Organisations predict big change ahead, but project failure still a significant threat, shows survey

London, Edinburgh, Dublin & New York - 7 December 2015

Xceed Group’s Big Change Survey shows US companies more likely to embrace change programmes than those in Europe, and that Clarity of Purpose and Scope is the top determining factor in project success or failure

Xceed Group, a leading IT management consultancy helping customers transform and migrate technology, today released the results of its global ‘Big Change’ survey, which gathered the informed opinions of professionals experienced in IT transformation initiatives, across the US and Europe. 

During summer 2015, Xceed Group ran the global ‘Big Change’ research project to find out more about what supports and what hinders change projects such as large scale migrations and the move to the cloud. The survey polled 240 business project and programme managers, leaders, and sponsors across the EU and the US, from finance, IT, energy and utilities, professional services, media and retail sectors. The full survey results are available here.

The results reveal some significant headlines around organisational change projects. For example, nearly half of respondents feel that fewer than half of technology change initiatives have, in their experience, been successful. Only 18% of respondents felt that 80% or more of the change projects they had been involved in had been successful.

The report also highlighted differences in the perceptions of successful change implementation rates between the US and Europe. The majority of US respondents reported that 51-60% of change initiatives had been successful whereas the European majority selected just 21-30% – half the success rate.

A history of project failure sits uncomfortably within an industry that has already gone through and will continue to pursue rapid change, indicated by the 93% of all respondents who feel that technology projects are set to increase.

“Organisations need to be able to adapt and innovate in order to succeed in today’s fast-paced, ever-evolving business environment,” said Stuart Riley, Director at Xceed Group. “The ability to embrace change is vital to long-term business survival and growth, so the question has to be why do so many companies struggle to accept and implement effective change projects?”

Clarity of Purpose and Scope was defined by respondents as the top characteristic of successful change projects. Correspondingly, lack of Clarity of Purpose and Scope was defined as the top characteristic of failed change projects, reinforcing the importance of both. Communication also ranked in the top three both as a characteristic for successful and failed change projects. Respondents identified both Executive Sponsorship and Attitude and Mindset as critical characteristics of successful change.

The survey also highlighted some key differences between EU and US opinion. The results revealed that amongst companies and individuals alike, the US is about 25% more optimistic about change. 53% of EU respondents felt they “embraced” change, compared to 75% of their US counterparts. At the company level, 50% of US respondents identified their companies as “highly accepting of change”, compared with only 33% of EU respondents making the same identification.

“When we consider that ‘Resource-Attitude/Mind-set’ is the most significant ‘Resource’ factor to come out of the report, it would seem logical to conclude that creating a culture that embraces change is a key factor in a company’s ability to adapt and implement that change successfully,” stated Riley.

Both the majority of EU and US respondents agreed that the volume of technology driven change initiatives has increased, with 68% of US respondents saying initiatives had increased “greatly” and 54% of EU respondents also agreeing that change initiatives had increased “greatly”. A further 29% indicated they had increased “slightly.”    

“With the volume of projects dramatically increasing, and with predictions that this trend will only increase, why aren’t we getting better?” asks Riley. “That’s really the crux of this debate, and is what prompted Xceed Group to commission this research and identify what the crucial change management success factors really are.”

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