Six group behaviours found in all successful project teams

There are many reasons IT projects go off the rails or fail, but one of the most common is the behaviour of the people working on them.

 

Over the past decade spent rescuing troubled projects, we’ve identified six different group behavioural patterns that are common in successful, failed and reformed projects.

 

Understanding these behaviours and finding ways to recognise and expose them has been transformative in our line of work. But as large, high-profile IT projects continue to run into difficulties, we believe others might also find value in our methodology.

 

We refer to the behaviours as peak performance attributes and we consider them to be the six essential characteristics of a peak performing project team. We further divide the six attributes into two key areas, which we call business solution clarity and capability to execute. However, all six are considered predictive of project success.

 

Within business solution clarity, the three key peak performance attributes we look for in a project team are clarity of purpose, balance and alliance.

 

Clarity of purpose is as it sounds. Is everybody clear about the purpose of the project? And not only are they saying the right thing but are they acting in a unified way? This is a very important measure when a project involves multiple internal groups as well as third-party resources from big suppliers.

 

Balance is another important attribute in the project ecosystem – that is, among the project team, suppliers, business stakeholders, executives and the customer. All have to work in unison to achieve the project’s outcomes, and so balance is the ability of the ecosystem to trade off often-conflicting performance metrics of budget, schedule and solution quality or business outcome.

 

It’s very common in these projects to get different answers from different people, based on their own weighting of these trade-offs. A CFO may weight meeting budget higher than time or solution outcomes, whereas the business stakeholders may have a far greater focus on the solution quality rather then time or money.The reality is that to be successful, the project ecosystem has got to be able to efficiently trade those different factors off as a whole.

 

Alliance is characterised by a shared commitment and shared risks to operate as a unified temporary organisation for the business outcome. What happens when a project becomes stressed: are key suppliers as worried about the project risk profile as much as their own commercial risk profile? As soon as subgroups put their own risk agenda before the program’s risk agenda, the ecosystem starts to pull apart. Successful projects are unified and all pull in the same direction.

 

The other three characteristics – drive, certainty, and effectiveness – are all indicators of the project ecosystem’s capability to execute.

 

Drive is a measure of the group’s forward momentum on the project and their ability to quickly make and hold key decisions and overcome any issues that may crop up; certainty is about the group’s ability to effectively manage project risks; and effectiveness is a measure of the group’s ability to employ structured project management techniques to deliver project outcomes.

 

When we come across troubled projects, underperformance on any of these six characteristics is typically not a recent phenomenon that has caused the project to become derailed. Rather, low performance on these key attributes can be traced back to project inception.

 

Often, the project is set up and structured poorly – there may not be adequate role clarity, or the disciplines for managing the project are poor. It then becomes a chicken and egg problem: the poor structure causes poor behaviour, and poor behaviour then prevents the structure from being fixed.

 

Over the years we have codified recognition of the six group behaviours and used machine learning both to more quickly recognise variations in successful patterns of behaviour and to predict where they might lead if left unchecked. Each time we measure peak performance attributes of the group, our tool learns from them and improves its ability to predict whether a project is going to be successful or fail.

 

We have recently launched a new tool TeamAmp, that is part of our AI Assurance Suite that embodies our methodology and offers projects the ability to measure, monitor and manage these key performance attributes right from project commencement.

 

Time and again, we have found the human overseers of projects need help getting to grips with people problems. People are a very complex factor to measure and understand, and computers are well suited to this kind of behavioural pattern recognition.

 

In our more than ten years making projects right, the absence of specific project management methodologies and measures for people is clear. There are plenty of approaches to defining and measuring a schedule, defining and measuring a budget, designing, building and testing code. But what we found was it was the way people behaved and aligned, what they were focused on and how they managed risks jointly that really mattered to a project’s success or failure.

by Michael Devlin

How to apply machine learning to assist digital transformation projects

Large digital programs usually tend to focus on the technology side of the solutions, particularly IT transformation programs. The focus is predominantly on implementations of new platforms to support the business while forgetting other important aspects, such as people, organisational structure, business processes and platforms, what is going to change and how are they going to change in response.

Attention should be given to the role platforms continue to play in new solutions. Some of the focus needs to be on the domain of the solution rather than just on the tech. For example, the business architecture (a top-level view of how a business will operate), and how new systems will operate in conjunction with existing infrastructure.

