Anchor every project to your key business strategies
A Global 100 company's traditional dominance of its market has been eroded in recent years through emerging competition. The company was no longer able to simply let their products “sell themselves” on a reputation of superior performance and quality. Furthermore, projected growth in the core product's market would not be sufficient to meet the company's overall growth targets. Meanwhile, the company had tremendous potential for growth and profitability through a wide range of associated products and services, from financing and training, to spare parts and service (Exhibit 1).
The company needed to transform how they responded to customers needs and maximize the sales of its core products and related products and services. This meant redefining customer relationships, how products and services were marketed, and how sales opportunities were identified and acted upon. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) was identified as the means to accomplish those goals. Simply put, CRM is a way to customize and most effectively interact with each customer based on their individual wants and needs.
The company's move to CRM represented a major change in how they approached and managed customers. The traditional model of sales and support was organized around each project or service. That is, sales teams were dedicated to each product or service and operated autonomously from each other. This autonomous approach did not maximize sales opportunities across all products and services. Customers would often get competing offers from different sales teams in the company. Imagine going to a car lot, and having a new car salesperson, a used car salesperson, and a leasing representative all telling you that they had the best deal. As you might imagine, this can confuse the customer and lead to lost sales. CRM would resolve this by reorganizing and integrating sales teams around the customer. Instead of a sales team offering a product, the sales team would respond to a customer opportunity. This customer opportunity would be a complete package of products and services based on their needs.
While CRM is primarily a business strategy, technology is the enabler. Large companies are able to understand individual customers because of large data warehouses that collect information about a customer from all parts of the company, from their sales patterns to their service history. Before creating a CRM business strategy, the company wanted to understand how technology could enable the results they desired. A project was launched to pilot off-the-shelf CRM technology in one primary sales region.
Movement on CRM began when a small group of senior business executives at the company defined a solution statement based on the popularity of a particular CRM tool. A department within Information Technology was given responsibility for moving forward with the task of investigating CRM-enabling tools. A particular CRM tool was identified as a leading candidate, and a pilot project was launched in their European sales team based on the functionality of that CRM tool.
This solution and tool-driven approach led to several challenges. For the pilot project to be successful, there needed to be strong sponsorship from business executives. This sponsorship was absent, which led to buy-in challenges among the business units. Furthermore, the IT leader responsible for the pilot project had no authority to direct or influence business operations or process changes. The lack of a business-led approach further increased the perception of CRM as an IT project, rather than a business project.
Looking long-term, there was no plan for transitioning from the limited focus of the pilot to an enterprise-wide CRM program. Budget constraints limited the ability to invest in the needed infrastructure to support an enterprise-wide CRM program.
The launch of the pilot in the absence of a strategy created many challenges. A lack of broad ownership and commitment among business leaders led to conflicting pilot project priorities. This caused the pilot project's scope and requirements to rapidly expand beyond the boundaries of original time and cost commitments. The project team was challenged with getting sales and marketing stakeholders committed to participating in identifying and prioritizing functional requirements for the pilot application. Meanwhile, financing and service business units were also interested in pursuing CRM and were considering pilot projects of their own. Individual pursuit of CRM by business units would contradict the capability of establishing full integration and sharing of each customer's data. The functional sponsor, program manager, and project manager were faced with getting agreement on objectives for the pilot, getting buy-in for a full-scale CRM program, and convincing enthusiastic business units to hold off until efforts could be incorporated into an enterprise-wide CRM program.
Critical Success Factors
Several strategic and tactical success factors were identified for resolving the challenges, and getting the project anchored in its key business strategy. At a strategic level, ownership of the CRM Program needed to be established with business executives, as opposed to technology executives. Business and technology executives would need to establish and maintain commitment to an enterprise-wide approach with common vision, goals, strategy, objectives, and coordinated, flexible program and processes across business units and with Information Technology.
At a tactical level, project business cases would need to be fully developed and analyzed. The pilot project would need to be followed by an iterative program development approach that aligned with and informed the ongoing program strategy. To tie the strategic and tactical level together, a scalable and flexible program management office and infrastructure would need to be in place at the conclusion of the pilot.
