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5 Leadership Essentials for a Successful Project

leadership1

Written by Hanna Kounov.

During my many years of project management I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of projects. It is usual practice to have the scope, timeline and the budget of a project agreed upon by all parties so it is interesting to me that there is still an opportunity for failure. One would think that with all that in place and checks and balances it couldn’t go wrong. So why does it occasionally? Because it is not about the scope, the budget or the timeline… it is about change and therefore about people and their acceptance of the change.

I concede that no-one starts out to have a project fail but careful considerations should to be taken if you want it to succeed. In today’s business environment a failed project is no longer an option. That being said the scope of today’s projects – even small ones – are fundamentally different from just five years ago. New technologies and the ability of being mobile, coupled with smarter and more effective tools and customizations mean that projects are far-reaching and more complicated. For that very reason one has to ensure that these five essentials are in place. There are so many different reasons for project success or failure, but in my experience, for a project to be successful the following elements have to be present:

1. Committed Engagement
In order for any project to be successful there has to be commitment to the project. Management plays a role in ensuring that not only the project team is supported but everyone in the company understands that the change is required and necessary for future growth. The most successful project are the ones where the customer is engaged and takes responsibility for the system and the proposed changes. This requires motivating team members to test the new process and be involved at every level and task during the implementation.

2. Accepting Change
Perhaps the most damaging statement for any project is “We have always done it this way.” Receiving push-back of this nature can stop a project in its tracks or force it off the rails. The outcome is that you do not achieve the results you were expecting. These seven words will start a landslide of “fixes” or re-engineering that will reduce the effectiveness of the project as the software is forced to adhere to an often antiquated business process. There will be no gain in the long run and before long all the previous flaws will become apparent once again as people step outside the software to fill the gaps that were supposed to be addressed during the project.

3. Team Work
What is teamwork but relationships in motion? Foster respect between team members. It is not about being right, it is about getting the best outcome possible. Strong mentorship and support is crucial. Conflicts must be addressed immediately. There can never be room for passive or aggressive behavior and all viewpoints have to be seen as important and weighed to see if it makes sense. Have regular meetings and encourage discussion among team members. Remember e-mail is a great but voice and/or video communication really improves the overall health of the project.

4. Strong Leadership
Someone has to make the tough decisions! Leadership is essential as the proposed project is sure to change the structure and the nature of how business is conducted. Without leadership the project will flounder like a ship without a rudder. A successful leader is one who is optimistic with the ability to recognize what is and not avoid the harder conversations. A person who realizes that life happens and that you have to dance in the storm to keep some projects on course.

5. Care for the Team
It is my opinion that many times there is a lack of care for the project team within an organization. In most cases the individuals involved in a project still have to manage their day to day jobs. Splitting their energies in this way can cause huge stress for some individuals. As the live date approaches these team members need support. My recommendation is that some of their responsibilities are taken on by other staff members however that is not always an option in smaller companies. Therefore it is important for the project team to know that their efforts are appreciated through recognition in some form.

It doesn’t matter how simple or complicated the change is, it is still a change and with these five management essentials the chances are in your favour for a successful project.

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by | March 7, 2016 · 7:03 pm

Find Your Business Intelligence Story….

Written by Oksana Slipenkyj.

Our article on Business Intelligence begins with a story….

It waSnoopys a dark and stormy night, when you needed to drive to a restaurant that you’d never been to before. Your car was covered in ice and snow, you didn’t have a snow brush, the wipers stopped working, your headlights were dim, the dashboard gauges barely visible and the GPS wasn’t turning on. Driving through a blizzard to somewhere you don’t know how to get to, without any aids or tools is almost impossible, and not something most of us would like to try.

Now imagine the car you’re driving is actually your organization, and the blizzard is our economy. That restaurant you’re trying to get to – that’s your company’s strategic objectives – increased market share, improved cash flow, new products and so on. The navigational aids are the Business Intelligence tools that help you steer your organization.

Business Intelligence is a set of tools or techniques that transform raw data into useful information for analytic purposes.

DataThese days, lack of data is not the problem. Your various systems – ERP, Quality, Warehouse Management, CRM, HR – all produce large amounts of raw transactional data about customers, products, sales, production and so on. The challenge is to be able to transform this data into meaningful, actionable information that you can use to gain results.

