Asset management organizations spend significant time and money assessing their investment technology and operations, choosing new tools and vendors, building a roadmap and outlining a future operating model and processing environment. As firms set out on a program, the realization quickly sets in that if you don’t build a solid project management structure around the initiative, it will end up overdue and over budget with everyone overwrought!
Too often a major component of these initiatives is given the short shrift, ignored altogether or initiated at the last minute. That component is readiness. Readiness asks the questions: Are technology and production support ready? Are operations ready? Are upstream and downstream constituents (front office and external parties) ready? To achieve readiness, communication, process improvement, training, engaging users on user acceptance testing (UAT), pilot and parallel are key actions. Having a focus on these activities ensures acceptance and often enthusiasm in the outcome.
There was a time when transformation projects were considered technology projects and solving for business issues was the role of IT departments. Once initial requirements were collected, technical solutions were identified and rolled out with minimal input from business or operations. The project team would “arrive” one day, announce it was time to go live, provide some training and deliver the new product. It was not uncommon for analysts, portfolio managers, and operations teams to feel that the new tools did not really meet their needs. The business or operation would wedge the new tools into the current business processes augmented with Excel spreadsheets, manual procedures and workarounds, or in some cases there would be a roll back of the whole initiative. These were unfortunate outcomes that would only have been prevented if the operations and investment organizations engaged themselves early and forced a positive result.
Readiness works best when built into the project organization. It is an activity that crosses workstreams and engages the production teams well in advance of the delivery of new tools and processes. Typically part of the Project Management Office (PMO), the readiness team is responsible for making sure the production teams are informed, involved and enthused about the change to come. Having a solid readiness initiative throughout the project will help make this possible and enable success.
While readiness as a primary focus has become more prevalent on large scale projects, this is not always the case, especially in smaller organizations. Firms and programs of all sizes will benefit from this important role and I encourage organizations large and small to embrace this function and reap the benefits when your project succeeds.