The Link Between Strategy and Delivery
Five key techniques were identified to address the critical success factors, stabilize the project environment, and prepare for the launch of the CRM program. These techniques were defined to be applied from two perspectives. The first perspective was for the Sponsor and Program Manager levels, and the second perspective was for the Project Manager working in alignment with the Program Manager. The Sponsor and Program Manager were responsible for:
- Establishing a long-term, enterprise-wide implementation roadmap to be communicated broadly and often.
- Conducting the pilot to both validate and shape the enterprise strategy and roadmap.
- Establishing infrastructure and standard, flexible processes for an enterprise-wide program.
- Developing and executing a business unit engagement plan.
- Communicating thoroughly and broadly using information targeted for strategic decisions.
The Project Manager was responsible for working with the Program Manager to: package project visibility and reporting for a strategic view; validate alignment of projects with strategic objectives; establish continuous mapping of project deliver to goals, strategy, and objective realization; identify and manage dependencies between related projects; and engaging in thorough, consistent communication across all levels of stakeholders. The following sections detail the techniques used by the project manager in alignment with the Program Manager.
1. Package Project Visibility and Reporting for a Strategic View
To make informed decisions and create an effective CRM strategy, executives required good data from the project level, packaged for strategic decision-making. This required a formal communication plan and infrastructure, driven by executive communication requirements, and aligned through all levels of the organization. This aligned infrastructure would allow all levels of the organization to obtain the information they need to meet their responsibilities, while being assured that it aligns with the strategic vision of the organization.
At the tactical level, the project team was primarily staffed by IT personnel. The technical focus of the project team did not intuitively translate into the business focus of the sales stakeholders. The pilot's primary communication method was to collect as much information as possible about the project, then disseminate it as widely as possible. It was common for project status meetings to get bogged down into technical details. Not surprisingly, the functional stakeholders and users who needed to be kept up to date stopped coming to those meetings. Project visibility was generated from a primarily IT perspective, so it was primarily consumed by an IT audience. The lack of project visibility packaged for a functional audience made it difficult to generate commitment among functional users to participate in identifying and prioritizing requirements for the CRM application.
To resolve communication challenges on the pilot, two project resources were focused on communicating with sales and marketing stakeholders to identify business requirements and resolve issues. This approach was effective on the pilot, but it would be overwhelming in the program as concurrent projects were launched. To resolve this challenge long term, program communication guidelines and processes were developed, along with the baseline program communication plan. The guidelines, processes, and plan mapped out what information was required for each role to make decisions on the program—providing a formal method of packaging project data into a strategic viewpoint.
2. Validate Alignment of Projects with Strategic Objectives
When a project's scope and requirements are in question, it is usually due to varying expectations and priorities among stakeholders. Strategic objectives serve as the starting reference point to establish common ground among stakeholders and team members. Key members of the project team and senior functional managers sponsoring the project set out to formalize strategic objectives to provide context and perspective for decisions made about the pilot project's scope and requirements.
3. Establish a Continuous Mapping of Project Delivery to Goals, Strategy, and Objectives Realization
Next, a Program life cycle was developed (Exhibit 4, below) to establish a formal, continuous mapping of project delivery to goals, strategy, and objectives realization. The challenges experienced on the pilot, and the vision for the CRM program led to the choice of enterprise program management as the basis for the program infrastructure, processes, and tools. Key stages in the cycle are established to ensure this continuous connection. For each functional objective, there is a cost/benefit analysis, formal sponsorship approval, formal project prioritization, and a formal initiation stage. By engaging sponsors in the approval and prioritization of proposed projects, we ensure that there is a link maintained between strategic and functional objectives.
The reporting structure (Exhibit 4, below) places top business unit executives in ownership roles, with the responsibility of maintaining commitment to a common CRM vision, strategy, and direction among stakeholder business units. People who report to the top executives act as program sponsors, with the responsibility of approving funding, scope, and functional objectives for the program. The Program Office is responsible for managing the program budget and business case, the integration and alignment of multiple projects, the allocation and alignment of project resources, and providing visibility and reporting to executives.
