Leading Change Through Planning and Collaboration
28 October, 2021
One of the previous companies I worked for did not have a way to manage its projects or products. It was a respected firm in a traditional sector and was technology-focused in its approach and delivery. One of my first tasks was to do an audit of all the open projects and products in the IT portfolio as a preparation for the yearly capital planning exercise.
Every month resources used to spend at least 8-10 days to collect and summarize this information for all stakeholder inquiry and planning activities. It was challenging to keep records of all the ongoing work as well as the pipeline. Just to provide context, the internal team consisted of 250 internal employees and the same number of external consultants.
Due to the absence of any standards and project processes, each of the groups had created its own process of project intakes and delivery. There was resistance from different quarters of the company for any change as they had been practicing this for a long time.
First, I documented and socialized the multiple processes for project initiation, delivery and closing phases within the company. This really highlighted why we needed to have a standard process for managing our work.
Then I collected a team of project leads, finance, compliance, and vendor management teams who were involved in one or other capacities in projects within the organization. We did a thorough analysis of all the projects and their current statuses.
Subsequently, we evaluated project management tools which were present in the organization for portfolio management and also got some external vendors to demo their products. All the tools were evaluated with the representation of all the different teams such as Operations, Efficiency, Legal, Compliance and Business development. This helped me to get consensus of the “most appropriate” tool for our future state which will handle the pain points of the stakeholders. Benchmarking from outside the company also gave us an idea what other companies were doing for managing a complex capital portfolio.
I was able to create a future state for the portfolio management in the organization with the selected tool. As we were not going to get a lot of chances, I made sure the vendor was engaged for any kind of customization.
As the development work was ongoing, I started with some changes which were more immediate. I installed a process of project reporting which was not very tedious for the team leads and every Friday the team leads got together to highlight their achievements. Focusing more on the value delivery instead of status reporting. I did a lot of work coaching the teams throughout the project life cycle from developing business cases, feasibility study, initiation, implementation and delivery.
I also worked with the team to prioritize and rank the project with the 5 scale ranking system which were the strategic drivers. For this I organized 2 day offsite where the stakeholders individually and collectively ranked the projects. Projects which were no longer aligned with the corporate strategy were closed and the learnings were utilized.
The good news is that project information was present in a central tool that helped for planning, budgeting, and resource management. There was transparency and clarity for the whole organization. We went from 163 active projects to only 40 projects. We redesigned the vendor engagement process and the company was able to save substantially on these engagements.
Getting the stakeholder alignment and tool rollout took almost 4 months but in the end, we got a whole new way of managing our portfolio and focusing on value delivery to the organization.
- One of the lessons I learned here is that the current state mapping is very important. If this was not done, I would not have been able to find out the numerous touchpoints and duplicate work the teams were doing.
- Ensure all the stakeholders are involved in the process to define the future state. This is how I was able to get buy-in from my stakeholders as their insights and pain points had to be addressed in the new solution.
- Be open to doing look outside the organization for good ideas. Our tool selection process was exhaustive but the final selection was the best match for our requirements.
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