Last week, The Parker Avery Group published our latest point of view titled, “Ensuring Transformational Success,” in which Senior Manager, Lee Whitaker discusses in detail that in order to achieve the benefits and outcomes prescribed by the associated business case, most retail technology initiatives absolutely must start with—and be led by—the business, as opposed to the IT department. With retail technology changing at breakneck speeds, and legacy systems (and their associated multitude of complex spreadsheets) increasingly unable to support new consumer demands and competitive environments, more and more retailers are evaluating, selecting, and implementing new solutions. While these solutions may have ancillary benefits to the IT department in terms of reduced operating costs and better efficiencies, the driving force for most system implementations is to support strategic business needs. Further, the size and scope of the initiative is typically inconsequential, as ultimately the beneficiaries will be end users from the business. As such, a key tenet to achieving success is building a strong project team that initiates with the business, with strong IT support in terms of process and technology innovation. This week, we provide some key excerpts from this paper.
All of the cutting-edge “bells and whistles” and many of the accompanying financial benefits of new technology will be hampered or worst case, completely lost without the underlying business processes in place to leverage them. As such, the best resources to design, develop, and implement those processes are the most competent people from within the business. Far too many times, we have seen project teams assembled based primarily on availability rather than capabilities to drive real results and credibility to drive adoption—this results in technology implementations that desperately lack the necessary process and organizational support. The Parker Avery Group is often called in to reinvigorate projects that are at risk of failure, and we quickly discover that many of these initiatives have become landing spots for problem children or chronic underperforming associates. In these types of situations, we find that the original project leaders—often recruited from top-level management—tend to delegate a significant portion of project responsibility and decision-making to subordinates who may be viewed as dispensable. Whether it is because they feel the management of tedious, day-to-day project tasks is more suited to a junior associate, or because company leaders only want to be involved in what they perceive as the most strategic, business critical decisions, ultimately this type of leadership apathy significantly impacts project success.
Any project comes with substantial investments, not only financial, but also relative to precious resources and time. Typically, prior to the project commencing, a business case is developed, which ideally details the extent of the project investment, the critical business issues to be addressed, and the expected outcomes and benefits. It is often quoted that “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” Underpinning this sentiment and given the understanding that a company is willing to invest considerably in a project, it makes absolutely no sense to leave the outcome in the hands of average associates—or worse yet, underperformers. Committing to a team-building strategy that provides far reaching associate development and growth opportunities along with defined pathways to rotate resources into/out of the project over the initiative’s lifetime is the prudent approach to maximizing success while leveraging associate skill sets effectively.
The paper goes on to discuss how company leadership must understand and embrace a long-term view of the investment, as opposed to only focusing on short-term gains or quick wins early in the initiative—and the resulting implications of each approach. A future-focused mindset must be preserved when assembling and managing the project team. Further, we outline and describe specific key characteristics of resources that should be on the “A Team.”
Lee concludes with some sage advice:
Transformational initiatives are difficult. The impact is felt across the organization and affects associates up and down the organizational hierarchy. They are even tougher when the business areas most impacted are not involved early enough in the start-up phase and sponsors rely too heavily on technology by itself to drive adoption and benefit… Maintaining a “business led” approach enables company leadership to effectively demonstrate that the initiative has merit, the quality and depth of the final solution will deliver functionality and transformational change that solves important business issues, and ultimately the project will achieve benefits that meet or exceed the business case.