4. Identify and Manage Dependencies between Related Projects
The functional sponsor and program manager needed to shift CRM from the sales pilot focus to a common vision and strategy across the company. This would require engaging business units where interest varied anywhere between ambivalence and enthusiasm. Many other business units were investigating launching CRM initiatives of their own. The presence of multiple CRM initiatives in the company would be counterproductive, since the goal of CRM is to have a company-wide integrated sharing and management of customer knowledge. To construct a single, integrated view of all CRM efforts, the program office scouted out all related and redundant CRM projects in the company, identify dependencies, then identify opportunities for knowledge and resource sharing, while eliminating redundant elements. This resulted in an annual plan (Exhibit 5, below) that illustrated all of the work being performed in support of CRM, including critical dependencies and timing. This was an effective tool for the program manager in working with stakeholders to establish that all work should be performed under a single program, guided by a common business strategy.
5. Engage in Thorough, Consistent Communication Across All Levels of Stakeholders
The first key technique described the strategic packaging aspect of program communication. In addition to packaging data for the strategic level of the organization, a formal communication plan must address other key communication elements that enable people to operate with a common understanding at all levels of the organization. First, program communication must ensure that the key executives, managers, and business units are kept well informed. Ninety percent of the program could be receiving good communication, but if a critical ten percent is left out, the program could go off track quickly. To deliver information in a timely and effective manner, establish communication and visibility forums and tools for both internal and external customers, with systems and processes for maintaining accuracy and relevance of information.
Informally, it was also important to identify and foster key relationships with stakeholders, managers, and executives. Often times, people receive more candid information through these informal channels than from a formal visibility system. Many business cultures discourage people from being candid in communicating bad news. To encourage open communication, it was important to stay attuned and responsive to bad news and negativity. By fostering this open communication, the accuracy of formal communication channels improved as people became more comfortable communicating bad news.
Real-World Example – Results and Next Evolution
The resolution of challenges on the pilot allowed for a successful implementation to the European sales team. Once development and implementation of the pilot application wound down, the focus shifted to engaging business units and building a program business case to determine the best options for moving forward with CRM.
The events of September 11th, and the market downturn that followed, led to greatly revised sales forecasts for the following year. While the program had a solid foundation for a CRM business strategy in place, the strategy was not widely communicated or accepted by stakeholders. The tough task of engaging stakeholders and establishing a common strategy became even more difficult in this climate. The projected decrease in sales and revenue led to the company reprioritizing funding to maintain operational capabilities. Without a compelling enterprise-wide CRM strategy in place, the CRM Program was seen as a low priority compared to other enterprise-wide initiatives. The result was that CRM would not receive the funding necessary to launch a full-scale program.
To ensure that the knowledge and deliverables of the pilot—including program management infrastructure, processes, and tools—were not lost, they were catalogued and stored to be available for an eventual restart of the CRM initiative. The customer service organization was able to transition and use the acquired knowledge, deliverables, and resources in effectively restarting the CRM initiative in their organization. The customer service organization has been able to deliver a successful pilot CRM application within their business unit, as well as position for the launch of an enterprise-wide CRM initiative.
Anchoring Projects to Key business Strategies – Lessons Applied to Your Organization
Looking at the challenges faced in this example, there are lessons that can be applied to your organization. By applying techniques that anchor your projects to key business strategies, you will be able to:
- Develop and maintain enterprise-wide strategy and alignment.
- Network between IS and business at all levels to limit roadblocks and cross-functional conflicts.
- Organize and communicate program and project data relative to enterprise strategy.
- Develop a common, yet flexible framework for engaging stakeholders and managing existing ones.
- Employ an evolutionary process transitioning from a narrowly focused pilot project to an enterprise initiative to make it real or tangible.
- Align and integrate multiple projects by priority over time to deliver the enterprise program.
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