It’s All About ME: Managing Expectations 

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

It’s All About ME:  Managing Expectations

My 5 year old lost her first tooth. As per standard tooth fairy protocol, we placed the tooth under her pillow with a note. The next morning when she woke up to find that HER tooth was gone and was replaced by coins, she was devastated. “What do you mean the tooth fairy TOOK my tooth! I wanted to keep my first tooth!”. After the meltdown, we knew immediately where we went wrong. We had performed successfully on all three deliverables – the timing, the letter and a prize, however, we realized we had had not clearly stated that the prize replaces the tooth. As a result, we had not appropriately managed her expectations.

The most critical success factor for any project is setting clear and realistic expectations and managing them throughout the entire process.

The project manager must ensure that the expectations of all stakeholders are clearly identified at the outset of the project, and that they are reflected in the business case and project deliverables. Given that expectations are not static, they must be monitored to confirm the goals of the team have not changed during the project.

People are more effective when they are working towards a specific goal and are more satisfied by the outcome if they perceive their goal has been met. 

Goals must be clearly stated without ambiguity, and all parties involved must be in agreement on the engagement’s expectations. Use a methodology such as the SMART rule of goal setting, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound, and translate your goals into an action plan. As the project progresses, reference the initial goals to remain focussed on results, and celebrate achievements of goal-related milestones. On a numeric level this can be accomplished via project reporting tools such as GAANT chart, actual to budget and percentage complete; and on a more intrinsic level you can gauge progress via formal interview, survey or even casual conversation.

In order to effectively set, manage or influence expectations, you have to first earn the trust of your client.  

By honestly sharing your knowledge and experiences and showing empathy for their concerns, you can connect with the client and gain the credibility required to execute the change initiative. Second, encourage two way communication throughout the process. Involving stakeholders in goals setting and establishing regular check points will highlight collective small wins and build confidence as the project progresses. Finally, consider both tangible and intangible criteria when managing expectations. Address the obvious project success factors such as functional requirements, realistic budget and a strong team with executive level support; but do not forget the motivations of the affected stakeholders and the importance of their perception of value.

Expectations are deeper and broader than requirements and, in your client’s mind, are the critical measure of the project’s success.  

When you deliver a solution, the key success factor is not the actual outcome in relation to scope, schedule or budget, but how close the client’s perception of received value matched their expectations. Let’s assume a business case was established for a new CRM system which evaluated the software’s capabilities, negotiated a fair price, and identified the implementation team, timeline and budget. Fast forward to the end of the engagement, where you have met all of this criteria on paper, but your client is not happy with the result. “The new system did not increase sales….”. At this point, responding with “That was an unrealistic expectation” or “You did not tell me that’s what you wanted”, are not going to help your cause. Had this been addressed up front you would have explained that while increasing sales is a reasonable business objective, it is an unreasonable project goal because it is extremely difficult to correlate new sales to the implementation of the new system. A more effective goal would have been to reduce order processing time, streamline back office administration or give salespeople mobile access to customer information. These goals are measurable and achieving these objectives with the new system could add value to the selling process (an indirect by-product of which could be increased sales). If expectations had been established up front, with the results being measured against achievable objectives, the system implementation would more likely have been perceived a success.

Setting expectations is a very egocentric exercise.

The stakeholders involved in the project will wonder: What’s going to happen to ME? How is this going to affect my job? Is this money coming from my budget? Who is going to do all this extra work? If you set clear direction in terms of functionality, money, roles and responsibilities, with clear expectations of project results, the other human factors associated with the project such as communication, collaboration and change become easier to manage throughout.  Avoid the meltdown

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Expectation Management is a key success factor for any project. The topic is the #1 spot on Plan in Motion Inc’s Top 10 Software Selection and Deployment Methodology.

