Initiation Phase of a Project

08/05/2017 04:05 am ET
Copyright Swiss Banking Advisory

I think that a project with a smooth initiation phase will have a good chance of being successful. We have to cope with increasing complexity in business and IT, which is the reason why in the future there will be a strong demand for a highly specialized expertise in a single subject, such as process management or management of the evaluation phase of a project. While a combined expertise from experts of different fields around one particular subject will be in high demand, these experts will still be specialized on particular solutions, such as process management. A large number of consulting firms offer a range of services and competences in different industries and are able to offer solutions to a range of different requests, but the future will require more narrow specializations as a core competence.

This is the reason why there will be companies in the future that exclusively offer the management of the initiation phase of a project. They will have intelligent systems and tools to support only this kind of project and, at the same time, are experts for running clear processes to cover all steps of the initiation phase.

There is no need to understand a particular subject during the initiation phase of the project, but it requires soft skills to deal with the emotions during the project and the involvement of the right group of people to discuss the facts and emotions related to a particular subject. In addition, agreements made during discussions need to be recorded and the relevant stakeholders need to be involved in order to communicate the agreements and to collect their objections.

The objections should be dealt with in the core group of the project. Following an agreement, the stakeholder group must be invited again in order to enable the core team to present the new agreement, collect any objections and to get back to the stakeholder group after they have come up with new solutions. This process must be structured and repeated as often as necessary until a solution is found. Note that the core team of a project is always included in the conversation with the stakeholder group. Stakeholders and senior managers only provide information or ask questions, but do not try to find solutions to problems, as this is clearly the core team’s responsibility. You have to understand that the key to success and the containment of emotions and conflicts is to assign clear responsibilities to each of your project team members and to focus on results during the entire project. As simple as it sounds, and though it is a guiding principle in all project-related internal guidelines, many project managers still fail to follow it. The initiation phase of a project becomes expensive and is sometimes never finished...

Example

One of my previous employers was a medium-sized bank which decided to change the trading system on the entire trading floor. We looked for a system that can cover front-to-end activities. We found several suitable solutions that covered trading, controlling, back office functions, accounting as well as risk management. Due to internal politics it was challenging to bring the evaluation phase to an end. Although the responsibilities of the involved project team members were clearly assigned, it was impossible to finish it, as internal politics stirred up emotions and conflicts which was damaging for the project. At the end, a senior manager came out on top and made the final selection for the bank, but as the decision was not taken by the group, he lost support and eventually left the bank. Even the newly appointed senior manager did not manage to get support for the implemented solution. The emotions and controversies involved made it difficult for the departments to use the application properly, which made the usage of the application becoming a pain for the whole organization...

I think that the most important aspect in any evaluation project is to carefully listen to the opinions of the project team members and to never allow any one person or area to dominate. It is important that the group takes joint decisions in order to provide for an eventual smooth implementation of the solution. The initiation phase is all about collecting ideas, facts, making decisions and includes the following steps:

· Definition of scope

· Organization of kick-off meeting

· Composition of a core team of the project, based on the needed expertise in the project

· Definition of a means of communication, confirmed by the core team members and stakeholders

· Stick to the agreed means of communication and use it to control your project as well as for reporting

· Hold each team member accountable and let them discuss their suggestions within a larger group, but make sure that they remain responsible for their assignments

· Following major agreements, organize a meeting with stakeholders to discuss the findings and agreements in a large group

· Always consider that your core team members come from different areas of the organization; listen to their ideas, concerns, objections and emotions

· Ensure that all core team members are satisfied with the progress of their tasks and the agreed decisions before meeting with stakeholders and senior managers; this is the key to ensure progress in your evaluation project...

Source: Banks of the Future, by Ella Thuiner; Published by Springer, © 2015

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