Thursday, November 27, 2008

Practice Eco System - Support Systems

A practice or a young organization exists for servicing a particular need in a narrow area. It is easy at start. You quickly build trust with the single trusted source(for your revenue and existence) and so assemble a team who share the same spirit. You go to great lengths to keep them satisfied and get few more orders based on this work and relationships.

Over a period of time, you move into domains that are traditionally not your fort, but you still know it is doable given the experience you havehad with past projects and processes.

As a coincidence, a project comes in, which is typically skewed, towards higher price figure, and it demands you ramp up team and also need them to work from day 1 in the unknown yet optimistic allied sphere. This is where the problem starts. The talk of this project consumes you completely and make you leave other priorities behind.

This is when support systems, if carefully managed and tuned to anticipate this day, will you show your mettle. To do business as usual when you explode with big orders, it is necessary to evolve with support systems than organic hiring and growth. To integrate multiple partners, vendors, service providers, contractors, part time staff, administrative staff, for bringing a service closer to customer needs requires enough maturity in processes and concern for their well being in not only you, your bosses, but with the organization itself. For pointers I would like to see implemented for good support system would be:

1. Give a differential badge when they enter your premises like "Participative vendor", "Esteemed service provider", "Our Customer" and treat them better - subject them to lesser queries, attend to them faster, give a recognition smile, etc. And please, use a better quality paper than normal visitor tag card.

2. Typical description of support system is that monetary consideration are the fundamental priority over relationships. They start with relationships and would continue long after the professional engagement, but when they become your support system, they need money - simple. So my wish list is to clear their payments immediately or within 7 days than make them give credit and service together.

3. Make legal life simpler - Legal teams are well within their roles and I respect the people in this field who suspect and prevent liabilities and would like to spin their command on language in the stamp paper. But your support system gives you life support and it is important that legal gives in win-win clauses than just look at preventing liabilities at the cost of other. Many a times, my major frustration is in crossing this hurdle.

A good "practice eco system" with support system being the central pillar and other pillars being

1. Your employees

2. Your processes

3. Your IT infrastructure

4. The project management team and

5. Your administrative Team

will deliver the transformation from a cost center to a profit center.

To ensure deliverance in a harmonious ecosystem, you need to cultivate it with Focus, Discipline, Course correction with love for co-existence than as a self contained unit..

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Where do you start

Every project, I always fumble the start. This also could be due to fact, that I kick off a new project with new customer every 6 months. Having a behavioral preference for being numbers driven , I prefer hard data collection with which the project plan will be near accurate. Making guesstimate is most uncomfortable situation.

So my own checklist will be
1 .Can you delegate more work to customer. DO IT FIRST.
2. Customer Education (I am posting a new one under "Project Literacy" - includes project team literacy as well)
2. Schedule Plan FIRST. Schedule Plan FIRST.
3. Don't take it on your plate, if you have not done it before and the stakes are high (less time, more work for you, etc)
4. Report Report Report!! This is hardly followed as it is kinda more administrative and mostly good things only happen which is taken for granted.
5. Escalation is a bad word. So if things don't go your way start reporting daily, saying the phase is crucial.

Whose Project is it?

When you win a project, how much do you, rather should you take on your plate? The full responsibility of success or just your work for which you are paid?

In hindsight experience, lack of owner and a project master at client end always ends in a mess and stress. Typical project master qualities should be
1. The project owner should be the direct beneficiary of the program.

2. The content owners/providers must have "something in it for them" individually. May be say, a cosmetic overhaul / better looking PPT service would need to be considered without a change request to customer.

3. The requirement has to be from "business" and not from training/HR cell. Our most business is from Training/HR cells. But such projects are delayed, content inputs flow is disrupted, pressing business transactions, push this to back seat,. Business is the ultimate sign off authority and hence dealing with influencer is most importance.

This now brings me to next question - Do you then work ONLY for which you are paid.
Well Yes. That would be meaning business. However, you as a vendor need to provide perspectives and qualify multiple options out of which a concious decision is comin from customer. So you do share what works and what doesnot based on your past experiences, but not with responsibility and only suggestive in nature.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Start, Stabilize, Explode

Did you guess the missing word in the title ? Well, it is fine and this is the way it should be.

If you feel that instead of Explode, "Grow" must be the word, then you are right, as far as mental models go. However the reality in business is not to "Grow" but explode after a certain point of time.

Growth is very static as the graph rises steadily. But with competition, changing business landscape and above all team and management changes, the graph slopes very lean, that there is hardly any excitement in growth phase. Explode on the other hand, gives your professional career a meaning and reason to stay on against all odds and weaknesses inherent in the company.

"Explode" brings along its disruptions that consumes your attentive mind and body, that it is important to explode on every year. Money with disproportionate lower risk is always better - right. When you explode, the amount of money vs risk of downside is disproportionately low.

We are exploding right now. Challenges already started. What is happenning with you?

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