Is your organisation on a journey to enhance it’s Operations project delivery capability & readiness as part of a transformational change programme – or are you concerned about your Operations programme or project team’s ability to deliver?
If the answer is yes, then today’s podcast is one for you. In this episode, Liz Doyle, Director at Casseo and Ross Redmond, a Transformation focused Project Manager at Northern Trust, discuss how best to develop project delivery capability within business operations and its impact on successful transformation.
With this podcast, we at Casseo, aim to address the topic of developing project delivery capability within operations and the many benefits that can be gained, including the positive impact on delivering transformational change. We discuss the various challenges that can arise along the journey and how best to address them.
Our Guest – Ross Redmond
Firstly, we would like to introduce our podcast guest today, Ross Redmond. Ross started out as an Environmental Consultant, delivering projects for clients in Ireland and Australia in the area of sustainable management of environmental liability. Five years ago, he started to focus on business transformation, working on systems implementation in utilities and financial services in Ireland.
In his last role overseas, he had the opportunity to lead a turnaround of a regional business unit as part of a wider transformation of the organisation. A large focus of this role was developing the capability to serve clients through projects. On his return to Ireland he wanted to apply his skills and experience to other industries.
In his current role at Northern Trust he works in a new team that was established last year to deliver operational change for the Fund Administration business, usually through a mix of BPR, automation and behavioral change and all wrapped into a project framework to help with monitoring and control. The team is aptly named ‘Business Evolution’.
Outside of his day job Ross is a co-organiser of the Midwest Project Management Forum which is working to provide a community of professional development for project professionals in the region – See: https://mid-west-project-management-forum.com/
Defining ‘Project Delivery Capability in Operations’
Let’s start our discussion with defining what we mean by ‘Project Delivery Capability in Operations’.
Generally, a project or programme team will be assembled to work on an initiative, and it will include a mix of specialists in project delivery and SMEs from the business operations. In addition to the immediate project team there will be a supporting cast of interested parties such as senior stakeholders, vendors and the business teams who will have a vested interest in delivering the ultimate business change & achieving the overall objectives of the initiative.
The delivery capability is comprised of the combined resourcing and skills of this group and the best outcomes will arise when all parties work together within a framework that allows focus on the project objectives in a way that also ensures impact on normal operations is minimised.
The reality is that a standalone project team will struggle to deliver transformational change without project focused business supports so it makes sense for organisations to include project skills as part of the overall operational capability.
The objective here really is to ensure that operations has the project delivery capability to absorb change at the point of its intersection between the project team and operations. In addition, it is important to ensure that the framework and project ‘language’ being used is aligned to that of the wider organisation.
Many organisations are currently working through change to meet a strategic need but the specific skills or outlook required to support this may not be developed at all levels of employees that will be involved in the delivery of the proposed change, primarily because these are not part of core day to day activities.
Projects often work across business functions and in multi locations, especially in large scale transformation work. The scope and vision of the programme might be complex with a focus on changing the process, systems and people at the same time, with timelines running to many months or years. As a result, there can be tension between running the business and changing the business which if not managed well can lead to problems that could impact business operations or the benefits that the transformation programme seeks to deliver.
Specific challenges that arise can include a lack of alignment between BAU priorities and the strategic vision for transformation, a lack of focus around structures and support for project delivery, constrained resources, lack of buy-in from senior stakeholders who can influence the success or failure of the project. Any (or all) of these challenges can lead to project failure.
How organisations can avoid common challenges with the right approach
There are two main areas to focus on when considering enhancing this type of capability:
- Project teams, tools and processes: The objective should be to develop a tailored framework or methodology that can underpin controlled delivery of change. The options for this are many and range from current buzzwords such as DevOps, Agile, co-location to fully supportive project management offices (PMOs) & online collaborative tools No delivery framework will be perfect, but the key thing is that the organisation develops an Industry standard approach with a supporting set of tools and steps that allows all stakeholders to understand and input into progress and challenges when projects are in-flight. In the context of developing delivery capability, the framework must have an in-built process for knowledge sharing around successes and failures, so that the overall business benefits from lessons learned & ensures continuous improvement. For example, in ‘Business Evolution’, the delivery process includes encouraging business experts to bring problems or ideas for change into an ‘Innovation Lab’ which are then assessed and prioritised based on the likely benefits. Delivery is generally iterative (Agile-like) in terms of delivering value but also includes a focus on milestones to assist with business planning and resourcing. It is also a good idea to focus on co-location – taking business SMEs away from their teams for periods of time to fully focus on project tasks.
- Project focused development for operational employees. The objective should be to develop skills in employees that may be involved in project work. Typically, development can be broken into three levels focused on:
- Those responsible for planning and monitoring project work (PMs)
- Employees contributing to project at task level (Project team members or SMEs)
- Managers who need to understand, guide and champion the proposed change (Senior Stakeholders)
The combination of a fit for purpose delivery framework and uplift in project knowledge and skills can set projects and programs up for success.
How project/programme leaders can enhance delivery capability when projects are in-flight
Here are some tricks of the trade based on experience that can help project leaders focus on delivery
- Understand the delivery environment
- Current project delivery culture & past experiences; both good and bad, can inform plans/approach.
- Review daily challenges for business teams and how these are currently managed. This will lead to a more realistic WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) but also will help to identify opportunities to make progress.
- Develop a relationship with influencers (Positive & Negative) at all levels in the business teams you are working with and determine how to engage & influence these people effectively to champion the project.
- Develop and highlight each project case for delivery
- Highlighting the official business case, “Purpose” and ‘Value Proposition””, over and over again is critical. Even better if this message can be delivered by senior stakeholders during the course of the Project initiative.
- Informal discussions are equally important and must be consistent in their communication.
- Build credibility during each delivery phase – team members, project methodology & early wins are vital components
- Adopt a value focused methodology and structure that enables iterative. This could be Agile-esque in nature but be aware of the challenges. This helps focus and influences project support.
- When it comes to the project team mix, ensure a balance of project & business skills and experience.
- Focus on ‘progress not perfection’ to overcome inertiae. small changes or releases to demonstrate path to success is vital to build credibility.
- Highlight success & develop advocates based on past performance.
- Coach & develop project skills in non-project focused areas
Notwithstanding the formal project-based learning, on the job learning will still be of huge benefit and brings real benefits to the team. It is essential to bring BAU SMEs on board at all stages and project leaders should coach and support. Generally, we find that a mix of project knowledge whether internal or external and business focus works well to ensure that balanced knowledge is shared and that can seriously enhance the outcome for the next project.