System testing for quality assurance is often an afterthought. There tends not to be sufficient focus in the early stages on how a solution will be deployed on the business IT environment.

Consideration must also be given to the organisational change in the wake of a new deployment. This should be structured and planned from the outset so that change is properly managed and becomes relatively seamless.

Only by focusing less on the technology aspect and more on the business side can enterprises successfully implement any organisational rules changes, new business processes and strategies to manage the business transformation. If the business is not set up to manage the transformation and staff are not prepared, the whole program can be jeopardised.

Other factors to consider are more akin to standard project management practices, such as dealing with risks at multiple levels – from technology to the risk of marketing changing due to adversity in the business environment. Given the average timeframe of programs, it is more likely than not that such issues will arise at some point so it pays to be prepared.

Structuring and planning for program effectiveness

During large transformation programs, operatives are spread far and wide so incidents tend to looked at in isolation, rather than examining the root causes. There needs to be more focus on a smaller number of factors that are crucial to the project.

It is very important to have a mechanism to collect information and data that provides a view of project success based on characteristics. With a small amount of high-quality data, you can build a model to interpret new data sets and correlate with existing datasets to draw reliable conclusions into a project’s success or failure, as well as gaining a better understanding of the characteristics of a project – what have we learned and what insights and recommendations should we glean from it?

So what are all the considerations and characteristics of projects? By collecting and assessing high-quality data, through machine learning, the system acquires knowledge and becomes better equipped to provide recommendations on how to achieve success.

This means that humans don’t need to do too much. Organisations do need to invest effort in understanding outputs though and be ready to be able to accept and understand data to take recommended actions.

Use machine learning to focus on practical, measurable outcomes. It is not simply about change management but rather making sure you are using tools and approaches in a way that concentrates on what is important to achieve successful business outcomes.

Article by Michael Devlin published on IT Brief Australia

Hills Deploys Machine Learning to Support On Time Delivery of Digital Transformation

Hills Limited (ASX:HIL) is a value added distributor of technologies that ‘connect, entertain and secure people’s lives’ with turnover approaching $280Mill. It has built up a strong presence in the security, audio-visual, communications and health markets.

The Challenge

Like many large companies, Hills saw an opportunity to digitally transform its operations and become more customer-centric in order to drive new growth opportunities.

In September 2017, Hills announced plans to “develop an e-commerce platform that will provide the customers of Hills with 24×7 real-time inventory and self-service capabilities, including customer statements, invoices, pricing, online payments, and delivery information.”

“Hills believes the e-commerce platform will allow staff to be more engaged with customers and vendors, and create a stronger platform to promote vendor products”.

However, as with other organisations that choose to tackle digital transformation, Hills knew it would encounter challenges along its journey that would threaten the success of the project and had not attempted a project of this complexity for many years.

The Solution

As a result and following a board-lead initiative, Hills decided to deploy an innovative assurance approach using an artificial intelligence (AI) service by Certus3.  It selected TeamAmp, an innovative, lean ICT project assurance system developed by Certus3, to keep the project on track right through to its successful delivery and provide predictive measures of success which could be reviewed at any moment in time thereby avoiding potential pitfalls such as late delivery or budget blowouts.

Certus3 is Australia’s leading provider of independent specialist ICT assurance services. Its AI enabled tools and services have become critical to running healthy, complex IT transformation projects, providing quick, accurate, bias-free, systematic measurements and actionable diagnosis of challenges before they can adversely impact the delivery schedule or outcomes.

TeamAmp is the first use of machine learning to enable executives to continuously monitor and improve the people (behavioural) characteristics of a project that are predictive of success or failure. Certus3 have also created an expert system that supports TeamAmp by enabling clients to precisely measure the risk profile of their project and define a specific improvement or reform plan.

The Benefits

Hills used the TeamAmp system at key milestones during the e-commerce implementation program to drive improvements in team performance and ensure people remained aligned to the common goal.   It was also able to provide executives with unique insights into any areas of concern that enabled them to proactively guide and lead the project team to success. This also gave comfort to the Board given that this was a multi-million dollar project.

On a practical level, rather than using external consultants to run health check services, the project team was periodically sent a carefully designed, multiple choice digital survey that took less than 10 minutes to complete, ensuring it did not disrupt the team delivering the new platform.  All through the transformation program, the internal team at Hills were in control and were able to gather data and produce results through the online platform with no human intervention.

