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PlanningPlanning Phase – How and When to Engage Project Stakeholders

Coming out of the redesign phase, our consultants go to work producing a proprietary set of tools that inform the overall program structure, key projects, risks and opportunities. These tools are designed to capture the critical information needed to drive projects without derailing teams in cumbersome details and repetitive documentation.
Details include a right-sized view into key people, process and technology enablers, gaps in current-state process, impacts, risks, and the right level process design documentation. With this information, project teams know exactly where to start.
Here’s a glimpse into what your teams can start doing once you’ve implemented the tips outlined in the first two blogs. During the redesign phase critical inputs should have already been captured. At this point, it’s a matter of building a cohesive view into what it will take to achieve the future state. At a high level, a single final document – per process – should include each new step, key features, their definitions, impacts, enablers required and roles involved. At NEOS, consultants are usually able to achieve this in a single viewable map. Many leaders recognize the importance of simplifying project management requirements, but stopping at this level of detail is sometimes difficult to accept. Those who do, position themselves to facilitate easier discussion between teams and make much faster decisions when it comes to estimating and planning. Information is consumable and critical variables are clear. This format also integrates exceptionally well with agile project frameworks and traditional waterfall frameworks. Your teams are free to capture and document any other fundamental data that is needed as part of normal governance proceedings. Take caution in dissolving the true benefit of performing in a more agile way by over-documenting.
As teams begin reviewing these documents and roadmap planning begins, a long list of potential opportunities captured during the redesign working session are rationalized into projects. Naturally, at this point the usual suspects of project pain start to emerge early; leaders from across functions start negotiating trade-offs of opportunities, discussing impacts to other in-flight work, and debating funding and return on investment. This is where the BVL (Business Value Linkage Dashboard) – covered earlier in this blog series – serves as a helpful tool for both project teams and leaders alike. The power is in the clearly articulated objectives and measures of success defined before the redesign workshops even started. The BVL, which was designed through collaboration of those very same leaders, becomes the decisive tool to help in keeping the focus on the business objectives and is used to determine which projects fall within the previously defined scope and which projects will be recommended as BAU or future wish-list items. If you do not have these integral components in place, look at blog 1 or blog 2 for an in-depth discussion of how to strengthen your position and confidence as you or your teams begin to transform critical processes.
In all, the roadmap planning takes just two to three weeks after the workshops have been completed. Our clients are armed with a set of recommendations and detailed project profiles that capture scope and measurable outcomes along with a clearly defined roadmap. In addition, our sponsors are given an implementation change management action plan along with key risks and tools to help them kickoff the program quickly. At NEOS, we make process and business capability transformation agile, practical, and achievable through our proprietary FutureWeek methodology, and we invite you to visit our site to learn more.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Getting a Project to the Finish Line – Six Drivers of Success You Can’t Overlook – Part V – Solution Fit

Part 5 of 6Leadership/Sponsorship

In the last installment of this series so far, I shared some thoughts a
round the importance of Target Employee Engagement. We’ve also covered the importance of Sponsorship, Organizational Relevance, and Communication to a project’s success. In 2015, NEOS did an informal, online survey where we asked experienced practitioners to rank order six reasons a project fails to deliver its anticipated business value. We’ve covered the “big 4” in these first few blogs…  and there’s a reason I started with sponsorship!

We’re updating this survey for 2016-2017 and would love your insights. If you’re of a mind to share, please click here to share your opinion! It will take a whopping 5 minutes of your time…

Moving on now to talk about Technology (or Solution) Fit. You’ll see that just 9% of our respondents cited the appropriateness of the chosen solution as the #1 or #2 reason a project fails to deliver on business value. This statistic surprised me when I saw it, because in my travels as a consultant, I have encountered many clients who aren’t using their purchased technology to its fullest potential. As I thought longer and harder about that, I realized that the reason for the under-use of expensive systems ends up being inadequate sponsorship and employee engagement, not the system itself. In fact, most companies have a robust procurement and system selection process that more or less ensures a decent vendor choice.

What constitutes a decent vendor choice, and what should you have in your procurement/system selection process? Here are my top three answers to those questions, and I invite you to share yours in the comments.

  1. When you start on the search for a new system, start by identifying your “knock out” criteria or questions. Is there a back-end data store with which the new technology must integrate? What functionality absolutely has to be part of the solution? Are there any aspects of a solution that would immediately disqualify it (e.g., financial viability of the vendor)? Issue an RFI to a wide range of potential providers and get them to respond to these knock out questions. Only when you’ve narrowed your vendor list to a manageable few should you issue the detailed RFP. This saves you wading through detailed responses from vendors who should never have gotten past the starting line. It also eliminates distractions.
  2. Prioritize cross-functional criteria for your RFP, and ask vendors to respond to specific open-ended questions in their submissions. We’ve got a whole whitepaper that covers the art of writing an effective RFP, and one of the main recommendations is around question writing. Include representatives from all functional areas, and give equal weight to their voices. It’s all too easy to make an emotional decision (yes, it is) because someone falls in love with one of the solutions but, on paper, it fails to meet the highest priority criteria.
  3. Choose a vendor whose people and tools mesh well with your company’s people and culture. (The best selection committees make this one of the knock out criteria way back in the RFI stage.) I’ve seen small to medium sized companies choose a behemoth core system or workflow vendor and end up being too small to register on the KPI dashboard of the behemoth, or they falter under the weight of the solution and never install it. A well-vetted smaller provider that is financially sound and has proven installations may be a better fit for you than the industry-dominating Magic Quadrant leader.

