Why you need a portfolio change manager

by Tiffany Paczek
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Can every project be considered a change project? KAREN SKILLINGS says when it comes to a technology project the answer is yes.

Dependent on the type of project, the team assigned could have different work streams and call upon various subject matter experts (SMEs). But it’s important to get the right team together.

In workplace change projects, you may find the team consists of the following: Project Control Group (PCG), project director and work streams for change, fitout, IT, operations and facilities.

In technology change projects you may find the project team consists of some of the same executive leaders in roles, such as PCG and project director, but it may now include stakeholders from business and governance, business analysis, project management, IT security and risk, IT strategy and Infrastructure, IT service delivery and IT operations – to name a few.

While the team make-up is ultimately dependent on the structure of the business in which you are working, this example identifies that technology projects in particular can have highly technical people working together, that don’t always know how to make connections to the stakeholders. Indeed, stakeholder engagement may not be their strong suit.

This is where they need a portfolio change manager. This is the person who will involve, consult, collaborate, empower and inform the business.

In the beginning of the project (Phase 1 – Assessment and Concept), the portfolio change manager will work through engagement options and key objectives, diving deeply into:

  • stakeholders
  • level of engagement
  • proposed method of engagement
  • timing
  • resources
  • responsibility
  • key messages to communicate, and
  • managing risk.

From this diagnostic work, the portfolio change manager will develop a communications and engagement plan to ensure the right information gets to the right people at the right time.

Once this plan is signed off by the leadership team, there is documentation as to the approach of how steps will be undertaken and future state activities. If the executive team, project sponsor or project team have concerns about anything in the plan or the approach suggested, this is the time to question it – and fix it. From there the portfolio change manager can get to work on understanding any complexities of the project. Then they will start on their change and communications plan.


Phase 1: Assessment/Concept

The portfolio change manager doesn’t have a role in assessment, but they do in concept. Assessment is completed by the delivery work streams responsible for business and governance, project management and, perhaps, IT strategy and architecture. These stakeholders are working on idea, project profile and concept summary.

Rather, the portfolio change manager comes in for the concept, starting the business change impact assessment and work with the project manager on stakeholder analysis. The business change impact assessment is a tool that determines how wide the ‘ripple effect’ of the project will be. These ripples are typically operational, technical, financial and people.

Phase 2 – Planning AKA Initiate

Regardless of what type of project a change manager may be working on, their mandate is to enable greater collaboration between people, demonstrate and simplify any new process or culture and cast a watchful eye over the connections of the project team itself with the internal stakeholders and outside business community.

In Phase 2, they will develop the organisational change approach and plan, and business readiness assessment in conjunction with the project manager. They’ll work closely with this person and report to them frequently on:

  • employee engagement and monitoring of project inbox
  • team engagement
  • risk in schedule stability
  • senior leader engagement
  • change freeze
  • managing change to scope, and
  • change management communications.

Some of the activities undertaken here may include: user acceptance testing, translation of the business requirements into a communications plan, training strategy and training plan, review of existing processes and definition of the business, functional, non- functional and data requirements.

Here, the portfolio change manager is managing connections and how things converge. They are seeking out contingencies across all platforms and explaining how the change works in the environment.

Phase 3 – Executing the change plan AKA deliver and deploy

The work completed in Phase 2 is now executed. This may include:

  • applying the appropriate training strategies for the education of stakeholders, both technical and non-technical personnel
  • implementation of the new solutions, and
  • harnessing vendor relationships.

Phase 4 – Finalise AKA operate

The portfolio change manager has completed the stakeholder engagement, ensured connections have been made across the business, ensured contingencies across platforms and environments were developed and upheld, and carefully controlled engagement to ensure expectations were appropriately managed and that consultation was genuine.


Lessons learned

In conjunction with the program manager, the portfolio change manager may facilitate an end-of-project lessons learned session to link the project plan and charter with the project deliverables. This is an opportunity to measure the achievement, promote knowledge management for future ventures, and report to the PCG that specific project outcomes have been accomplished.

A role in taking the technology process change and normalising it

In Phase 3 or even Phase 4 (usually, Phase 4!) the business analyst is preparing the documentation set required to pass the new technical environment/facilities delivered under the project to business-as-usual operations. Dependent on the scale of project, availability of willing help and time, it can be the portfolio change manager’s role to work with the business analyst to include building a plan around how to meet those criteria.

The business analyst output at this stage may be the completion of any operation manuals. Operational processes need to be defined and put in place so that all stakeholders and vendors understand the access process, and workflow of access authorisation.

It can be the portfolio change manager’s role to make sure these operational processes and the operational handover of the facilities are understood, documented and agreed across relevant business units. They may also be involved in managing the induction processes for stakeholders, vendors and third parties, and translating in plain language any changes in knowledge, skills and environment.

If you are interested in what else is going on in this project (the project will remain anonymous, but it is real!), check out the Change Roadmap, which is another of my free journals available for you and your project team on my website. You will also hear about some of the challenges that change managers face in workplace, technology and change release programs every day.

I look forward to next time taking you through Phase 4 in the Accommodation Life cycle ‘the design phase’. ●

Karen Skillings is the principal of Skillings Education and an expert in information management, change management and relocations. An accomplished author, she has several publications to her name and has developed nationally-recognised training programs.

This article also appears in the June/July issue of Facility Management magazine.

Image: 123RF’s Galina Peshkova © 123RF.com

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