A lifecycle has defined start and end points together with intermediate stages. In the case of a product lifecycle, this covers the process of managing all the stages of a product’s life from the original concept through design and manufacture to service and disposal. Investment can take place at any point during the cycle in order to lengthen the life of a product.

In the IT world, there is a similar concept known as the systems development lifecycle. This starts with the analysis of requirements and ends with the maintenance of the system. A systems development lifecycle typically goes through the stages of analysis, design, build, test and implementation. Following the implementation, the system moves into operation and needs to be maintained for the life of the system. The systems development lifecycle focuses on the introduction of a new system and does not directly emphasize the business change and all the components needed to make the business change successful.

A new five stage business change lifecycle has been developed. The first stage of strategic alignment clarifies the business and the IT goals while the final stage is when the benefits from the change have been delivered or assured.  Intermediate stages relate to the development of an integrated business solution.  The five stages are described in the book IT Enabled Business Change and shown below.

IT-Enabled Business Change: Successful Management

Align Business and IT Goals

A key outcome of this stage is that the organization aligns its goals with the external environment. Changes to the environment can lead to new ways of doing business within the organization. Illustrative change drivers arise from a variety of sources such as a new government regulation or the need to respond to a competitive action. These drivers lead to a proposal for business change being put forward. IT may be an external driver such as emerging mobile technology or there may be an internal IT driver such as the desire to standardize on a particular IT platform to reduce costs and enable information sharing.

Define Business Improvement

Based on the broad proposal for change, the business context is investigated in order to identify a series of options and recommendations for the way forward. As a result of this process, a change project is identified that covers many different elements including process, people, information and technology. IT is therefore one enabler for the improvement. For example, a new IT call centre system may be combined with a telesales operation to reduce selling in person. This implies a strong focus on the people component, with new skills and behaviours required in the call centre. Benefits and costs of change are confirmed by developing a business case.

Design Business Change

The business change product, derived through an integrated solution, is designed and developed in this stage. Specific deliverables from this stage include the design elements required of the business change product. These might for example, be a set of revised business processes, information analytics, new IT software and a training programme. Each of these components covering process, information, people and technology needs to work in harmony. In the case of a new call centre system, the change will not work without the IT software but neither will it be effective if the other components are not effective.

Implement Business Change

Implementation of the business change needs a great deal of emphasis on understanding the people who influence or are affected by the change, known as the stakeholders. It is important that the receivers of the solution accept and adapt their ways of working to the new business operation. Hence, an effective communications plan is an important tool to support the buy-in to the revised procedures. Acquisition or development of a new or updated IT system needs to be carefully managed to avoid disruption. Often data needs to be migrated from old to new systems. There is an associated risk factor given that data quality problems may occur in the transition.

Deliver Business Benefits

IT is often the enabler of change, but it is the business managers who deliver the benefit. This perspective requires us to adopt a different approach to the planning and running of projects involving IT investment. Achieving the planned benefit is the overriding concern. This will not happen until the business changes made possible by the implementation of the IT system are effected leading to the delivery of the benefits.

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All content @ 2009 by Barry Shore and Sharm Manwani of Managing Business Change