So what has your data done for you lately?
Information is an asset, and one that can help you gain a competitive advantage.
However taking all those gigabytes of raw data and coming up with meaningful measurements takes a few steps.

What are your company’s Key Performance Indicators?
Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are metrics that help you evaluate your success – these can be things like sales targets, sales opportunities, product performance, manufacturing bottlenecks – whatever your company wants to track and measure. KPI’s can help you answer basic questions like: Questions

  • Who is buying what? And who is NOT buying.
  • Where do our sales come from?
  •  Is our inventory at the right levels?
  •  How can we make our production even more efficient?
  •  What have our Account Managers been doing?

KPI’s can lead you in making both operational and strategic decisions that directly impact your bottom line.

Transform your Data into Information and compare to your KPI’s

Analytic tools take your raw data and turn it into something you can actually use.

Phoenix Systems offers a variety of BI tools that work with your SYSPRO data and other databases.

There is no one size fits all solution, there is a suite of tools that you can utilize in the way that makes the most sense for your organization. These range from customized reports, automated report delivery, Analytic tools, Dashboards, and more. They can be available on demand, on a desktop, or on a mobile device or through email.

Business Intelligence tools are also scalable, you don’t have to do everything all at once. Pick a few key areas to focus on, and some key performance indicators and this will give you the most payback.

Visualizations help with decision-makingCharts

Present your information in a way that makes sense to you – you can go far beyond traditional grids and use graphical elements – they aren’t just a pretty picture – they can help you visualize large amounts of data quickly and aid in understanding and decision-making.

BIIf you don’t have this kind of information today, how do you make these decisions? Do you go by gut feel? Do what you’ve always done? Do what your competitors are doing?

There is a better way. It’s called Business Intelligence. Running a business without BI tools is like driving a car in a snowstorm without working headlights or gauges. It can be done, but you can get there faster and safer with a few tools.

Luckily our dark and stormy night story does have a happy ending. While the current economic forecast is challenging, you have lots of data, and there are many options for how to use this to help your company succeed.

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Annual IT Budget ~ What to keep in mind..

Written by Larry Hack.

It strikes me every year how the IT budget, capital and services, is either ignored by companies, or underestimated. Further, the successful operation of an ERP/Accounting system on an up to date IT infrastructure will add hugely to the value of your company, however, this too is underestimated. Why is this?

If one Googles “IT Budget for companies” there are many tools to be had to assist in planning your budget. There are also sites which recommend how much spending there should be on IT. It is suggested that an average of 5.2% of annual revenue should be spent in this area. Some say between 4% and 6%. I read a white paper put out by American STRUCTUREPOINT Inc. which states:

Deciding on a budget requires more than just flinging numbers onto a spreadsheet. Today, businesses are confused and uncertain as to what an appropriate IT budget is, and they don’t have a clear vision for how these funds should be spent”

In my experience many clients wait to the last minute to replace hardware. Then the upgrade ERP decision often rests on the hardware decision as old ERP is usually not supported on current technology.

Some of the driving factors to stay current with your ERP and update your servers/IT infrastructure every 3 to 4 years include the following:

ERP: Annual license fees are paid which ensures access to continuously improving software not only in new functionality but also in the areas of performance and optimization. The old saying “If it ain’t broke let’s not touch it” is less true these days as I would suggest that there is more benefit to be gained by upgrading your software. Take advantage of reviewing your business processes and retraining you staff. Usually with staff turnover it is common to find that newer staff has had minimal exposure to how to use the software properly nor have any understanding of its capabilities, never having been shown properly. Often there is frustration and lack of adoption of the software purely because of lack of knowledge. This leads to staff using “side systems” such as Excel and others and this in itself creates inefficiency  and reporting is done outside of the ERP system with resulting duplication of effort and various “versions of the truth”.

IT side: Security, Security, Security. (Internet threats, access by which members of staff to which data, remote access by offices in other locations local or worldwide. Working from home? A huge topic these days! This requires careful setup and maintenance. What about backups? More disk space is needed as so much data is collected. We do not want to purge history as we want to be able to analyze this more and more. Then we need multiple servers because we want TEST companies, upgrade companies and so on. Server virtualizations, dual processors, SQL databases and Microsoft operating systems upgrades.  This is a lot to comprehend!  Then we have new “Cloud” and “Mobility” solutions to factor in together with needs you may have for bar-coding solutions from an IT standpoint.

