Dealing with organizational resistance

While I’m no project/portfolio management expert, I do know a thing or two about common issues that people tend to encounter in this industry, particularly when rolling out a Project Server implementation. One relatively big issue is organizational resistance. You make this big investment in Project Professional and Project Server, because you know it’s what’s best for your business, and then, once you roll it out across the company, you hear little complaints coming in…”I don’t want to fill out timesheets,” “my Excel spreadsheet is working fine for me, I don’t want to learn a new tool,” and so on. No surprises there…the learning curve is steep for the tool itself, and for the formal process you’re trying to implement. We know that, you knew it when you rolled it out, no big shocker. So given all that, what can you do to ease the transition and help avoid the inevitable pushback from the people you’re asking to use this new solution?

Again I have to emphasize that I’m no expert, so I’m sure many of you out there have more informed suggestions that I hope you’ll share in comments on this blog post. I can, however, offer these suggestions, gleaned from a decade of documenting project and portfolio management software solutions:

  • Set some expectations. When you tell your organization that you’re going to roll out Project Server, that’s not going to mean the same thing to everyone. Some may have no idea what to expect, while others may have had previous experience with Project Server, or may have heard about other implementations and challenges that their peers in other companies have encountered. Be specific about what Project Server means for your organization. It may mean people will be filling out timesheets for the first time. It may mean project managers will have a more formal reporting structure. By communicating these expectations before Project Server is actually rolled out, you’re giving people a chance to let the ideas bake, voice their concerns, and get some clarity on what these expectations really mean for them.
  • Explain the benefits. Personally, I think this one is (arguably, of course) the single most important way you can prepare your organization and avoid some of that rollout pushback. Think of it this way…you’re rolling out Project Server, and for the first time, you’re asking full-time salaried employees to fill out hours spent on tasks in a timesheet. Something some of your employees may not have done since their summer jobs as fry cooks during high school. People are going to complain, not fill them out, and get their hours in late every week. That’s just the nature of rolling out timesheets. (Did I really just say all of that out loud?) But if you tell them WHY you want them to fill out timesheets (because it helps to accurately predict how much time will be needed for tasks in future projects, for one), and what benefit it offers THEM (maybe it means fewer status meetings with managers, or more evidence of getting work done on time or early come annual review time, that sort of thing), you’re bound to encounter less resistance. I’m not saying people won’t complain, because they will, but at least this way they might be less inclined to complain as loudly.
  • Provide training. The reality is that for many people, Project client and Project Server are really difficult to learn. Even just pointing them to resources like the Up to speed video series or the Project Map can be enough to ease some of the anxiety about learning a new tool. If you can afford full-on in-person training, even better. The more prepared your teams are, the more successful your EPM solution will be.

These are just a few suggestions for ways you can prepare your organization for what’s to come. I’d love to hear other suggestions, or pointers to resources you find helpful in preparing organizations for new Project Server rollouts. What are your thoughts?

Comments (2)

  1. think0rdie says:

    But I think the usability of Actual Work input grid of PWA 2007 is clearly worse than that of PWA 2002.

    This kind of functionality ‘downgrade’ is one of the biggest triggers of organizational resistance.

    I don’t want to blame my colleages when they resist and complain about the upgrade of Project Server.

    Microsoft engineers should be humble enough to accept that their latest version is NOT always the best product.

  2. STAGE the benefits — PS2007 is complex enough, make sure you roll out features at a rate that matches your orgnanizations agility, evolution, and abilty to change.  Resource utilization and portfolio management can be overkill for less developed practice areas.

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