The next installment…

At the end of the day, I care about successful outcomes and doing what’s best for my clients. That is another reason why Plan in Motion, Inc. assists customers with software selection. An ERP system, is a long term investment, therefore, a thorough evaluation of your options under the guidance of a process expert is required; (1) a solid business case for the acquisition, (2) an effective business process in place, and (3) a realistic plan of execution established up front. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blog reviews the next step in the software selection process.

Suanne McGrath-Kelly is President of Plan in Motion Inc. and currently resides in Toronto, Canada, where she is actively engaged in the business and social community. She loves design, writing, cooking, pilates, and playing golf. Suanne can be contacted via suanne@planinmotion.ca and LinkedIn® www.linkedin.com/in/suannemkelly; or you can follow her via Facebook® www.facebook.com/planinmotion and Twitter® @planinmotion

Results! Not Reports! Hire the Right Consultant   

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

 

Results! Not Reports! Hire the Right Consultant 

As I write this title, I am envisioning a mob of angry SME business owners waving placards and chanting: “Results, Not Reports! Results, Not Reports!”.

Consulting assignments are often negatively portrayed as bottomless pits which ooze complexity, exceed budget and scope, and do not produce immediate or obvious results. I can understand the trepidation; however, in most cases SME’s just do not have the time or expertise in house to single-handedly tackle projects such as software selection and deployment. An ERP system is a long term investment; you cannot afford any missteps when it comes to choosing software to support a core business function. So how do you ensure you hire the right consultant and effectively manage the consulting engagement throughout?

Choose a professional with appropriate credentials and a deep understanding of the subject matter, who also has hands on experience dealing with complex issues and multiple stakeholders.

Software vendor’s are not necessarily invested in understanding your unique business process if their compensation is not tied to the eventual project outcome. Further, simply browsing product features and ticking off boxes on an RFP checklist will most certainly not get you the right solution. An experienced consultant with a proven methodology is better equipped to organize external vendor proposals and work with internal managers to create an effective business case. And, he or she is also used to managing the human elements of the process – trust, change and expectations.

Engage the consultant to solve a specific problem for a clearly defined period of time, and when the contract has come to an end, measure provided results against established goals. 

Results are very difficult to measure if your engagement goals are not clearly defined. The SMART method of goal setting applies and is discussed in detail in the post “It’s All About ME: Managing Expectations”. Your consulting engagement letter must identify the specific problem to be solved and what tasks shall be undertaken to accomplish it. When results are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound, you will know if your consultant has achieved the desired outcome.

Here are 6 ways to choose the right consultant for your project:

(1) Credentials: Many consultants are backed by very reputable associations, eg. CA, CMA, CMC, and therefore must abide by their respective charters. They have proven academic and professional profiles, hold liability insurance and are accountable to their governing bodies for their representation to the public. Do not settle for less.

(2) Experience: It is very important to find a consultant with hands-on subject matter expertise. A consultant who has undertaken many diverse projects will have learned lessons first hand and has established methodologies; they anticipate risk and expect to be held accountable for the outcome. Don’t be afraid to ask for references, profiles or sample engagements.

(3) Active Listening: Ensure the consultant is asking questions and really listening to your unique business issues. They must fully asses the situation and use their broad-based experience and methodologies to systematically influence action and provide relevant recommendations. It is a consultant’s role to facilitate the process toward the end result, not simply check items off a spreadsheet.

(4) Established Boundaries: The consultant’s proposal must be very specific; clearly communicating inclusions and exclusions, roles, responsibilities and timelines. Understand that the engagement must allow for active stakeholder involvement and promote a culture of mutual trust. The consultant is there to lend you their knowledge and experiences and make recommendations, but ultimately you own the project and make the final decision. Do not accept vague. Get it in writing.

(5) Be Reasonable: High price does not always guarantee high value, and low price does not always equate to cost savings. You must assess total value (justified fee structure, competitive terms, clear deliverables and milestones, realistic budget and timeline, etc.) and address risk factors (technical complexity, change management, scheduling challenges, etc). Beware of those trying to be everything to everyone; a good consultant specializes in the core subject matter and asks for help where required.

