-sighted, overlooking the fact that, like it or not, the perceptions of real-live human beings are a part of the project's success. A Gartner study underscores this point. Of the top five reasons projects fail, the first four involve classic project management issues, such as scope (specifically incorrect requirements) and late delivery. However, the fifth reason, "The system worked but the users would not use it," is directly related to individual and organizational change management, which is often considered outside of a project manager's area of concern.

A broader framework, as reflected by PROSCI's Project Change TriangleTM, includes (along with Project Management) the need to focus on project Leadership and Change Management as equal contributors to a project's success.

This approach incorporates an expanded set of metrics, such as change readiness assessments of key sponsors and stakeholders, pre- and post- training skills assessments, and post roll-out end-user acceptance surveys. This enables project managers to track and manage, along with traditional project metrics, stakeholder perceptions and capabilities in order to gauge the overall health of the project itself.

Project Managers who ignore the change management aspects of their projects, either through lack of direct oversight or failure to staff the project with dedicated change management resources, do so at their own peril.