The value of business change management in projects

Advances in Project Management Series


By Nicola Busby

United Kingdom


It is an exciting time to be working in business change. Over the past few years interest in the profession has increased exponentially. Organisations who still struggle to realise the expected benefits of their changes, despite increasingly sophisticated project frameworks, are exploring its potential as the missing link to success. Job vacancies for business change managers are on the increase. The role itself is professionalising with representation from at least two global bodies, each of which has developed a change management Body of Knowledge. There are a number of accredited training and development paths for those who wish to enter and progress in the field. Alongside this are a wealth of consultancies who can support organisations going through change with bespoke approaches, methodologies, philosophies and frameworks. There is a lot of investment in business change right now.

My years of work, training and research in business change management leaves me convinced that the only way to introduce successful change into organisations is through a concentrated focus on the people involved. Therefore, I am thrilled about the increased interest in business change management. However, the rapid development of the profession is beginning to resemble a Chinese dragon – a small head at the front with a very long tail trailing along behind. The trailblazers are coming up with more and more sophisticated approaches, terminologies and frameworks for business change whilst a large percentage are struggling to keep up.

This means that many of those who should be benefitting from the increased investment in business change remain largely in ignorance about what business change management can achieve, or hold outdated assumptions about what it is and what it does. This seems to be true of both those working in organisations, which are experiencing change, and those working in the field of change itself – in the world of projects and programmes. Even business change managers don’t always seem to be fully aware of how powerful their role can be, and how they are often the key to successful organisational change.

One common situation where people struggle is how to utilise business change management within projects. Most project managers expect to undertake some stakeholder engagement and communications as part of their role. In fact, project management best practice, training qualifications and bodies of knowledge are increasingly being revised to include people aspects of change. So, how and why can a business change manager add value to a project?

The scope of business change management in a project

There are generally three things to focus on in a project, as shown by the diagram below:


The object of the change is the thing that is changing. This could be anything from a software upgrade to a new target operating model, or a focus on a new customer segment.

The associated activities are the things that people will need to do differently to work with the object of the change successfully.

The people involved in the change. For change to be successful, every individual required to plan, make decisions and implement the change needs to be supportive and contribute effectively. Every user affected by the change needs to make the decision to participate and make the effort to do things differently. These are the areas which are the domain of the business change manager.

Organisational change is tough. It can be contentious, emotive, unpopular and sheer hard work. By its very nature, change often disturbs deep rooted values and cultures. It rarely benefits everyone it touches and often raises the tensions and insecurities which bubble just below the surface of many organisations. It is in these situations that business change managers really add value. They can build desire for change, overcome resistance, increase involvement and ownership and make people feel more positive about the change.


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Editor’s note: The Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books previously published by Gower in UK and now by Routledge worldwide. Information about Routledge project management books can be found here.

About the Author

Nicola Busby

United Kingdom


Nicola Busby
is an experienced business change professional who is passionate about the benefits that business change management can bring to organisations and staff going through change. She has supported many organisations in the private, public and non-profit sectors through a wide variety of change, including:

  • organisational transformations, restructures and mergers
  • IT-enabled change
  • cultural and behavioural change
  • building organisational capacity to deliver change

Nicola’s clients have included Penguin Random House, Houses of Parliament, Financial Ombudsman Service, National Childbirth Trust, BBC, ITV, Network Rail, and Kent County Council.

Nicola is an accredited trainer for the APMG Change Management qualification, and authored a chapter on Change Readiness, Planning and Measurement for the set text for the course, ‘The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook’.

Nicola’s latest book, ‘The Shape of Change: a guide to planning, implementing and embedding organisational change’, is published by Routledge and available now.

Nicola blogs at Business Change Enthusiasts.