American STRUCTUREPOINT urges one to consider IT as an investment into the operations and flow of communications, rather than a cost of doing business. With proper budgeting, your company’s systems can be deployed in a way that enhances your ability to respond to varying changes in the competitive business environment. At least pause and re-consider your approach to this topic as we move forward into 2016. We at Phoenix Systems are of the same view and would like to help you with this process, if you would allow us.

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5 Corporate New Year’s Resolutions

Written by: Hanna Kounov

It is that time of the year and possibly you are making personal new year’s resolutions but have you ever considered making New Year’s Resolutions for your company or your department. Interesting thought right? This is the perfect time, in most cases year ends have just been completed and you have the big picture right at your fingertips. The point is to not just focus on the bottom line but on a broader spectrum.

So where do you start? Logically, with a review of the previous year. Word of caution, do not call it a post mortem. Post mortem by definition imply that something has died of unknown causes. Avoid this term when looking at the year or at anything else going forward for that matter. The idea for this review is to determine where you have been succeeding and where things can be strengthened. The fact that you are still in business means you are doing something right. The question is how do you make it better? These are the areas where you should focus your New Years Resolution’s.

With this in mind I did some research and found some of the key areas that companies are looking at for 2016:

1. Get to know your customer better.
You may be under the impression that you know your customers needs but things change constantly and what may have been important might not be now. Do you know their pain points and their needs? Find new and innovative ways to engage with your customers. Does your marketing strategy speak to their needs? If not how is that corrected and devise a plan of action. Marketing is important and there are many inexpensive ways to engage with customers in this day and age. Look for ways that work not just for you but also for your customer.

2. Time management.
Why do we fail at time management? Because everything we know about it is geared towards managing “clock time” and what we should really be managing is “real time”. Real time happens in our heads; we create it and anything we create can be managed. The first thing you have to know is how effective your company is at managing time. You could send your key people on time management courses but that would probably be a waste of time (pardon the pun) because they will be working with “clock time”. Perhaps a better way is to ask those same key people to jot down every thought, conversation, task or action they take for one week. At the end of that week look for the places where time is wasted on unproductive things that don’t produce results . Now you have the information to Organize, Prioritize and Schedule. Make sure that 50% of your teams scheduled time is spent on activities that generate results and schedule time for interruptions. Remind your team that it is impossible to get everything done in a day and be okay with that, tomorrow is another day and that is why you are prioritizing. The good news is that 20% of your teams actions will generate 80% of the results so if everyone is concentrating on the things that matter, you are way ahead of the game!

3. Maximize employee contributions.
Forget everything you know about this because there is no “secret”. Simply treat people the way you wish to be treated. Nothing makes up for compassion, mutual respect, kindness, open communication and flexibility. Adhering to this very simple rule will produce happier employees and happy employees engage with customers and each other in a positive way. Let your employees know that they are valued. Communicate the companies goals and values and allow for the people to have a say if they want to. Strengthen your teams skill sets with targeted training. When you invest in your people they feel valued, important and secure in their future with the company.

4. Understand your data.
Your company has a ton of data but other than the financials the rest may be shrouded in mystery. Find out what your key performance indicators are. Once you know what they are find ways to extract, massage and delve into it. Do you really know what is going on? Do you have enough historical information to make informed decisions in regard to budgets and sales targets? If the answer is no put it on your resolutions list and work with the data the whole year. Build a comprehensive Business Intelligence Strategy for the year. You will be tapping into a gold mine.

5. Set your goals for the year.
You do this every year and this one should be no different. The question would be, do you understand the information that is driving the goals? If you didn’t reach the previous year’s goals special care should be given as to why. Were you pushing the right products? Is your customer demographic in a strong position but you still missed out on sales or are you feeling the pinch because of an economic slowdown? Asking the tough questions will help you determine a valid sales target for the year ahead. Break down those lofty goals into milestones to be reached throughout the year. This will allow the team to feel that they are reaching their objective and motivate them. The final word I found in my research is; be realistic. If you are asking your sales force to reach unattainable goals it could have the opposite effect and make them feel defeated before they have started. Realistic goals make them strive and often exceed expectations.

 

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