Business Representatives at a Design Workshop

How a business-centric change management approach delivered positive project outcomes for Yarra Valley Water
M-L Han
Publication Date (Web): 3 November 2016

With often-massive investments made by businesses when implementing new information technology (IT) systems, there’s an ever-increasing interest in successful IT projects. This paper shares the lessons learnt from a successful IT implementation, and how a business-centric change management approach delivered positive project outcomes. 

In 2012, Yarra Valley Water’s (YVW) asset management system was no longer effectively delivering on business requirements. After 12 years, it had reached the end of its operational life. In response, the Improving Infrastructure Management Systems (I2MS) project was initiated to deliver a new asset management system. 

The business was aware that in any organisation, large IT projects were notorious for running significantly over-budget and over-time. Additionally, while end users were frustrated with existing systems, they had a high level of familiarity and knowledge with them. As the organisation had been through several significant change programs over the last few years, another key challenge was the potential for change-fatigue and information-overload. 
To overcome these challenges, YVW committed to being truly business-centric in its approach. Underlining this principle was that the project was owned and driven by the business. Staff were not passive recipients of the new system, rather they were its driving force and ultimate benefactors.

While several change management activities were implemented, four key success factors were most impactful:

  1. Creating business ownership (business-driven, not project-driven) 
    Committed available and visible Executive Sponsor;
    Significant and consistent involvement by YVW staff throughout project;
    Half project team consisted of on-project YVW staff member.
  2. Building a positive project culture that aligned with the organisational culture
    Culture-fit a key selection criteria when selecting implementation partners;
    Alignment workshop with senior project influencers to define what an exceptional outcome for the project would look like;
    ‘One team’ approach for the project team
  3. Communicating to engage end users
    Giving the new system a persona that end users could connect with (“Meet Max”);
    Using engaging and fun communications (Max comic strip);
    Conveying key messages in a light-hearted and appealing manner.
  4. Focusing on business outcomes
    Rather than focusing on a project-centric Go Live date, communications focused on a ‘fully operational’ milestone (when the business was operating at a capacity similar to the existing system).


I2MS was delivered on time and within expected budget. Additionally, the organisation was able and prepared to cope with the peak summer period, a key success factor for the organisation. The project was awarded the Smart Infrastructure Project Award (National Infrastructure Awards) recognising excellence in the design, delivery and use of smart infrastructure. Nine months post-implementation, the organisation administered the Human Synergistic’s Organisational Cultural Inventory survey. Results indicated the area most impacted by the change showed significant cultural improvements from their 2013 results. For an IT project of its size and magnitude, this was an exceptional outcome for the organisation.


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