As a result, the new e-commerce platform went live on schedule in February 2018.

Chief Financial Officer, Chris Jacka, who sponsored the e-commerce program, says TeamAmp helped guide the program to success.

“It is a key pulse point in our project, delivering to Hills valuable insights to discuss with the project teams and refine project plans accordingly, which was more than just anecdotal feedback”

“There is no other way you can get this kind of analysis from the 40+ people involved in a program regularly and provided a clear value for money solution for our project team ” Jacka says.

The TeamAmp system also gave confidence to the Board and executives that the project would deliver the stated outcomes.

Non-Executive Director, Philip Bullock AO, strongly supported the use of TeamAmp for this project, based upon his industry experience built up over 20 years at IBM and the benefits he had witnessed elsewhere.

“Almost 40-50% of all technology based projects are late or over budget1. As a Board, we needed to ensure that the governance processes gave us the best chance of success. Certus3, via their TeamAmp, which has been developed over 8 years, gave us a level of comfort that we could deliver a critical project for the future success of Hills” Bullock commented.

Hills CEO and Managing Director, David Lenz, says TeamAmp “gave us a very clear insight into areas of concern” during the e-commerce platform delivery, “which resulted in us addressing those areas immediately. This was very beneficial for Hills and allowed us to move forward with the project.

“Through the use of a specialist assurance company we have been able to get a deeper understanding of the issues affecting people in a transparent way,” Lenz says.

An Eye on the Future

Hills is now embarking on yet another transformational initiative to upgrade its enterprise resource planning (ERP) to better position the company to support growth. Based on the success of stage one of the digital transformation, it is planned that TeamAmp will be used to provide assurance around the delivery of the ERP work.

For more information, visit TeamAmpapp.com or Certus3.com

  1. PMI’s Global Pulse of the Profession, 2017, “Success Rates Rise”, p5

Certus3 Launches New Australian-Developed AI-Enabled Assurance Solutions To Support Digital Business Transformation Success

Certus3’s new AI Assurance Suite supports traditional, agile and hybrid project management governance approaches and is an alternative to expensive consultant-lead health checks or assurance.

Certus3, an Australian services company which partners with organisations to assure large-scale and complex transformation programs, has launched its next generation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled solutions. TeamAmp and SolutionAmp give companies the data they need to confidently manage digital transformations to success.

Traditionally, most organisations have used standard project management and governance processes to assess the ongoing status of their projects with some supporting this with internal or external reviews or assurance of the projects. In both scenarios, the organisations use measures and approaches that have not materially evolved in the last 20 years and are unreliable and highly variable in terms of quality and outcome.

At the same time, organisations are heavily dependent on the people involved in the reviews or assurance and are very prone to being influenced by organisational culture, politics and biases. They also look at lagging indicators, including schedule and budget as measures of progress and success and usually fail to look at leading predictive indicators of project success. By the time project issues surface in schedule and budget overruns, the leading indicators would have identified problems affecting performance for many months if not years.

“Our new AI-enabled solutions address all the shortcomings of traditional approaches and support the increased the use of assurance by significantly lowering the cost of assurance and its intrusion into project execution, says Michael Devlin, Managing Partner, Certus3. “By being able to run assurance reviews more frequently and focusing on leading indicators of projects success through machine learning automation, the success rate of projects will increase.”

Certus3’s new AI Assurance Suite supports traditional, agile and hybrid project management governance approaches and is an alternative to expensive consultant-lead health checks or assurance. It changes how project assurance is delivered and does this at a lower cost while placing control in the client’s hands. At the same time, it improves the effectiveness of assurance by measuring the predictive characteristics of success enabling organisations to take improvement action early.

Certus3’s new artificial intelligence based suite includes TeamAmp, a world first cognitive platform that enables companies to measure, monitor and manage people and how they are performing together. Its machine learning technology benchmarks a team’s behaviour to optimise their performance and then supports sustaining that high performance for the life of the transformation.

TeamAmp uses the data gathered from a company’s project ecosystem and calculates a project’s success according to six key attributes of high performance and then provides an overall Team performance Score. These attributes include Clarity of Purpose, Balance, Alliance, Drive, Certainty and Effectiveness. These attribute scores determine the heath of a project, the probability of success and what actions need to be taken to improve performance and chance of success.

