This series explores some of the special considerations required to develop solutions inside the enterprise. At LDS, we believe that the approaches used to develop consumer-facing solutions need to be adjusted for this special context along three dimensions: The Product, User- and Stakeholder Management, and Success and Failure.
In our next article we will explore in more detail the particularities of user and stakeholder management inside the Enterprise.
As consultants, we have the opportunity to work closely with clients at all levels and help them solve complex business problems. In this role, we sometimes encounter challenging situations that require a blend of critical thinking, business analysis, and client relationship skills.
Of those three tasks, client engagement management is truly the most complex, because it requires us to be very adept at social skills and there’s no absolute formula for success. That said, we believe there are three key tenets to a successful client engagement:
1. Establish Positive Intent
All too often in relationships that are intended to be collaborative one participant becomes competitive or suspicious, because there is a perception that the other player is focused on their own self-interests. It looks like they are in it to “win” for their side. So, stating your good intent at the start of an engagement will show the other party that success is not necessarily a zero-sum game where someone has to lose for someone to win.
2. Lay a Foundation of Empathy, Trust, and Confidence
While we are a very adaptable species, most of us are creatures of habit that crave predictability. We also like to deal with people who “get us.” By understanding the other person’s motivations and behavioral style, we can adapt our persona to promote an environment conducive for open and honest conversations.
3. Demonstrate Real Value
You might have accomplished the first two steps in tall order, but the ability to articulate, align, and deliver value is the real reward. With that in mind, we need to agree on how value is defined, for whom, and what purpose it serves. It might sound a bit dramatic but this is the moment your worth in the client relationship is weighed and measured.
At LDS we strive to remember that the core of successful client relationships is not that different than the basic elements of enriching personal and family relationships. It comes down to equal parts trust, effective communications, and honesty.
When seeking to transform your business, don’t buy into the concept of a technology solution before defining the business problem.
At LDS, our consultants bring their own unique skills and expertise to all our projects. Our teams work together towards a common purpose, not defined by deliverables, but by measurable business outcomes. Successful business outcomes are the bull’s-eye on the target, or the golden circle, for our teams.
Our program managers play an important role in helping our teams achieve successful business outcomes. They are leaders first and managers next, as they provide guidance in several key areas to successfully drive programs from strategy to execution.
As project leaders, they create the spaces that allow creativity and innovation to flourish. They tap the full range of people’s knowledge and talent, and leverage different skills and thinking styles. As program leaders, they help their teams overcome barriers, avoid a fixed mindset, use good judgement on when to diverge and converge, and continuously validate our strategies to see if course corrections are needed. This helps us innovate when it might be least expected and in places where it provides maximum value.
We work on complex business problems every day. As leaders of these expert teams, our program managers are responsible for setting the right agenda for solving a problem, not for solving it themselves. Our teams have the necessary skills and deep expertise, and given the right guidance and insights, the result is better outcomes. Our program managers are there to provide broader solution or organizational context, fresh perspectives, or simply bring the focus of the conversation back to the bull’s-eye – why we are doing what we are doing!
As leaders, our program managers maximize the business value of our projects within the constraints of the ecosystem – time, money and resources. This means working with our teams to develop solution strategies and providing smart options that lay out the delivery of big changes in smaller steps. It’s about encouraging the discussions and decisions that turn ‘now or never’ into ‘now and later’ approaches. As managers, they follow the process, but do not let it rule. They apply good judgement, manage stakeholders, manage risks, and adapt and change as necessary.
While there are other leadership activities our Program Manager engage in, these three areas are key to supporting our teams of experts, and our Program Management team ensures that they are an integral part of every program we run.
“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”
In a previous post we discussed a holistic perspective to the management of solution efforts; an approach that is much broader than focusing on simple ideas of managing scope, cost and timeline. At LDS, we seek to adopt a management approach that cares for and balances the relationship of business value, solution delivery and sustainable operations with an ultimate objective of achieving business goals. These business goals usually have their roots in a radical change; business transformation, competitive advantage, efficiency and effectiveness, productivity etc.
Due to the nature of these engagements and the extent of the change they are trying to enable, the program challenges are complex. Here are some of the top five challenges we see frequently across our engagements.
Most business programs of transformation have online channel enablement as an important part of the strategy to deliver these programs. It is of no surprise that business program definition, operationalization and envisioning of the online channel are concurrent activities. The challenge is how to make aligned progress while entertaining the dependencies. We have to find the right balance of knowing ‘enough right things’ to proceed and have approaches to keep validating what was done as more information becomes available.
A common pitfall is observed in engagements when organizations force-fit a technology solution to solve business problems. Many examples are around us…we are moving to ‘XYZ’ platform to solve high call volumes because people cannot find what they need or we are launching the new collaboration platform so that people can connect better. Huge efforts are spent on initiating these technology-driven platforms, only to find that they created more chaos, absent clear line-of-sight with business goals and business context.
It is important to say that IT strategy alignment is critical, but when IT initiatives become the driving force in how business solutions get envisioned, the organizations are taking the risk of not meeting business objectives.
Organizations needs and priorities vary; and so should their solutions! As leaders, we are responsible for imagining forward-looking business solutions; solutions that are innovative in all contexts: business, design, and technology. As program managers, it is important for us to not only imagine these solutions with our expert teams, but partner with our clients to pursue the applicable contexts for realization. Our clients should be able to see the differentiating value and market it to their stakeholders and constituents.
The solutions we design keep the constituents as the focus. They are simple, seamless and elegant. They necessarily cross organizational boundaries to provide a coherent experience to the users. The challenge in designing such solutions is to draw the right set of people from across the organization, bind them in common philosophy, build consensus for the solution, accountability and ownership with an ultimate goal in mind – the constituent – bringing in the business value! We are asking these teams to think and work together in ways that is different from they may be accustomed to.
As it is evident from the challenges we describe, the success of the program is largely dependent on our sponsors. These solutions need sponsors that firmly believe that the solution will play an important role in achieving the business goals. Envisioning and operationalization of these solutions can span multiple years – it requires passion, dedication and ability to maintain the excitement and momentum all around – amongst the teams, senior leadership, extended stakeholders and constituents. It requires ‘brave’ sponsors that truly believe in the outcomes of the effort. Throughout the process, it’s our responsibility to ensure we guide and support our sponsors for the best possible outcome of the program.
At LDS, we envision and deliver business solutions: solutions that bring real strategic business value inside the enterprise at some of the largest global companies. This requires a holistic perspective to the management of solution efforts, a management approach that cares for and balances the relationship of business value, solution delivery and sustainable operations to achieve lasting results.
A Program provides the structure to address and balance perspectives for solutions to deliver sustainable business valueLDS firmly believes that core project management methods need to be augmented and driven by programs focused on a broader view of business solutions. The usual focus on balancing scope, cost and time to achieve quality still has validity, but is insufficient to represent the broader set of concerns and relationships that bring business value, sustainability and solution evolution over time.
Some of the key areas of focus are:
In upcoming posts to this blog series, we will pull apart and these ideas and explore topics related to managing programs for successful innovative business solutions. We feel we have some unique perspectives to offer, and in doing so hope to represent something about who we are, how we think, and how we solve challenging problems. Stay tuned…