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Creating your own Change Heat Map

Posted 26 June 2019
by Caroline Mills

I recently hosted a webinar on building a basic Change Heat Map so thought that, for those of you that missed it, I would provide a quick summary to get you started.

What is a Change Heat Map and why would you use it?

A Change Heat Map for me is about providing an organisation or a large business unit a total or enterprise view of the people impacted by all projects. It provides leadership teams or executives with a total picture of the key impacts on teams or business units over time, and most importantly, shows how it can be used to make decisions around these impacts.

It’s a planning and communication tool – it’s for engagement, for decision making and if not used well and updated often, it simply becomes a flat piece of paper (short for waste of time!)

It supports strong change governance.

It gives you a high-level view of change impacts (albeit if you have some level of sophistication you can drill down).

Organisations can use sophisticated tools (more on that later) or basic/intermediate excel spreadsheets to display this.

It can help manage change fatigue (slow down or speed up some implementations).

Some rules from me

The Heat Map MUST be a living document – you can’t do it once and then never again.

You need to commit resourcing – project members, change managers and or the business or a centralised team need to keep it up to date and if you don’t or can’t do this - then don’t do it!

It MUST have a place, which allows the reporting and other information you take from it, to flow into some type of governance forum – typically a change governance forum, or at least a program/enterprise PMO or something similar.

How do you start?

Get clear on the resourcing - how you manage the updates and who will do what. It takes commitment – so get clear on the end to end process of how you will manage it and who will do what.

Be clear on what you will track in it – all projects? some projects? Major BAU activities? This is super important – clearly the more you have in it the better the information you get from it

Enterprise Wide or Business Unit Wide? Clearly Enterprise wide is better because you have a total system view and can drill down from there – this gets complicated the bigger your organisation is - and probably means you would definitely benefit from it –it does take commitment, governance, resourcing AND I would suggest a more sophisticated tool.

Be clear on your impact measurement and dimensions. Will it be low, medium, high or a 5 scale or tied to a similar rating such as your organisation’s risk measurement scale (after all, it’s people risk, we are measuring). Do you use colours. Even once you have agreed on the scales, you need to ensure people are clear on how to mark to these scales – otherwise you can end up with meaningless data.

Governance – already wrote about that earlier – there must be a place where you can legitimately take this information and present it to a committee/ executive/ leadership team/ governance forum where the data is discussed, and decisions can be made around “hot spots”.

Tool – Be clear on the tool you need – are you going to build from excel, use access or use a purpose-built tool? I have seen versions of excel, SharePoint, Microsoft BI used with some success. Be clear on what makes sense for the size of organisation, the level of sophistication of organisational hierarchy, and the reporting you need. You need to understand if you are going to build one or buy one.

And here is a pitch from me – if you are serious and need something that is nice front end with good reporting and is purpose-built, give us a call and we can show you what we have! Don’t go buy a product if you haven’t done all the other steps before this – I have seen organisations spend money, not have my previously mentioned points in place and just waste time and money.

OK so those are the main things I think you need to know – you can stop here but just in case, I have listed below, some of the things I have seen go wrong (which are really the reverse of the points above to get it right)……

What have I seen go wrong?

  • No resources to keep it updated – had a client that had one person build a great excel version and then got laboured with the one change manager having to update it all and really compromised the ability to keep it updated going forward – created a rod for her own back!
  • People don’t agree on the impact measurements so different projects are rating things differently – you need to ensure quality process around this
  • Not all key projects were captured – organisation was able to get some sense of impact but missed some key impacts from other projects that refused to take part
  • Nowhere to take data – saw a team do an amazing job and literally have nowhere to take the data to get some decisions made that needed to be made to delay some implementations
  • Not getting clear on level of organisational hierarchy to map down to – total business unit level might be too high – but down at team level might be way too much time/effort if your organisation has perhaps 7-8 layers.

Hope this has helped – feel free to give us a call if you want to talk it through, get support with implementing, or hear more about how we can support you with our process and tools.


Caroline Mills

Allegra Consulting acknowledges and pays respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.