In addition, SolutionAmp, part of Certus3’s new AI Assurance Suite, is a diagnostic expert system that delivers a rapid project risk profile and powerful action plans.

For example, a construction company implementing a compliance platform as part of a health and safety program must have a program with a clearly defined set of functions. At the same time, it needs to ensure safety compliance, monitoring and adherence to safety protocols that prevent injuries and save lives. At each stage of the project lifecycle the business leaders must assess that the solution being built will meet the stated objectives and provide the return on investment that is required.

SolutionAmp can guide the assessment of project milestones and control points to determine if the right level of certainty has been achieved and, if not, what needs to be done. It provides business leaders with a precise measure of actual versus target certainty progress, what the gaps are and how best to close them.

Devlin says “Our aim is to enable Australian business to start with the end game in mind, ask the right questions and confront the uncertainties of the future so that transformation success can be achieved. Our AI solutions now provide organisations with the predictive measures of root cause success factors so they can be actioned and improved before they impact project schedule, cost or solution quality.”

For further information, please visit: https://certus3.com/ai-assurance-suite

About Certus3

Certus3 is an Australian assurance services company which works with clients undergoing IT transformation programs to diagnose issues quickly and accurately and subsequently provide clear insight into recommended approaches for improvement.

Certus3 believes that every business today is a digital business. As a result, its assurance solutions combine people, insight, and technology, enabling Certus3 customers to realise the full potential of their ongoing transformation programs.

Certus3 achieves client success through its locally developed machine learning and expert system software solutions. Current clients include Asciano, Hills Industries, Myer, News Corp, Masters, NAB, Perpetual, Telstra, Toll Holdings and Woolworths.

ENDS

Measuring people performance with ML


 

Eek! A machine is going to tell me I’m not good enough?…

We hear a lot about artificial intelligence and machine learning as if they are future concepts with no practical applications. But in the project management and business transformation space there are real-world applications of AI and ML showing very positive results.

One of the challenges of assessing the effectiveness of a transformation project is measuring the effectiveness of people. ML can be applied to measuring and isolating the people characteristics of these temporary organisations that make up a project to determine if people are performing well or not.

When something goes wrong in a big, complex transformation project it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause and effect, but it’s imperative to determine the root cause. It is quite a complex environment to even measure these problems and that is one reason why traditional project management methodologies and tools haven’t attacked the problem.

“Implementation of targeted ML-generated advice enabled a complete project turn-around in a very short period of time.”

We are using ML for this, as part of our AI assurance approach, and it is proving very useful. ML enables us to isolate and measure the people performance characteristics of a transformation project, that are predictive of success. With ML we can very accurately determine the probability of success, to derive improvement actions.

Why machine learning? The old approach to solving the problem is to gather data, see what occurred most often and draw conclusions as to why the project failed. The problem with that method is in such complex systems trying to draw cause-and-effect it is difficult. You would need an enormous data set that is much larger than most organisations can effectively gather and process.

ML can make quite accurate predictions on smaller, but higher-quality, data sets. There is a a need to train the machine learning system and we have done this via the characteristics we have isolated and measured in our challenged project recovery work. Over time we trained the ML to learn from each project what the characteristics of success look like.

It has taken eight years to train, but now our ML system learns on its own and is very accurate at predicting success or failure and advising how to improve your odds.

The practical outcomes? We have worked on financial services projects and one client ran our machine learning system a number of times across a recovery project. It gathered environmental data about the project and ran it back though the algorithm which correlated the characteristics of the target project with past projects. The implementation of the targeted advice generated by the ML system enabled a complete project turn-around in a very short period of time. We could then provide very specific advice on how to reform or improve the project to improve the probability of successful delivery.

Transformation success or failure almost always links back to people. This is a fairly well accepted proposition – everyone knows people are a problem and how they behave impacts projects significantly. AI is the only effective way to accurately measure something as complex as behaviour in a group context. The silver bullet is finding a connection back to people being the biggest risk.

For multiple parties to come together and be successful with a transformation project there needs to be good risk management. For example, a banking project will bring together a number of big suppliers and all those parties would be managing their own program risks and outcomes.

