3 Steps for Overcoming Transformation Program Blind Spots

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When launching a new transformation program, all companies hope that they have the capacity and capabilities needed to execute against their planned timeline. But delays, issues, and even change orders can sometimes be inevitable for large transformations, especially if you miss any blind spots in your transformation programs.

The good news is that there are three areas where you can monitor and manage your program to minimize the effects of these issues. Here are three ways to overcome common blind spots in transformation program planning that, if left unaddressed, will erode your transformation’s business case:

1. Set Clear Expectations for Your Systems Integrator and Master Conductor

If you’ve appointed your Systems Integrator (SI) as the Master Conductor for your program, then it is up to you to reinforce that with your SI. You may not fully realize what you’ve asked your SI to do, but when your SI is taking Master Conductor responsibility, the SI will take on many responsibilities including alignment and incorporation of the program plan with third parties that are working with you on your program. The Master Conductor responsibility also includes staying on top of potential program risks and issues with your third party and taking action to de-escalate those risks quickly to avoid delays.

Because of this added responsibility, the SI needs to provide comprehensive estimates that reflect the expected impact on third party staffing requirements. The Master Conductor may also have the shared responsibility to forecast any changes in budget.

To improve the Master Conductor’s performance, make these expectations explicit as part of your contract and include periodic Master Conductor performance reviews as a deliverable within the Statement of Work (SOW).

History shows that those who are held accountable usually perform best. Although your SI may be a reputable firm, I recommend that you uphold their reputation by clearly stating what is expected of their roles and responsibility, starting with the master SOW and then outlining how progress will be measured.

2. Monitor RAID Logs for Latency or Movement of Due Dates

Sometimes it can appear there is an overwhelming number of risks identified, actions needed, issues to be resolved and decisions to be made throughout the lifecycle of your program. Items that can have material impact to your program in terms of change of timeline, scope, quality or cost are registered and tracked in the program’s RAID file.

Programs that do not track RAID management at both a program and workstream level will eventually see other areas of the program begin to deteriorate. Workstream RAID management latency or due date changes are a reliable indicator that the workstream is in trouble. Lack of program RAID management, or “RAID hygiene,” is an indication of weak program management.

Aside from not having a RAID log altogether, some companies also have problems underreporting RAID items. An easy test for this is comparing month-to-month reporting or conducting a comparative analysis of resource consumptions to RAID reporting. For example, does a Workstream that has 40% of the hours also have 30 – 45 % of the program RAID items reported?

Recommended “RAID hygiene” habits include:

  • Reporting critical and high priority RAID items within the status reports, including due dates
  • Weekly tracking of RAID activity, both new and closed
  • Maintaining original due dates
  • Measuring closure timeliness and latency at program and workstream levels
  • Mandating that all required data pertaining to the RAID item is recorded in the RAID record
  • Periodically use simple comparative analysis of RAID usage

3. Meeting SI Expectations of Client Resources and Participation

Your program’s Master SOW should include client role titles and definitions. During the program, it is not unusual for additional roles to be added due to changes in scope and responsibilities.

As the client, you are responsible for filling those roles with the correct personnel – both from a capacity and capability perspective. Your program’s success or failure can be dependent on the personnel you assign to your program.

Enterprises often realize that, due to prior business decisions, there is only one Subject Matter Expert (SME) for a particular workstream. The single SME situation adds additional program problems when the business restricts full participation of the SME client role. Sometimes the functional workstream will send an available resource rather than a true subject matter expert.   There are many other situations pertaining to restricted headcount, but let’s just stick with these two situations.

From my perspective, the company’s HR and Risk departments have failed by allowing a single person to be the SME for a critical business area. I have had success lowering that risk by pointing it out to internal and external Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) companies. The result was not additional headcount, but management was required to cross train resources to reduce the single SME risk.

The second fallacy is that today’s legacy business is more important than the transformation program. If this is the reason for not providing sufficient company resources to support the transformation program, then the company should seriously consider if they can afford the program to begin with. When I experience situations like this scenario, I can assure the client that they will have change orders due to timeline extensions.

My recommendation for both scenarios is to leverage the Senior Steering Committee to resolve client resource issues. This could include working with HR during the transformation business case development to identify potential problems and develop and execute remediation plans. The Steering Committee members can advocate or require business leadership to remove the resource impediment. Any resulting increase of enterprise operational expenses should be compared to extending the program one or more months.

The Bottom Line

There is much more to track in transformation programs. Clients that take steps to identify and proactively address these three common blind spots in transformation programs will still face challenges, but their PMO will be better positioned to face the challenges ahead of them.

Failure to set vendor expectations, poor RAID management, and client resource issues will lead to late delivery of deliverables, further delaying your program and resulting in expensive change orders.

UpperEdge helps clients manage their program and vendor relationships and navigate blind spots in their transformation programs through our Project Execution Advisory Services. Reach out today to learn how our project execution experts can help you manage your program.