Archive for December, 2012

Making Strategy into Reality: Effective Project Governance

One of the ways Oboe Partners differentiates itself is that we not only help create market-changing strategies, we help our clients create actionable projects that bring these strategies to life. An effective project governance and management process is critical in ensuring successful execution of well thought-out strategies. A big problem is that many managers have a distorted idea of what project governance and project management are all about. They might have images of sitting in hot, window-less conference rooms with project managers ranting through mind-numbing Gantt charts and bullet points detailing progress made so far and work to the next milestone. There is a place for that in the day-to-day execution of a project, but it’s more important for senior managers to focus on project governance when executing key strategic initiatives.[more…]

Project Governance vs. Project Management

To start, I want to clarify the difference between project governance and project management. Project management is the discipline of breaking down projects into chunks and managing resources to get that work completed within a reasonable time-frame under specific constraints. Senior managers should find project specialists who are experienced in the execution of projects, who are detail-driven, and accountable for delivery. This is a delegated responsibility where senior managers only get involved in minutia only if they feel the project path calls for it.

Project governance is different. Project governance is a management led process that creates the rules in which a project manager and all stakeholders play under to ensure success and to also mitigate down-side risk. The purpose of project governance is to:

1) Get buy-in from all the right stakeholders, and incorporate all relevant requirements
2) Provide controls and oversight on progress and cost
3) Create a platform to address any unforeseen issues that can (and usually do) come up
4) Make changes in direction in the event of changes in the environment
5) Provide for criteria and protocol to kill a project if it’s not realizing its perceived opportunity

A strong governance approach incorporates clear guiding principles and standards, an understanding of dependencies that could impact the project, and contingencies that allow for flexibility as the project evolves. It’s senior management’s responsibility to design and manage this governance.

Guiding Principles and Standards

The first step in setting up a project governance structure is to outline guiding principles and standards that are aligned with the firm’s overall strategies. This all sounds like consultant double-speak, but it’s important for senior management to provide objective guidelines on what constitutes priority work so that project managers can best weigh tradeoffs to ensure delivery of the most critical elements of the projects. It’s also critical to put in place clear decision-making and escalation protocols. Many projects fail not because of lack of want or lack of clear strategy, but because not everyone is marching at the same pace in the same direction.

It’s also critical to define what constitutes ‘success’ and what criteria will be used to measure progress and flag trouble. Everyone should be looking at the same measures and be on the same page on why a project is working or not working. Delays, setbacks, requirement changes, cost increases are all possibilities in the course of any project. With the right oversight structure, they can be easily and objectively managed.

Dependencies & Contingencies

Everyone involved should know what dependencies exist that might impact progress, be willing to raise these for discussion, and address them with resolve. These dependencies could be technical, organizational, resource-based, process-based, or external. The most successful projects that we’ve worked on are the ones that have a constant eye on all dependencies that may have an effect on the project’s success.

Contingencies are put in place as alternatives if a given path followed is not panning out or there’s a shifts in a dependency that is forcing a change. By understanding the dependencies of a project, contingencies can be designed in advance so as to provide flexibility to a project, or at the very least provide clear communication to all the stakeholders.

The Defensive Line

A good way of thinking about project governance is as a good defense, matched up with the strong offense of clear strategy and plan execution. It makes a massive difference in the success of all projects and truly where management’s strategy becomes a reality.

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Five Critical Success Factors for Managers Considering a CRM System

Implementations of CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, systems are notorious for failing to achieve their promise. If you’re considering either implementing your CRM system or upgrading your existing CRM system, here are some guidelines to follow to make sure that you have the most successful implementation.

– Front-line participation: There should be significant participation from front-line business managers from the very start of the project. The most successful CRM implementation that I’ve seen actually had full project leadership coming from front office management, with IT working as subject matter experts and project managers. This isn’t saying that IT managers wouldn’t have the right project leadership skills. CRM systems are probably some of the most idiosyncratic and nuanced technologies that require constant input from a very reluctant user base: salespeople. To get the right requirements that will ensure adoption, there has to be a perception that ownership is within the business, not in IT.[more…]

Culture of information sharing: The right culture of information sharing needs to be in place (within compliance guidelines of course). This is much easier said than done, and for many organizations not very practical. But in organizations where management realizes that bringing together disparate pieces of client information held by salespeople can reveal new opportunities, an effort to change the culture is the best strategy. I’ll detail examples of this in a future post.

Usability: “Usability” is a term used by IT professionals that is often not tangible to non-tech types. In my view, there are two aspects of usability which apply to CRM. The first is intuitiveness, which should be measured by the amount of training needed to get to full use. Less training equals more intuitiveness. The second is workflow integration, which means how well the tools can be integrated into the existing workflow of the user, e.g., adding content to a client record (meeting notes, emails, documents) by simple clicks in email. This area requires the most creativity and expertise to get right. As web and mobile applications become more sophisticated, the expectations of users also increase at a rapid pace.

Data accuracy/integrity: All data-driven systems are only as good as the data within them. CRM data can get corrupted remarkably fast because the source of its key data are from the users, not from a central source. This is a key difference versus other kinds of systems. A lot of thought, and a great deal of expertise, need to be put to bear around this question to achieve a success.

Information integration: I’ve found that CRM information, as useful as it can be to understand a client, when integrated with other systems and data produces incredible insights. Integrating, for instance stock interest information garnered by the sales team with stock and fund performance information can create an interesting product profile that can be actionable. Thinking about how you will maximize the use of your CRM information at the planning stages of implementation creates intense value down the road. Three big questions emerge that change how the system is built and used:

  1. What creative ways can we organize and analyze the data to provide new insights? Your organization probably already captures enough client information to create a competitive advantage, but is not leveraging today.
  2. What sources of information can we find that, when combined with CRM information, provide unique insights?
  3. What other information should client-facing personnel ask for from clients to match with other data sources?
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