What’s difference between project management and change management?

What’s difference between project management and change management?

Change management and project management are often thought to be the same thing. They aren’t. Here’s how they differ.

Project management involves the use of people, processes and methodologies to plan, initiate, execute, monitor and close activities. It is designed to meet an organization's project goals, and hopefully overall strategic objectives.

Change management, similar to project management, involves people, processes, and tools to effectively help organizations manage all the changes that occur, whether as a result of project initiatives, or other factors that might impact the business.

While project management and change management are two areas often work side-by-side -- and they should -- there are some similarities. However, these are different disciplines. Think about project management in the example of software development and implementation. A project manager works with a project team to plan, communicate and execute the actual development and implementation itself. A change manager will work with the same project management team to identify, communicate, and effectively manage all aspects relating to how any changes will ultimately impact all stakeholders.

Characteristics of Project Management

Project management should enable strategy and is a formalized and well documented discipline guided by a formal project management body of knowledge (PMBOK). There is a defined start end date for each project that includes tasks, milestones and final deliverables as well as formally identified processes and agreed to requirements and goals. Project management typically involves the implementation of a product or service.

Characteristics of change management

Change management, while increasingly becoming a highly recognized and documented area, doesn't involve a formalized set of guidelines and processes like PMBOK. There is no start and end date, and no set formal tasks or milestones. The change management processes can vary, despite goals. This discipline manages only the impact of changes that result of organizational and PM activities, and involves the implementation of strategies to deal with change (sustainability aspects).

What does a project manager do?

A PM leads projects from initiation to close, to ensure stakeholder objectives are met with success, and facilitates meetings between team members, company leadership, stakeholders, vendors, and other relevant parties. The project manager maintains communication relating to project activities with all stakeholders and is responsible for ensuring projects remain within scope. Their project management knowledge and experience is used to help sponsors, team members and other stakeholders to effectively collaborate and make more informed decisions. They work with the company leadership to ensure projects are aligned with overall business strategies and to ensure project risks are mitigated and negative impact to project stakeholders are minimized. Ultimately, project managers play the role of facilitator and leader for project activities.

What does the change manager do?

A change manager guides, communicates, documents and implements strategies to effectively manage changes that assist company leadership, employees and other stakeholders transition better during times of change. They aid in the process adoption and buy-in, reducing resistance when changes occur, and in essence play the role of liaison and advocate for the business activities. They also maintain a strong focus on the people and how changes impact them to ensure business risks are mitigated and the impact to people within the company is minimized.

Why is the role of change management within an organization necessary?

Globally, significant amounts of time and resources are poured into project initiatives annually. While projects help companies accomplish strategic goals, they don't fully address the impact to people and processes within organizations as a rule. Once projects have been completed, there is the inevitably of an impact to existing processes as well as individuals. It's important to remember while project teams and key stakeholders may be involved from start to finish, there are many other individuals that aren't, yet are impacted by the project outcome.

These individuals may struggle as a result of a significant amount of anxiety and resistance. This can create a lack of buy-in, in addition to confusion about what's changed and what it means to them in terms of how they do their jobs. It may even lead them to question their future and make them wonder if it will impact their employment with the company. This is where a change management professional can play a vital role in smoothing this transition, relieving stress and helping employees through the changes, increasing the chances of buy-in. While there may be some overlap between project managers and change managers this, to a great extent, is external to the role of a PM.

How to project managers and change managers work together?

When projects are initiated, they create a significant amount of undue stress on stakeholders and employees in general. While project managers maintain complete focus on overall project objectives with the goal of ensuring stakeholder value, change management professionals should not only attend project meetings, but also be an integral part of the project team. Collaborating provides a holistic approach to strategy and ensures the impact to people within the organization can be sufficiently addressed, to reduce unnecessary stress and anxiety, and also create a smooth transition in terms of processes and acceptance levels not only during the project phases, but long after the project is complete.

Overall, organizations should encourage change management professionals and project managers to work closely together to ensure project efforts and the resulting change are sufficiently addressed to reduce the impact on its people and level of product and service delivery.

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