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Developing Solutions Inside the Enterprise: Key Things to Consider

February 26th, 2017

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.

The Product

  • The Strategy-Solution connection: Enterprise solutions are meant to drive and support business strategy. Just as strategies are unique, Solutions need to be as well. Rolling out an Enterprise solution platform that is not customized to your strategy will not get you the results you want. Traditional thinking was that this relationship is strictly top-down (strategy first, solution second), but as companies are embarking on Digital Transformation projects to build strategic advantages, the relationship is becoming more of a parallel one, with strategy and technology taking synchronous steps.
  • The Change Connection: Innovative enterprise solutions pull the employee towards the strategy. They move employees and their behaviors to a new place. Employees need to understand what that new place (strategy) is and how the solution relates to it. This makes integrated Change Management and Governance programs key for the definition and continued success of your solution.
  • The Opportunity Path: Inside the Enterprise, the path of opportunity to launching a successful solution is different (and probably) somewhat narrower than for commercial products. The number of users available to provide input on requirements and pilot solutions inside the enterprise is naturally limited to employees who also have a full-time job to fulfill. Negative feedback and too much disruption can create lasting reputational problems for a solution. New design and development approaches provide opportunities to engage users early and often, but they need be implemented thoughtfully to maintain a strong strategy connection and not expose employees to solutions that are too unfinished.
  • The Ecosystem Connection: Enterprise solutions operate in a complex ecosystem. They need to align and integrate with a myriad of platforms, tools, cloud providers, etc. They need to rationalize the experience for the user, so the user does not have to. Understanding a solution’s place in the ecosystem and its connections and limitations is critical to all aspects of your solution development plan.
  • The Platform Connection: Tying enterprise ecosystems together often means that organizations commit to specific vendors and their platforms. Platform preferences or decisions should not lead the project down a specific path too early; getting the What and How mixed up is often an issue in the Enterprise context that needs to be avoided. Projects need to be given time and space to truly define the solution vision and purpose, before adding the technology lens.
  • The Cost Equation: Enterprise solutions generate real value and greatly impact business effectiveness and productivity. However, they are on the “cost-side” of the business and funding is tightly controlled. Like any digital product, they require ongoing funding for maintenance and growth. And since they don’t generate revenue, there is often an “and then we are done” attitude versus the ability or willingness for ongoing funds leverage and continually maximize investment.

In our next article we will explore in more detail the particularities of user and stakeholder management inside the Enterprise.

Program Manager

February 1st, 2017

The Team

We partner with clients to realize their business goals.  We tie it all together – nurturing innovation, managing ambiguity and complexity, driving teamwork, and balancing diverse project needs.

The Role

The LDS Program Manager facilitates the successful delivery of online solutions to our clients. This role requires extensive knowledge of online channels inside the enterprise and their business value proposition. LDS PMs:
  • Effectively collaborate with team members to deliver solutions and deliverables of the highest quality delivered on a timely basis.
  • Ensure that the LDS Methodology is effectively applied.
  • Nurture client relationships that facilitate a successful business outcome.
  • Manage project scope, risk, and schedule that help meet business goals.
  • Apply critical thinking, creative decision making and problem solving in all aspects of work.
This position will work out of Florham Park, New Jersey, reporting to the Vice President, Service Delivery.

Your Success

To be successful in this role, you should:
  • Demonstrate an understanding of in-depth digital enterprise solutions and how they impact an enterprise structure, people, and operations.
  • Be creative, innovative, confident, flexible and enthusiastic to assume responsibility and accountability.
  • Possess a pragmatic streak with a keen set of listening, empathy and engagement skills.
  • Work effectively with team members and clients from diverse disciplines.
  • Possess 5-8 years of experience in a large management consulting firm.
  • Have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business, computer science with preferably a PMP certification.
  • Demonstrate excellent communication and influencing skills.
  • Understand SDLC, Agile methodology application and adaptation.
  • Show clear, focused attention to detail.

The Foundation of Effective Client Engagement Management

March 2nd, 2016

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.

Solving for “HOW” before the “WHAT”

February 26th, 2016

 

When seeking to transform your business, don’t buy into the concept of a technology solution before defining the business problem.

Program Leadership for Successful Business Outcomes

January 26th, 2016

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.

1. Fostering innovation

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.

2. Driving critical thinking and problem solving

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!

3. Manage delivery of business outcomes

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.

Top 5 Challenges We Face in Program Management

December 17th, 2015

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

   – Joshua J. Marine

 

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.

1. Readiness and Maturity of Business Programs

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.

2. Technology Driving the Solution Direction

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.

3. Imagining the Unimagined

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.

4. Cross-Organizational Barriers

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.

5. ‘Brave and Passionate’ Sponsorship

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.

Thinking Like a Program

November 23rd, 2015

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.

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A Program provides the structure to address and balance perspectives for solutions to deliver sustainable business value

LDS 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:

  • Business – requires an understanding of business strategy, the business models that encapsulate relevant organization, program and people goals as well as particular attention to stakeholder management. To support resulting impacts from the introduction of the solution (i.e., change), we ensure business sponsors and stakeholders understand, agree to, and support the business solution. We do this by ensuring stakeholders receive support for business solution socialization and decision-making.
  • Operations – considers and factors operational impact throughout the process to avoid crippling issues with sustainability and maintainability. It probably goes without saying, but the value from business solutions can be greatly eroded when they cannot be reliably sustained.
  • Solutions – requires insightful project leadership throughout the process, based on complexities of the solution concepts, to ensure the solution is comprehensive and rational. Promoting design thinking, managing teams of diverse experts, and engaging business, operations and IT stakeholders are some of the key concerns to address in order for solutions to be both innovative and rational. These days, business solutions inside the enterprise have an ever increasing set of expectations for a consumer-grade experience, and need to work within the enterprise ecosystem. Additionally, managing a solutions roadmap to realize business value over time requires we pay particular attention to an agreed path forward.

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…