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From the Sponsor’s Desk; A Perfect Project

In my last post, I reviewed Project Pre-Check, a practice that PMs have used to become a project sponsor’s best friend, and a great PM in the process. You don’t need to use Project Pre-Check. You can use or build your own practice, just as long as you address the three core building blocks; the stakeholders, the process they’ll use to guide a project through to a successful completion and the decision framework, a collection of best practices (I call them Decision Areas) that the stakeholders need to consider and agree on over the course of a change.

Here’s one example of a PM who used Project Pre-Check fundamentals to achieve PM greatness. It’s called the Interface Initiative.

The Situation

This organization provided insurance and savings products to individual clients through over100 Canadian offices coast to coast. There were 600 plus staff in these regional offices.

The office personnel responsible for administering clients’ needs were faced with a motley array of mainframe, server and PC applications with widely different interfaces and formatting requirements, each application supported by its own 3-ring binder of procedures, entry protocols, codes and rules. The environment was a huge drain on productivity and quality and negatively impacted client service.

The Goal

The sponsor wanted to improve client service and the quality and productivity of the office staff by standardizing the look and feel of the interface and formatting requirements, providing online access to all support documentation, and ensuring that all new applications and future changes complied with the interface standards.

In addition, because of the number of staff affected, the new environment was to be sufficiently intuitive that it could be implemented effectively without formal training.

The Project

The organization reviewed available alternatives and launched the Interface Initiative, a tactical approach that would offer a standard PC-based interface to the office staff (this was before the ubiquitous web browser). Behind the scenes this new interface would connect to and communicate with the existing application interfaces. Over time, those old interfaces would be eliminated and the new interface would communicate directly to the required function. This approach was seen as the best way to accelerate project delivery with manageable risks.

In addition, the project (known internally as “In Your Face”) contracted with a recognized expert on usability and interface design and trained project staff to help address the no training target. All the content of the manuals would also be converted and accessible through context sensitive online help.

The project was sponsored by the VP Administration to whom the majority of the affected staff reported, through office managers and regional managers. The PM assigned had a proven track record as team builder and project manager. Project staff covered all the skills necessary to deal with the diverse set of technologies. An advisory council including ten office managers was formed to provide direction and feedback as design and development progressed, and to liaise with their counterparts across the country.

The Results

The project was hugely successful. It won the Conference Board of Canada’s ITX award for technology innovation and excellence. The ROI calculated by the (ITX Award) judging committee was about 800%.

The project delivered on plan and within budget and the high quality of the implementation was confirmed by the standing ovations the PM received as she travelled across the country introducing the new environment. When was the last time you received a standing ovation from your stakeholders? Let me know!

How a Great PM Helped

The project’s sponsor had a number of factors in his favour. The majority of the staff affected by the change was in his own organization, so he didn’t have to worry about the commitment of peers who might have had their own ideas about approach and priorities.  There were no new technologies involved so the risks were largely known and manageable.

However, the great PM the sponsor and his IT counterpart selected turned what probably would have been a good result into a great result. The great PM:

  • Helped mould the stakeholder group into a cohesive and productive force. The amount of collaboration was inspiring.
  • Leveraged the stakeholders’ authority to get the right resources at the right time.
  • Clarified and quantified the project’s goals and measured project performance against those goals on an ongoing basis.
  • Communicated upwards, downwards and sideways continuously, in whatever form was necessary to gain understanding and agreement including one on one, group sessions, presentations, demos, email, written reports, coffee klatches…
  • Used the project management, software development and management of change methodologies that existed within the organization and adapted them to suit the project’s needs.
  • Developed and managed a risk plan that resulted in some pragmatic changes in approach to improve quality and value
  • Developed the application in phases and rolled out in stages to reduce risk and accelerate business value.
  • Used industry best practices including usability, prototyping, partitioning and reuse to address the stakeholders’ needs and ensure effective ongoing support of the delivered solution.

On your next project, 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 project that demonstrates the old adage, you get what you pay for. In the interim, if you have a project experience, either good or bad, 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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