One example of what we can do with ML is precisely measure how much these groups are sharing common risks. You can’t expect groups to abandon their own interests, but business leaders must have visibility to the degree of risk alignment in order to manage a successful outcome.

Project and transformation success is a perennial challenge and sometimes improvement is as simple as shining a light on a problem, measuring the gap and raising the conversation at senior levels. For the first time ML is enabling this conversation.

AI and ML are great examples of emerging technologies helping to improve an age-old challenge like transformation project success. I encourage you to look at how your organisation is challenged by projects and processes, and consider how a data-based solution like machine learning can be applied for better outcomes.

Contributing opinion by Michael Devlin originally published on iStart on 12 September 2018

Are people the biggest risk to transformation success?

Australian companies are undergoing a hive of digital transformation activity with some projects more successful than others. Is enough being done to review the impact of people on the success of a project? Let’s take a look at how the “people risk” of a transformation can be identified and mitigated.


Start with the building blocks

Large transformation projects are seen as any other temporary organisation, with functional specialisations, partnerships and goals. The huge difference between an organisational unit and a transformation project is the temporary organisation is formed in a hurry – sometimes in as little as three to four months – and they are put together with not too much science.

There are expectations the teams will be a high performing unit without any real nurturing or caring. Compare that with any other large organisational unit and the disparity is clear.

A CFO building a high-performance function will start by developing a strategy, designing the organisational structure and carefully selecting staff and partners. Once that is put in place it goes through a process of one to two years to get to a level of operational excellence.

Too often the characteristics of big transformation projects lack this level of awareness assembling a person-driven function. This is the highest risk part because not all organisations form transformation programs with this care and many contract this risk away by engaging with a large IT services firm.

Temporary organisations are just as strategic to a business as permanent ones and having the right people in the right role, performing at a high level is a foundation for success.

Know your differences

As with any project, a transformation organisation has different skills and cultures that have to work together to deliver an outcome.

There are differences between people, suppliers, and even sub-cultures within a transformation program, and, due to their temporary nature, don’t really have the opportunity to go through a cultural change management exercise.

Your project environment, therefore, has to compensate for these cultural differences. You have to create a temporary project culture that is strong enough to balance the individual cultures. For example, there are particular technologies, such as collaboration tools, which can help deal with that.

Why is this a big risk? The problem is nobody is talking about it, let alone measuring it. This leads to a lack of awareness of what needs to be done to mitigate the people risk associated with cultural differences. One supplier might have a completely different way of delivering the same work package compared with in-house staff. These differences must be identified, measured and managed, not swept under the carpet of the transformation program.

Consider this scenario. An insurance company will find a big heavyweight IT services player and then try to transfer the internal scope of the transformation to the supplier. In most cases, the new supplier doesn’t align or change itself to meet the in-house people engine.

None of the focus is on forming a function of people that will operate in a high-performance manner – this is crucial when you need to do a significant amount of delivery in a finite time.

By shifting the delivery to a third-party, you need to be prepared to identify and assess the differences from the outset and manage them for success.

A path to better people-driven outcomes

Is it all misalignment and the invariable doom and gloom? The good news is a lot can be done to reduce people-related risk to ensure people continue to be your most important asset. Time and time again, our clients demonstrate that once identified and understood, these risks can be corrected using standard project management practices – sometimes in a matter of weeks.

A lack of role clarity, structure and lack of accountability are all found in dysfunctional transformation organisations. When we look at a failed or poor-performing project we often find the root cause back to these problems and we can use those as a predictor of whether the project will be successful.

Most of today’s project management collateral and tools deal with communication and operational challenges, but not at the same breadth and depth as what is possible by analysing the people-related risk factors.

Our advice to clients is to think about the people stuff upfront; set yourself up for success; measure the performance, and incrementally improve.

The old cliché “people are your best asset” unfortunately gets lost in many transformation projects. People are your best asset, but they can also be a risk if they are not managed properly from the outset.

Contributing opinion piece by Michael Devlin originally published in IT Brief Australia on 24 September 2018

Celebrating Mid Year at Certus3

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Certus3 hosted its inaugural Mid Year Event on Thursday, 8 August at Crown Street’s Winery.

The event was celebrated by the current Certus3 team all of whom enjoyed a fabulous feast and some lively conversation.

Enjoy the Mid Year Event slideshow

Introducing the latest addition to the Team, Amanda Crawford.