(6) It ‘Feels Right’: At the end of the day you have to be comfortable with the consultant’s values, ethics, confidentiality and transparency. The right consultant is respectful of your unique situation, empathetic towards stakeholders, and passionate about achieving a successful outcome. Trust your gut.

Technology is ever-changing, the market is inundated with choice, and software systems are much more sophisticated. As a result, software selection and deployment has become a complex process involving all aspects of your business. The right solution provides an opportunity to enhance your business results, while the alternative will undermine productivity. Investing in the right software specialist to assist you with this process will undoubtedly save your company time and money.

It is the consultant’s role to facilitate, educate and have pointed discussions from the top down; and should not be a function to keep internal management away from external vendors. If you clearly define goals and hold each party accountable for their respective outcomes, you will get the result you deserve!

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The next installment

Your consultant is ultimately a trusted advisor, whatever the engagement. At Plan in Motion, Inc., we focus on business transformation, in addition to technology, when assisting customers with software selection. A successful outcome requires an assessment of your business and thorough evaluation of options, under the guidance of a process expert. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blogs review various steps in the software selection process.

Suanne McGrath-Kelly is President of Plan in Motion Inc. and currently resides in Toronto, Canada, where she is actively engaged in the business and social community. She loves design, writing, cooking, pilates, and playing golf. Suanne can be contacted via suanne@planinmotion.ca and LinkedIn®www.linkedin.com/in/suannemkelly; or you can follow her via Facebook®www.facebook.com/planinmotion and Twitter®@planinmotion

Waste Not, Want Not 

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

I am a fairly early adopter. However, I am not an early departer…. I essentially like to use electronics until they die.

I was one of the first people I knew to get a mobile phone. The cell phone was game changer. There was convenience as well as security in being able to call when not near a landline or phone booth. I kept that brick around for a long time. It actually become a kind of game, as I slowly upgraded my mobile phones through the various iterations of flip and slide, as to how long I could keep them around.

The next game changer for me was the smart phone. When I got my hands on a used Blackberry and got a taste of being able to email on the go with a proper QWERY keyboard on such a little device, that was the beginning of the end. I was no longer chained to my desk to reply to email nor did I have to rely on spotty wireless on the go. I got a lot of satisfaction out of essentially wearing the thing out.

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts.

I eventually converted to iPhone. This device has replaced a multitude of other items that I would have carried around in my purse (paper calendar, daily agenda, calculator, music player, mobile phone, camera, video camera, sudoko puzzle, paperback novel, small photo album, notebook and even a pen… I could go on). In fact if they came out with iLipstick, I would no longer need a purse!

One device multi-tasking like that, thereby using less raw materials and less energy is, in my opinion, good for the environment. The whole of this virtually limitless device is far more effective then the sum of its individual parts… even if it is the 5S model.

Being an informed and conscientious consumer and not getting caught up in technology hype is key. 

I work in the I.T. industry, so I have to keep up with trends and understand new technologies. I carefully examine the release notes and features list and generally do not toss my 2 or 3 generations old smart phone for the newest model on Day 1 of rollout. My rule of thumb about technology replacement: to obtain a mission critical feature or component that the old one cannot accommodate or if said device is obsolete.

Technology companies and advertisers are great at showing us that we cannot live without something, and it has often been said that consumers do not actually know what they need. ButI think the tech-savvy consumer can do better by asking these questions: Are these new features critical – ie will they dramatically improve my business capabilities or will the new features significantly enhance the quality of my daily experiences. Will I use these new features or will I shelf it? Can I wait?

I truly believe that some companies are doing technology right. Apple, for example, is a company of innovators and forward thinkers, and one of the only suppliers making technology that actually lasts. Their multi-functional platform is essentially replacing a mound of separate devices and infrastructures which I believe in the long run promotes sustainability. The challenge is they are forcing other technology companies to attempt the same; and what these other providers lack in innovation, they make up for by offering inferior devices. A disposable mentality forces folks to plow through a multitude of devices throwing away their old ones without regard for the implications; thereby creating unnecessary waste.

