Projects versus business change?

What is the difference between a project and business change?

projects and change

projects and change

A lot of organisations use projects to deliver business change; whereas the most practiced change management method in the US (prosci) shows how to add business change to projects. So either a project delivers change (as most organisations want it to) or it doesn’t (which is where prosci make their money)? Is there a difference?

I propose that a project as practiced in most organisations delivers things to an organisation and not usually business change (see our earlier posting on small change projects). Whereas a business change delivers benefits to stakeholders in the business. Note I am careful to say the benefits go to stakeholders, not the business as an abstract concept. If an organisation needs to change the individuals in the organisation need to be motivated to change and that means they need to see the benefits.

A project methodology, such as PRINCE2® or APM, specifically focus on delivering products (things) rather than change. They do support the preparation of a business case and concede the need to deliver benefits, eventually, but they stop when the products have been accepted by the client.

Business change is about people in the business changing their behaviours so that the organisation becomes more efficient, or more effective, or both. Usually the exact behaviour changes depend on the delivery of new processes, technology, information, and/or skills from projects.

There should be a symbiotic relationship between projects and business change. Prosci try to show how it could work, without really addressing the issue of what needs to change in the project world. The project world thinks the answer is a programme method (such as Managing Successful Programmes) so they don’t have to deal with it.

We believe there are two things we can do to bring projects and change together:

  1. Use a business case for change to drive a project. This then defines the success of the project in terms of successful change — delivering the benefits described in the business case, for the costs in the business case, in the timescale in the business case.
  2. Train project staff and change staff in similar skills with a focus on change. This way both teams see the same end goal.

See our project management overview course to get the idea. We have short courses in risk management, stakeholder engagement, benefits management, and people change that are designed for both project staff and change managers. They are shared techniques and can be learned in a shared environment. Training is an ideal environment to encourage a shared view between those involved in projects and those involved in change.

PRINCE2® is a registered trade mark of the Cabinet Office in the UK and other countries.



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