We work with executives and senior managers to firm-up their plans for strategic change. For example, we have:
- Top-5 superstore: supply chain review; identify and analyse options to improve robustness, introduce competition and reduce cost; prepare roadmap.
- Leading global insurer: identify suitable implementation partners to implement new policy admin system, migrate data, build customer portal for a new on-line brand of highly personalised car and home insurance.
- London borough council: analyse options and develop business case for implementing new information management policy across the council and partner organisations.
We do the nitty-gritty work that is vital to the decision-making process, but is often too sensitive and/or time-consuming for in-house colleagues to undertake. As outsiders we are able to provide a fresh perspective, drawing on our experience with other clients to make sure your project is based on solid foundations and addresses a real business need.
Strategic projects need the buy-in of the board and senior managers across the organisation. Your new initiative will only become "strategic" with a collective decision to give it sufficient resources and priority over other initiatives.
To get that decision, the business case must stack up:
- The project must address a real business need and move the organisation towards its strategic aims;
- The project must be achievable with the resources available; and
- The costs and benefits must be quantified and offer better value than other initiatives competing for the same resource.
We have helped many clients build a credible business case for their project and through the process of developing the business case we gain support from stakeholders across the organisation. We love working with colleagues at all levels in the business and are well-practised at bridging the gap between IT and business colleagues to make sure nothing gets lost in translation. Our aim is to develop a comprehensive, objective business case with quantified costs and benefits and clearly identified risks, so that the YES/NO decision is made using the best information.
If the decision is YES, then we know that the board has realistic expectations and that it has committed to actively support the project through the coming months.
Often a business change/transformation project will involve procuring new services or technology to enable your staff to work in a new way. Finding the right partners to deliver the technology or services can make or break the project, especially where there will be an ongoing relationship with the partners. Some Consultants have worked with many clients to evaluate potential suppliers and IT systems and help find the best match for their needs.
It isn't just about the price:
- London borough council wanted a partner that would help it raise its standards and work in a more consistent and structured way (and save money of course)
- Communications company wanted a system that would work best with existing equipment and provide highest assurance of data integrity for clients
- University wanted a system supplier with an active user group where they could influence the development roadmap
There are several ingredients needed for a successful procurement process. Three key ones are a) having well-defined business requirements; b) getting stakeholders involved in the evaluation process; and c) getting enough suppliers involved. Some of our consultants have worked both sides of the fence - procuring and bidding, and are therefore able to offer extra insight into for example, how a supplier will intentionally misinterpret a requirement in order to say they "comply".
We know we should all "embrace change" and that "the only constant is change" and... well you know the slogans.
The reality is that however amazing the end-result will be, the process of change is a pain in the ass. Implementing business change is going to frustrate some of your colleagues, and if it isn't planned properly - your customers too. We need to take care of this.
Your business does not operate in a vacuum and you need to be able to respond to external and internal changes. These can have a big effect on strategic projects and it is quite common for the emphasis on different benefits to change over time. For example:
- London borough council: original focus was "improving information management", but shifted to "freeing up floorspace and enabling hot-desking" to reduce the building costs of a new office, and then later back to "improving information management" for the roll-out
- Leading global insurer: original focus of customer portal was to "eliminate printing costs by providing policy documents online", which evolved to "can be rapidly re-branded and promotes cross-selling" to give a competitive edge in winning corporate partner business when the growth strategy changed.
Some Consultants believe a project can be classed as a success to the extent it delivers relevant benefit to the business, not just because it was "on time, to budget".
We expect requirements and priorities to change throughout the life of our projects, and so we design our projects and our teams to cope. We don't for example, chisel specifications into stone tablets - those days are over!
They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, well this is where you find out how tasty your project really is! If you work with Some Consultants then we will have made all the necessary preparations:
- We will have worked out a communications plan to keep all stakeholders aware of progress and when they can expect things to change;
- All affected processes and work instructions will have been updated and tested with the affected stakeholders in advance;
- Any new IT systems will have been documented, tested, and the IT department will be trained in the new system and ready to provide support; and
- Affected colleagues will have been trained and a go-live support programme will be in place ready to assist them in the early days.
...and because we are cautious folk we will have a back-out plan in place in case something goes horribly wrong! In 20 years of delivering projects we have had to do execute a back-out plan only once, but it is always worth the effort of making the plan.
One of the transition steps is for us as consultants to step away from the implemented changes as they move into "business as usual". We take great care over this to help ensure the changes are enduring, and that colleagues in the business do not revert to the familiar old ways. This is not always a comfortable transition for the business and we encourage our clients to make sure good practice is rewarded and old temptations are removed.
Smart businesses want to learn from their project successes and failures, which means looking harder at what worked and what didn't, and questioning how much of it succeeded by design and how much by good fortune and good will.
We have run several Lessons Learned sessions which give all the key stakeholders the opportunity to be frank about their experience and help find ways of delivering projects better next time.
As a group we agree on a prioritised list of learnings and then:
- Develop action plans for the top priority learnings;
- Assign them an owner - they have to be in the session (or contacted during the session); and crucially
- Put in place a review board to ensure the plans are followed-through.
It is ever so common for people to leave a lessons learned session thinking that the work is done, when in fact only the plan is done - the work is yet to come. Some Consultants know the real value of a lessons learned session isn't realised until the work has been followed through to completion, and we are all about delivering value.