We live in a world of instantaneous gratification but we also live in a society that is accepting of waste. 

Disposable smart phones and electronics which are easier to throw away rather than fix…. Software and hardware being bought because it’s cheap and shelved because it’s not valued…. Ridiculously large and complex packaging encompassing the tiniest component….

I pass by the local electronics repair place and wonder, in this age of ‘designed for the dump’, how they stay in business. The fact is it is almost always cheaper to buy a new TV than it is to pay for the labour to replace a tiny failed part within it. It may not look like it (and he may not even know it), but he is one of the few electronics businesses still making a positive environmental difference. But how can they possibly compete with cheaper, newer and cooler? The Story of Stuff Project does a great job explaining the direction in which the electronics industry needs to head http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-electronics/

There is no doubt that technology has improved business and individual productivity, and that continued technological advances are necessary as society evolves. But what we all need to understand is that the life of a device does not end when the consumer is finished using its technological capabilities. Electronics producers, businesses and consumers alike should have an appropriate plan to address their contribution to e-waste.

Waste Not, Want Not. 

The simple definition: if we don’t waste what we have, we’ll still have it in the future and therefore will not lack it.

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The next installment

It is clear that I do not agree with replacing hardware and software just because it is trendy to do so. That is why one of our objectives at Plan in Motion Inc. is to assist customers with software selection. When you make an investment in a system, you should be making that decision for the long term and therefore invest in the process of evaluating your options: (1) there has to be a solid business case for the acquisition, (2) an effective business process must be in place and (3) a realistic plan of execution is established up front. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blogs review the software selection process and managing expectations.

Suanne McGrath-Kelly is President of Plan in Motion Inc. and currently resides in Toronto, Canada, where she is actively engaged in the business and social community. She loves design, writing, cooking, pilates, and playing golf. Suanne can be contacted via suanne@planinmotion.ca and LinkedIn® www.linkedin.com/in/suannemkelly; or you can follow her via Facebook® www.facebook.com/planinmotion and Twitter® @planinmotion

Software Selection Top 10 List

Software Selection Top 10 List by Plan in Motion, Inc.®

  1. Set realistic expectations and monitor throughout the process
  2. Select a dedicated project team and build a comprehensive plan
  3. Define business processes and identify improvement opportunities
  4. Prepare a solid business case, identifying tangible and intangible benefits
  5. Establish project KPIs and estimate project ROI, if possible
  6. Calculate TCO and budget based on major  project deliverables
  7. Identify strategies for business and project risk management 
  8. Understand the impact of change management
  9. Facilitate stakeholder communication throughout the project
  10. Follow a proven software selection methodology:
    Research vendors and interview key stakeholders
    Prioritize requirements, prepare scenarios and demo scripts
    Assess software, service and support offerings; not just brand
    Due diligence: evaluate, clarify, consensus and references
    Negotiate software, support and services; accountability is key

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The next installments:

At the end of the day, I care about successful outcomes and doing what’s best for my clients. That is why Plan in Motion, Inc. assists customers with software selection. An ERP system, is a long term investment, therefore, a thorough evaluation of your options under the guidance of a process expert is required; (1) a solid business case for the acquisition, (2) an effective business process in place, and (3) a realistic plan of execution established up front. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blogs review the steps in the software selection process.

Suanne McGrath-Kelly is President of Plan in Motion Inc. and currently resides in Toronto, Canada, where she is actively engaged in the business and social community. She loves design, writing, cooking, pilates, and playing golf. Suanne can be contacted via suanne@planinmotion.ca and LinkedIn® www.linkedin.com/in/suannemkelly; or you can follow her via Facebook® www.facebook.com/planinmotion and Twitter® @planinmotion