Amanda-Crawford-Web

Amanda Crawford is a Change Manager, and she has just joined the Certus3 Business Transition team. We had a chat to Amanda to find out how she’s finding life at Certus3 so far.

What attracted you to working at Certus3?

As a Change Manager, I’m particularly interested in the people aspects of business change. What I love about the Certus3 approach is that they look at the whole business: the systems and processes, the technology, and the people and culture, all at once. All the streams are interwoven in a Certus3 project, so the people aspects are taken into consideration at every stage of the process changes, the process changes at every stage of the technology changes, etc. This kind of cross-stream integration means there is a high level of communication, so the whole project moves along efficiently.

How are you finding it so far?

I’ve stepped straight into an IT project in financial services and am loving it. The stream leads have built a solid framework and all the pieces are falling into place as we approach our go-live date. My colleagues and I in the Business Transition team are currently working with the technical and infrastructure teams to translate the system changes into reference material and training programs for end users so they will be ready to launch into the new app from day one. With eight weeks until go-live, there’s a great momentum building.

What do you enjoy most about this kind of work?

The people. There are so many different people and skill sets involved in a project, from the systems architects who nut out the technical solutions, to the Business Transition team who focus on the people aspects. Project work is very satisfying; I love watching a business idea turn into a fully implemented system, and seeing the improvements for end users.

What are you looking forward to in the next 12 months at Certus3?

There are some great projects in the pipeline at Certus3 and I’m looking forward to being involved with the next one from the beginning. Every project is like a giant puzzle, and it’s very satisfying to work with a great team to put all the pieces together. I’m also looking forward to the Christmas party; there’s nothing like celebrating with your team!

Certus3 partners with businesses in the management of large-scale and complex programs of work. Their holistic approach means every potential impact of a business change is taken into consideration, maximising the likelihood of success. To find out how Certus3 can improve your business outcomes, contact the team today on +61 (2) 9238 2131.

 

The Importance of ITIL Frameworks for Major IT Infrastructure Changes

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From March each year through to the end of the financial year, we typically see an increase in the number of calls from CEOs and Executive teams as they move through their annual strategic planning processes. We love these conversations: it’s great to hear how so many different organisations have been progressing over the year, and to learn about their plans for the next one.

With information technology underpinning so many of our business processes these days, it’s not surprising that many of these plans involve major IT infrastructure changes. But establishing highly trained IT teams is only half the equation: we have seen time and time again how important it is to closely integrate IT infrastructure changes with business strategy changes so that your organisation’s overall performance improves.

If IT system changes aren’t closely integrated with a business’s strategic and operational plans, quality will slip and costs will go up, neither of which any business wants.

Over the years, we’ve partnered with all kinds of organisations that are accredited with best practice IT support frameworks such as ITIL, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library framework created by the British government in the late-1980s to increase the quality of government IT services while managing the overall costs of delivering those services.

If your organisation is a practitioner of ITIL, you’ll know just how much impact introducing best practice IT approaches such as accountability, consistency and clear boundaries can have on the bottom line. When processes are standardised and staff know what they are accountable for, the quality of service improves, customer satisfaction increases, and repeat business and referrals go up.

All of which is great for business! But as we also know, introducing any kind of change, even if it is a best practice approach, requires careful planning and transitioning so it is accepted across the organisation.

Which is where we come in: we help integrate the work of organisations’ IT experts on the information architecture into the Executive team’s vision for the enterprise architecture. We make sure organisations are structured so that their best practices approaches are dynamic, and can change when the business environment changes; because as Michael Scarborough says in his White Paper on ITIL, even if you’re not thinking this way, you can be sure some of your competitors are.[i]

Of course the creation of the right structure is only one half of the ITIL equation – as with every major transformative change the ability of the organisation to adapt to the new structure is the defining factor of implementation success. In order to gain the maximum acceptance of the benefits a fair bit of effort needs to be focused on preparing the organisation’s people.

Certus3’s Business Transition Team has worked with many clients to make the transition from current to future state as smooth as possible – Mel Young, our Business Transition Practice Lead, never ceases to emphasise the importance of defining and articulating the changes to the individuals impacted by the introduction of an ITIL framework. Not only does ITIL introduce new IT support processes but it brings with it newly defined roles and responsibilities for individuals – which require a fair bit of getting used to.

