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From the Sponsor’s Desk – Anybody Can Manage a Project, Part 2

In my last post, Anybody Can Manage a Project, Part 1, I reviewed a failed project that had a PM with no prior PM experience, no formal PM education and no in-place mentor. I also looked at how a Great PM could have leveraged the Project Pre-Check fundamentals of stakeholders, defined processes and a best practice based decision framework to achieve great results.

In this post, we’ll look at a similar situation with a much more successful outcome. The PM was asked to manage an enterprise wide project with no prior PM experience, no formal PM education and no in-place mentor and she pulled it off. That’s why I call this post Anybody Can Manage a Project, Part 2!

The Situation

A global mining company had a number of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions in place in various regions and departments as a result of their growth by acquisition. Work was in progress to standardize their ERP platforms. As part of that standardization effort, the organization also planned to implement a global standard for segregation of duties (SOD) to meet required compliance standards (i.e. Sarbanes-Oxley).

The Goal

The company planned to develop and implement a global SOD standard that would be used to support the management of controls for regional ERP applications and to support the management of SOD risks into the future. The project would also benefit other functions including compliance.

The Project

The Finance organization launched the SOD standards initiative and developed a comprehensive SOD matrix over a period of eight months. A Working Group was established to move the project forward and included Finance department managers and staff with some consultation with the head office IT organization.

As Finance was wrapping up their SOD design, the head of Global Internal Audit heard rumblings from the regions concerning the work being done, its complexity and the regions’ lack of involvement to that point. He proposed to the Finance VP that an audit be done to assess the performance of the project to date, identify gaps and target opportunities to provide the foundation for a successful implementation. His recommendation was approved.

Internal Audit launched the project audit using Project Pre-Check’s Diagnostic process. The assessment involved a review of the processes used to guide the SOD work and the project deliverables to date. It also involved interviews with selected members of the Working Group and additional staff in the regions regarding their views on progress to date and thoughts and suggestions on future plans. The interviews addressed the interviewees’ level of agreement on a selected subset of Project Pre-Check’s Decision Areas (60 of the 125) covering the nature of the planned change, the environment within which the change would be implemented, organizational processes and practices that could be leveraged and the management of the project itself.

The interview results showed that the SOD project’s overall level of stakeholder agreement on the project was 2.4 on a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 was completely in agreement with the decisions reached. The results indicated that the stakeholders interviewed were not in synch on the 60 Decision Areas addressed. Not a great recipe for success!

The results identified 43 of the 60 Decision Areas in the assessment (70%) as areas of divergence (at least one of the stakeholders was not in agreement with how a decision area was addressed) and 8 areas (17%) where a gap existed (where the majority of stakeholders expressed a lack of agreement). The responses reflected differing views on the scope of the project, costs, benefits, the target dates, the sponsor, project manager, decision making responsibilities and governance.

The audit took about four weeks to complete. The audit leader presented the findings and recommendations to the audit committee. The recommendations included:

  • Confirm the sponsor
  • Form a stakeholder group including comptrollers from all regions
  • Appoint a project manager
  • Work towards full agreement on all 60 Decision Areas included in the audit.

The Results

The sponsor was confirmed. A stakeholder group was formed and operated through to the completion of the project. A project manager was appointed to carry the project forward. She was a recent hire in the Finance organization with accounting qualifications and a financial background but no formal project management training or experience.

The project was delivered successfully in all regions according to the budgets and dates negotiated with the head office groups and with each regional comptroller. At implementation, all 60 of the Decision Areas addressed in the audit averaged 4 or greater, indicating very strong agreement among the stakeholders on the decisions made. All gaps and areas of divergence had been eliminated. The members of the stakeholder group were unanimous in their praise for the job done by the PM. Not bad for a PM with no prior project management experience!

How This Great PM Helped

The senior management attention initiated by the project audit and the subsequent actions taken on the audit recommendations provided the PM with a huge starting advantage. She had a designated sponsor and she had a committed stakeholder group representing the organizations affected by the change. As well, because everyone knew she had been selected by senior management to guide the project, she was perceived to have the authority to act, to acquire the necessary staff and other resources and quickly push through the needed decisions.

To her credit, the PM used those assets effectively and took the following additional actions that were necessary to get the job done:

  • She determined the sponsor’s expectations regarding ongoing oversight on costs, benefits and timing and on existing corporate practices that he expected to be used. She helped him articulate his thoughts on how scope, change, issue, quality and risk management should be handled and confirmed his criteria for calling the project complete.
  • She engaged the sponsor to review these expectations with the other stakeholders and gain their agreement, facilitating collaboration and compromise where needed.
  • She established roles, responsibilities and operating protocols for the stakeholder group, including the sponsor, targets, the champion and her own role as change agent.
  • She used the 60 Decision Areas addressed in the project audit as the basis for a report card tracking stakeholder agreement levels over time.
  • She modified the standard project reporting template used by the IT organization to address the sponsor’s information needs and further adapted the practices to address some unique concerns of the other stakeholders.
  • She worked with the other stakeholders to develop an overall plan and approach that met the overall needs of the organization and addressed the requirements of each region.
  • She went the extra mile to ensure the regional comptrollers from far off places (Asia Pacific, Australia and South America) were involved and up to speed on developments even though it meant some extra long days for her. It paid dividends in open and honest dialogue over the course of the project.

The bottom line: she was successful because she worked effectively with a committed, knowledgeable stakeholder group and she used and adapted existing frameworks and practices to guide the project to completion.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, put these points on your checklist of things to do so you too can be a great PM, and your sponsor’s best friend.

Next, we’ll look at a situation that I call The Offshoring Challenge. In this assignment, the project manager paid the price for failing to assess the risks of working with staff from a different culture, in a remote location, in a different time zone. In the interim, if you have a project experience, either good or bad, past or present, that you’d like to have examined through the Project Pre-Check lens, send me the details and we’ll have a go.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below

Drew Davison

Drew Davison is the owner and principal consultant at Davison Consulting and a former system development executive. He is the developer of Project Pre-Check, an innovative framework for launching projects and guiding successful project delivery, the author of Project Pre-Check - The Stakeholder Practice for Successful Business and Technology Change and Project Pre-Check FastPath - The Project Manager’s Guide to Stakeholder Management. He works with organizations that are undergoing major business and technology change to implement the empowered stakeholder groups critical to project success. Drew can be reached at [email protected].

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