Expert Insights

Creating a business change function

In many organisations, business change programmes are managed by IT. But as Programme Manager Luke Evans argues, this can create a number of problems. He believes there’s a better way: and that’s to create a dedicated business change function.

With significant change often underpinned by new systems and processes, it’s easy to see why IT functions become responsible for change management programmes.

Luke Evans is an experienced programme manager. He believes some companies focus too much on the systems themselves and not enough on the wider delivery programme. As a result, IT often lacks the capability to really ensure major change happens successfully.

“Traditionally, discussions around change management would happen at board level and then once a vision is defined it’s handed over to IT to identify an IT solution,” he explains. “The problem with this is that the programme and project management function within IT are too far removed from those at the top; the function often lacks the capability to support those with the vision.”

Sometimes a company opts for two project managers: a business project manager and an IT one. But, Luke argues “having two people in charge is never a good idea, with a lack of clarity of roles, and responsibilities falling between the two.”

A blend of skills

The answer, he believes, lies in setting up a dedicated business change function – something we’re seeing more of. “You can have different structures for this function, but it’s important to have a range of abilities. When I was at Carphone Warehouse we had a blend of skills: programme and project management, process definition, business analysis, finance, business architecture and so on.”

Luke managed the business change function when the mobile phone retailer was going through a major change to unify the processes and systems of its nine European operations. “Without the separate business change function we would not have been capable of such widespread change,” he says. “Having everyone in one function gave us the capability to quickly identify and evaluate problems and work out the best way forward. Each of us would also work closely with different business functions to help them implement the change.

“One of the big advantages of a separate function is that you step out of the traditional model of customer-supplier relationship that IT is so often in. The business change team has the ability to ‘float’ between functions and those at the top. It can be at the table when initial decisions are being made; helping shape the brief at a really early stage. You’re on a much more equal footing.”

A clear vision

Before an organisation can set up a business change function, the sponsor – often the Chief Information Officer – has to have a clear vision that meets the needs of the business and full executive buy-in. Otherwise, the project will not be successful, regardless of who’s managing it.

It could be months or years before the programme is complete, so you have to deliver some quick wins and really show them the value your team is having.

Secondly, a new function has to gain credibility across the business. “It’s natural for there to be resistance to change and that can be challenging,” says Luke. “It could be months or years before the programme is complete, so you have to deliver some quick wins and really show them the value your team is having.” This is where good communication plays a vital role.

Thirdly, it’s vital to have the right people in the business change team with the right combination of skills. “You need a mix of technical abilities and those who can deal with the cultural side of change. At times you’ll also need specialist skills for certain projects, at which point it make sense to bring in external experts.

“Ultimately an established, clearly defined change function gives an organisation the capability to handle large-scale business change supported, rather than run by, IT. Change is not just about an IT system, it’s about efficiencies, better information, making things easier and quicker. Strategic change handled by a dedicated department gives you the power to make change happen.”


The benefits of a dedicated business change function:

  • A blend of key skills to implement large-scale change programmes
  • A fast, flexible and responsive team that isn’t solely focused on IT
  • A team that can operate at all levels, providing a true partnership at executive level

Luke Evans

Luke Evans has more than 15 years’ experience of project and programme management. He has delivered large-scale, successful programmes at a number of blue chip organisations.

Williams Bain

Williams Bain is a specialist interim management provider. We’re trusted by some of the UK’s largest organisations to support the implementation of complex strategies that accelerate results and lead to definitive, positive and measurable change.