Free Leader Guide: How to budget for change

change leadership project tools workday Sep 18, 2022

"I wasn’t involved in building the project budget. It was assumed our internal communications and training professionals would be able to support us, but after talking about the scope of the project, we now know that’s impossible. We don’t have a change line item in our budget. What’s the bare minimum we can spend?"

The short answer: 10 percent of your overall project budget should be allocated to change management.

Gartner recommends 15 percent. Start with 10 percent and use the following steps to fine-tune your budget by knowing exactly what you need, who's going to do it, and how hard it might be.



Building a change budget

These three steps will help you increase or decrease your target budget from the 10 percent benchmark. When you can ask for the exact services you need, your budget will be more accurate. 

Here are the three steps I use to prepare a change budget estimate for my clients: 

  1. A high-level change impact assessment of People, Processes and Technology 

  2. Account for available resources to support the change work effort

  3. The wild card: Culture. How hard is it going to be?



1. Holistic change: People, Processes and then Technology

Building a budget starts by understanding the change scope.

The most common scenario I see is organizations implementing new technology. What many fail to see is that the tech is the least important part of the change.

Process and policy alignment come first.

The people who perform each step in the process come next.

And lastly, the technology.

There are no shortcuts. Do not skip the work of documenting the Process and People change impacts. Even if your Technology implementor doesn't participate in those steps.

Skipping this work results in chaos at go-live. You will surprise stakeholders with new processes and meet resistance when policies have been changed without communication. Core system users won't understand their role or security access will be wrongly assigned. You'll hear the feedback "I didn't know I was supposed to do that now."

What are the big rocks you should be looking for in these three categories in order to build a budget?

I'll use a Workday HCM deployment as an example to illustrate high-impact changes.


  • Introducing employee and manager self-service (moving from paper to electronic transaction processing; shifting ownership to individuals vs. having HR do it for them)
  • Introducing a centralized employee service center to respond to support questions (sometimes requires Intranet overhaul and partnering with IT on a service ticketing system)
  • Establishing Centers of Excellence within HR. These experts often serve on the project team to design business processes. These individuals become the go-to SMEs for the rest of HR.
  • Broader data and analytics capabilities. This is particularly important for HR in shifting from a reactive transaction-oriented role within the organization to one that uses data to proactively address business issues. Leaders who have greater visibility to data ask more questions, too.



  • Common business processes. Process documentation is tedious. It gets complicated for decentralized organizations moving to a single system. Each business division brings a different "current state". The system is configured for the "future state." The differences are the things that need to be communicated or trained on. The best way to uncover these needs is to involve more stakeholders during design and testing. 
  • Policy changes. Examples: aligning to a single paid time off policy (that the system accrues). Or consolidating payroll dates. Many organizations find they have a heavy lift of legally required notifications to communicate in advance of the technology deployment, and may even treat this as a preceding project.
  • Employee Handbooks and online policy references can also be a significant policy documentation and communication effort.  



  • Customization. Training materials get more expensive when standard configurations are customized. 
  • Role-based security. If roles are inconsistent today, the assignment of security (and associated training by role) gets complicated. 
  • Technical training for key users. Most training and communication materials are aimed at end users (managers and employees). HR and Leaders often require custom training development. 
  • Access for manufacturing employees. When introducing employee self-service to manufacturing employees, system access through kiosks or shared desktops may be needed. The introduction of network IDs and passwords also requires close coordination with IT to communicate to employees.



Each of the above items may require more than 100 hours of work. If you have numerous changes within each category, know that your project has high complexity. Consider adjusting your budget upwards from the 10 percent benchmark or identifying additional internal resources to support specific work efforts, which brings us to step two.



2. Available resources

Now that you have an idea of the work, who's going to do it? 

Two ways to think about this:

  1. A resource who will do it all
  2. A combination of resources with discrete tasks assigned to each

The do-it-all approach sacrifices quality levels in at least one area. (A training SME will not be as strong at communications). This approach is also riskier because most of the change work effort is in the final weeks leading up to and following go-live. 

Using a combination of resources requires more coordination but significantly reduces risk while improving quality. It allows you to tap into internal training and communications resources who can take on some--but not all--of the work effort, thereby reducing your overall spend.


  • Communication delivery
  • Training delivery
  • Translation of materials
  • Policy and process documentation (Employee Handbooks)
  • Policy communications 

You should adjust your budget upwards from the 10 percent benchmark if your organization has limited communications or training infrastructure:

  1. An existing Intranet or place where all employees can access communication materials; and
  2. A Learning Management System accessible to all employees for delivering training materials

The project change manager will have to develop new ways to distribute materials if these do not already exist. 


External resources you might draw upon that impact your budget include:

  • Your system implementer's change toolkit. This will typically cover the technical aspects of the change with pre-built communication and training materials. It does not typically account for process and policy changes, and the audiences will need to be identified based on roles. 
  • The Workday Adoption Toolkit. Expect the need to customize communication and training materials, but access to a toolkit accelerates materials development. Templates will need to be supplemented with organization-specific materials influenced by your change impacts across people, processes, and technology.

If your internal team can commit some hours to support training or communication distribution and translations, and you have access to existing toolkits, you can adjust your budget downwards. Assume a savings of ~50 hours on materials distribution and another ~100 hours saved using toolkit templates. 



3. Culture



Step 3: Your culture

Questions to determine the degree of difficulty within the culture:

  • When was the last time your team delivered a project of similar scope?
  • What is the organization's history with change? Do people have long memories of projects that didn't go well?
  • Do leaders demonstrate adaptability and optimism in challenging situations?
  • What is the organization's capacity to take on a major initiative right now? Are workloads maxed and will it be difficult to get the attention/time of stakeholders?
  • Is the organization decentralized, requiring decisions to take longer to socialize and approve?
  • Is there a strong relationship orientation, requiring more investment in stakeholder engagement?
  • How mature is the organization in its process journey? Are processes honored or are exceptions common?
  • What happens when deadlines are missed? Is there a culture of accountability?

Culture is the hardest to shift. If your organizational culture contains any of these elements, consider adjusting your budget and employing an experienced change manager whose strategies can help reduce the impact on the project. 



The takeaway:

Change is holistic. To build an accurate budget, start by doing a high-level assessment of People + Process + Technology, adjust by available resources and organizational culture. 


When you're ready, 3 ways I can help:

  1. A change strategy that includes a full impact assessment and resource plan.
  2. Leadership change coaching for key moments within a project implementation and ongoing updates to stakeholders.
  3. Close-the-gap custom consulting if you fall behind or uncover unmet change needs.

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