So if your organisation is accredited with ITIL or a similar IT best practice framework, contact us at Certus3 today and find out how we can help you successfully prepare your people and integrate your IT infrastructure changes into your business so you can stay ahead of the pack: +61 2 9238 2131, www.certus3.com.

 

[i] Scarborough, Michael, ‘Why ITIL is important’, http://www.globalknowledge.ie/content/files/documents/white-papers/itil/WP_IL_Why_ITIL_Is_Important.pdf, accessed 14 June 2016.

 

 

Executive Sponsor engagement – the key to program success

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An actively engaged Executive Sponsor is the key to program success, so why are more and more programs going without this essential senior-level advocate? Recent research by the Boston Consulting Group and the Project Management Institute indicates that fewer than two thirds of programs have assigned Executive Sponsors, resulting in significant losses for organisations globally.

It’s not all bad news however. There are simple solutions to arrest this trend and to boost the effectiveness of this central role.

Limiting factors for Executive Sponsors include:

  • an organisational culture that leads to the overextension of Executive Sponsors;
  • ineffective and inaccurate communication; and
  • lack of professional development of Executive Sponsors (1)

FACTOR 1 – Overextension

We all struggle with multi-tasking and have experienced the pain associated with missing appointments or losing sleep when attempting to spread oneself too thin. The same can be said for Executive Sponsors who, in attempting to be across it all, end up missing important details impacting the very initiative they are responsible for delivering.

According to the research Executive Sponsors report that on average they work on three programs at a time, spending an average of 13 hours per week on each program they sponsor in addition to their regular jobs. (2)

Solution: Eliminate the over-assignment of sponsorship responsibility.

FACTOR 2 – Ineffective and inaccurate communication

Ineffective and inaccurate communication is the second most impactful factor limiting the ability of Executive Sponsors to carry out their roles effectively. From US$1 billion approximately US$75 million is wasted due to ineffective and inaccurate communications. (3)

Effective and correct communication above and below the Executive Sponsor is vital. Information when conducted via the Executive Sponsor is used as means of influence in the alignment of stakeholders, as a means to confirm leadership (knowledge is power) and is used as a platform for organisational decision-making.

Conversely, communication that is provided to the Executive Sponsor from the program via the program manager is also crucially important. This information usually takes the form of regular progress status reports calibrated to the appropriate level of detail for the Executive Sponsor.

Practices like regular updates against clear forward-looking milestones tied either to KPIs (describing lead indicators of known risks) or to operational or economic impacts provide genuinely useful insight and help Executive Sponsors to be actively engaged but not overburdened. (4)

This logical approach to the design and delivery of program status reporting is more often than not lacking, with already overstretched Executive Sponsors commonly overburdened with unstructured, detail-heavy content.

Inaccurate status reporting provides yet another more overt cause for Executive Sponsor concern. This is particularly apparent when faced with a program whose status has suddenly shifted from green to red with little or no warning.

Such a predicament can and should be avoided. Certus3’s Insights360 tool provides Executive Sponsors, and other senior leaders, with a low impact, cost-effective means through which the ‘true’ status of a project can be quickly understood. The tool not only provides a platform for reporting but more importantly is able to identify key problem or success areas – just in case an adjustment is required.

Solution: support should be provided to the Executive Sponsor through the provision of clear, accurate and brief program status reporting; and

the Executive Sponsor should have access to an independent reporting tool which can be used periodically to check the ‘true’ program status against the reported status.

FACTOR 3 – Development of Executive Sponsor skills

Most Executive Sponsors are not program professionals and therefore need specialist support and guidance when charged with the responsibility of large-scale transformation programs.

Although on-the-job training is the most common way for Executive Sponsors to acquire knowledge and skills, better project outcomes are achieved when organisations invest in the professional development of their Executive Sponsors.

Solution: Create and offer formal Executive Sponsor development programs, which include access to mentoring from experienced Executive Sponsors.

According to the research as much as US$109 million is wasted for every US$1 billion spent on programs due to ineffective Executive Sponsorship. By eliminating or reducing the factors that limit Executive Sponsor performance this waste can be prevented.

(1-4)  PMI Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report – Executive Sponsor Engagement, accessed via http://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Knowledge%20Center/PMI-Pulse-Executive-Sponsor-Engagement.ashx on 24.05.16