Tag Archives: accountability

Building a projects culture at a leading UK financial institution

Continuing our series of real life track record articles illustrating how delivery reliability is built on a systematic improvement of the basic project management processes, I elaborate this week on the most basic (and most common) issue – that of building a projects culture, the all-important foundation in our hierarchy in the diagram below.

During a period of intense change and faced with an increasing number, size and complexity of projects, this leading UK financial institution needed to enhance and standardize its project management capability.  PA helped the client design, develop and implement a dynamic, company-wide PM approach.

What we found

  • Development projects often failed to achieve projected benefits, despite substantial investment
  • Projects were often approved without clear objectives, timescales, deliverables, costs or benefit delivery plans
  • A common approach to project delivery had been identified, but its shortcomings had not been corrected and it was difficult to ensure its consistent application
  • No formal appraisal process or training program to understand and build capability amongst project personnel
  • No process to capture, disseminate and apply lessons learned

What we did

  • Developed a comprehensive Project Management Handbook (and training regimen) to document key techniques and define company-wide procedures for the control of projects
  • Implemented a capital-based control philosophy (based on a size-complexity matrix) to target assurance efforts and reduce the reporting burden
  • Established a central project office to monitor and coordinate the portfolio of projects undertaken across the bank
  • Adapted the appraisal process to monitor and incentivize the development of project delivery capability & experience
  • Established a program management center of excellence to capture lessons learned and oversee development

What was achieved?

  • Standardized and improved tools and processes encourage the development of a project-based culture, including effective project management principles
  • Targeted assurance processes increase ability to deliver projects on time, realize planned benefits, and maintain greater focus on business need
  • Increased performance incentives lead to the voluntary adoption of company-wide project standards, with improved results
  • Project personnel are trained in standardized processes that incorporate best practice, specialized business needs and individual considerations
  • PM center of excellence maintains and revised company best-practices to avoid deterioration of benefits

Establishing (and reinforcing in some cases) the projects culture helped to get everyone in this organization onto the same page while at the same time this elevated overall delivery perfomance relatively quickly to a high level and they continue to hone that as new challenges present themselves.

John Hall
PA Consulting Group


ITIL Service Strategy and Project Management – a contrast in execution

The purpose of these updates is to continue to show how these two best practices, ITIL and project management provide synergy to improve effectiveness and drive overall maturity for organizations to meet the needs of the business.

In this article I will focus at a high level what service strategy and project management can leverage to drive the synergy between these two approaches to enable the outcome of a service strategy or the development of a business case. This high level evaluation will be based on the three criteria noted below:

  1. Identify the integration points between service strategy and project management
  2. Understand the service strategy and project management roles
  3. Sample project management artifacts to support service strategy

As a reminder, in my previous article I discussed the similarities and differences between ITIL and project management. ITIL is a lifecycle approach utilized to align IT services to the needs of the organization. As opposed to project management which is a waterfall approach defined as a temporary undertaking to deliver a unique goal.

Now let’s evaluate service strategy and project management as these approaches intersect each other they enhance an organizations maturity with the principles of quality management.

The purpose of service strategy as noted by ITIL is to recognize that customers do not buy products as much as they buy the satisfaction of needs. This is accomplished by noting three key objectives.

  • Determine customer and market place needs to align the IT organization to the business via service portfolio management
  • Provide financial management of the services that entails budget, cost accounting, and charge back decisions
  • Reduce the risks associated with the uncertainty between supplier capacity and actual customer needs by employing demand management

The purpose of project management is to provide a disciplined approach to achieve specific goals during a temporary undertaking. Project management in contrast parallels service strategy to the Initiation phase and overlaps across similar key activities that are the integration points.

The initiation phase has an overall objective to determine the scope of the project and ensure there is a well understood business situation. While there are many activities in this phase some of the activities that overlap with service strategy include the analysis of the business requirements for the customer and marketplace needs, a financial analysis of the business requirements and a project charter that defines the overall effort that can be used to underpin the services catalogue.

In general both these phases are critical to success if proper constraints are not identified and implemented correctly that in turn, will jeopardize meeting the business needs. Also note, a high degree of stakeholder management is required to align the business needs between customers, the market place and the IT organization.

To support the service strategy objectives one must consider the roles required to achieve the key activities and ensure the accountabilities are well known. Within service strategy there are four high level roles I will define that include:

  • IT Steering Group – formed to set the IT strategy, priorities, and project selection. The group is comprised of senior business and IT management representatives
  • Service Portfolio Manager – works collaboratively with the IT Steering Group to develop the service offerings based on the organizations capabilities that will be included in the services catalogue
  • Financial Manager – manages the IT services budget, cost accounting and charge back decisions
  • Business Relationship Manager – understands the customer and the business drivers to maintain a positive affiliation between the customer and the IT organization

The role of the project manager is to provide competent leadership and communication in order to successfully manage the customer, project and teams to enable the service strategy.

Now the project manager can use project artifacts based on the Project Management Body of Knowledge sections that are relevant for service strategy. Depending on the complexity of the business needs I have identified below a minimum sample of project artifacts to develop the high level service strategy objectives and business case that are:

  • Scope Management – deliver a requirements document, stakeholder matrix, scope statement and a work breakdown structure to define what will and will not be included in the service portfolio
  • Cost Management  – prepare cost estimates, budgets including investment funding requirements for the services in the  portfolio
  • Schedule Management- develop the activity definition, sequence and resources required to develop the schedule
  • Quality Management – provide the quality baseline, metrics to be used and the improvement plan to drive corrective actions
  • Risk Management – to identify risks, analyze the risks and prepare risk responses

At this check-point of the high level analysis one can begin to see the integration and the use of best practices to support the ITIL lifecycle to achieve its purpose. ITIL benefits from project management because it helps mature the capability to control the resources required by service strategy to define new offerings effectively and efficiently to satisfy the needs of customers.

In my future updates I will continue to delve into each of the ITIL lifecycles and point out the complementary project management approach to create that synergy.

Peter Tarhanidis

PA Consulting Group

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Building trust in leadership

Lack of trust is undoubtedly a major barrier to business success. It undermines the critical relationships that enable sustained performance and exposes the business and its leadership to painful ongoing scrutiny, cynicism and challenge. Communication plays an essential role in rebuilding trust – but corporations no longer control the flow of news and opinion. In today’s business world, organizations find it hard to keep pace with multiple media delivering multiple messages, 24/7, and an ever-increasing range and number of stakeholders who want to have their say.

 With so much ‘noise’ and communications activity, many CEOs and senior leaders can struggle to get their messages across effectively or, at times, to hear what their stakeholders – whether customers, employees, suppliers, the media or other interested parties – might be telling them.

 If senior leaders fail to establish an effective dialogue with their diverse stakeholders, they risk appearing introspective and out of touch. Worse, failing to engage with them effectively may damage their organization, its reputation and/or its finances.

 As the stakeholder landscape becomes more complex and organizational boundaries are extended. How can leaders communicate and engage with such diverse and frequently remote groups?

 There is a solution: intimacy. The word might sound strange, but if the digital world of emails, text messaging and mobile communications creates distance in our communications, intimacy in leadership brings people closer together, enabling more effective communication.

Intimate leaders have authentic conversations. They use a lower tech approach to participate and engage in dialogue, express their own views and listen to the opinions of others. They are prepared to be challenged while pursuing deeper understanding and meaning. They are accessible and connected. And for all those reasons, they are best equipped to gain trust and lead their organizations through profound change.

 Teneka Polite

Change Management Consultant

PA Consulting Group

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