How an IT director negotiates project changes can make or break her or his career. A poor negotiator is likely to wind up with poor project results, and a few new enemies. A good negotiator, on the other hand, will usually get good project results - and along the way, he or she will develop stronger professional alliances.

Change is the only constant in IT, and the reasons for change are varied. You may be over budget, or under budget. You may be running late, or early. You may have come up against technical challenges you hadn't anticipated. A key supplier may have gone out of business, or a product you need may have gone obsolete. You may have discovered a new solution you hadn't thought of when you started the project. You may have thought of new features that will benefit users.

Regardless of why you need to negotiate a change, one of the first things you need to do when you recognise the need to change is to identify the stakeholders: the people who are affected by the change - the people who, at a minimum, you need to keep informed.

How well you identify the stakeholders and how you then involve them will make the difference between gaining enemies and strengthening alliances?

For IT directors, the list of stakeholders starts with your own team. Don't forget about the people who are closest to the problem - and who have to implement the change. Not only can your team members provide great insight, when they feel involved they feel more ownership in the project and do better work.

You probably also have to involve the CEO, CFO, and the COO of your organisation. Executive support goes a long way in any project.

You may also need to consult with business leaders and business users. User acceptance is a critical element of any IT project, and the best way to get user acceptance is to ask users for their opinions not only before you start, but also during the project.

Depending on the nature of the project, it might also be appropriate to involve partner companies and customers. These two groups of people may be users too.

Any sizeable project involves multiple parties. The art of multi-party negotiation is to involve exactly the right people in exactly the right ways. You need advice from some people; and you need to keep others informed. You need commitment from some people; and you need to make sure others aren't going to work against you.

Before you start negotiating change, make sure you understand who needs to be involved, and who needs to be committed. Both groups need to be in the loop, but you need to weigh their input differently.

It's easy for me to remember the difference between involvement and commitment, because a former boss once explained that difference in a way I'll never forget. "Next time you sit down for a bacon and egg breakfast," he said, "just remember that the chicken was involved in making that breakfast. The pig was committed."