It goes without saying that the business case for the solution spend must hold up regardless of vendor personality and RFP responses. Avoid over-buying/building (or, less commonly, under-buying/building) by having a firm grasp of your prioritized requirements and keeping the right voices at the table. There’s no perfect fit when it comes to solution choices, but you can greatly increase your odds by following a few best practices.

The next blog will (sadly) be the last in this series. We’ll talk about the wonderful world of Program Mechanics, which is where most people start when they want to know why their programs are yellow or red instead of green.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Redesign Stage – How and When to Engage Project Stakeholders

In my first blog, we covered the Strategy Phase, the first of three phases for a successful process redesign effort. You learned the process of engaging senior leadersshutterstock_252572515_2.eps to define
a strategic vision and set of objectives that could be used create a Business Value Linkage Dashboard, which establishes the link between project outcomes and performance indicators allowing you to show how your project will enable the broader business strategy.  This is a key step in securing buy-in and resource commitments from cross-functional leaders early in your transformation journey.

In this installment, we’ll cover the Redesign Phase and highlight the evolving role of various stakeholders as the team begins to reimagine how the process with enable the future state business objectives. Let’s start by exploring two common scenarios that we encounter with clients and how each circumstance can impact the overall approach for redesigning a process:

  1. Minor to moderate investment available, but process needs to be fixed: If the project team decided there is minimal budget or room for change, emphasis will be placed on finding efficiencies, driving down cost, and minimizing organizational pain.

The unique difference in this scenario is the preparation needed to drive the workshop. To prepare for your redesign, members of your team should have cataloged and scored “pain points” and mapped them to the end to end current state process map. This visual will be the primary driver for your workshop and should be posted in plain sight for all to see in the room. The goal is to focus on the areas of highest opportunity based on pain, cost, error (categories vary) and design with the existing process in mind. This may include modifications to roles, potential headcount changes, simple technology fixes, lean opportunities, and improved controls and measures for accountability.

  1. Executives have acknowledged that a process should be completely redesigned to enable the business strategy: This scenario yields the greatest opportunity. Teams are free to focus on what should be accomplished based on the Business Vision and Value Linkage Dashboard created in phase 1 of the process redesign. Most often, workshop attendees are provided a pre-read packet to pre-educate them on the vision and business objectives established for the effort and also best practices for redesigning a process. This is a critical step for setting expectations and priming participants to be focused and productive.  These efforts usually result in process changes that require workflow changes, technology enhancements or replacements as needed, changes in org structure and/or reporting structure, and significant improvements in the culture for accountability and getting results through new controls and decisions rights.
Critical Success Factor: Forget funding and forget the limitations you think you have. Nothing can be more destructive than to capture, consider, and discuss current state limitations during a future state redesign workshop.


For either scenario you will need to confirm all of the right people are present. Yes, inviting a large number of people can be problematic, but only when sessions are not segmented and participants are not prepared correctly. The effort should be broken into multiple working sessions with careful preparation. We have successfully completed in just one to three weeks what takes teams months at a time due to poor planning, over documentation, and bureaucracy.

It’s important to make sure that all stakeholder pain points are discussed, but also within the context of the Business Value Linkage Dashboard so that participants shed unwanted bias and focus on the objectives of the effort. This will keep the team focused on the highest priority areas of opportunity.

The length of the workshops will vary, but the overall timeline for achieving a future state design is usually just one week. We leverage our proprietary FutureWeekTM process to engage stakeholders in a series of well-planned working sessions that allow us to completely and successfully redesign our clients’ future state business processes and capabilities. In some cases, it can be done in a mere day or two.

Documentation in either scenario is key. Often times, in an effort to anticipate documentation needs later on during build activities, teams over-document and find themselves wasting valuable workshop time focusing on finer details that usually cloud more strategic opportunities and lure people back into focusing on the limitations of the future state.

At NEOS, we have a proprietary set of deliverables that we begin during the redesign sessions and complete over the following week. Our clients end up with a concise set of proprietary tools and documents that enable leaders and project teams to engage in immediate process-improvement initiatives. Details include key people, process and technology enablers, gaps in current-state process, impacts, risks, the right level process designs. Project teams know exactly where to start and do not have to ask for more information.

In close, redesigning for the future state doesn’t have to take weeks or even months. By leveraging the outputs from the Strategy Phase, preparing the right pre-workshop materials, clearly articulating the ground rules for the working sessions, and completing carefully defined deliverables, teams can quickly reimagine the future state and executives can work in confidence that outcomes are tightly aligned to critical business objectives.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column]


Starting a business process initiative is a complicated endeavor. How can you judge a company’s appetite for business process initiatives? This webcast gives tips to judge an organization’s willingness to start an initiative.

How to Judge your Company's Appetite for Business Process Initiatives

Business Process Acronyms Explained


There are many business process acronyms out there. Should you be focusing on BPM or BPMS, or what about BPI initiatives? The truth is, all these acronyms can get confusing to anyone trying to implement a process redesign initiative. Don’t worry, NEOS has explained them in this webcast for you.[/vc_column_text]


Automation is Not the Only Tool


NEOS consultants Carla Gregory, Senior Principal, and Claudia (Clu) Monroe, Managing Consultant, address a common business process misconception. When it comes to business processes, automation is not the only tool available. Listen to the video to find out your other options.


In this webcast, you’ll hear about NEOS’ call-to-action plan for when a project disconnects with its intended business value, called the Business-Value Linkage model. This model ensures a tight alignment between what a project team does and the business rationale for doing it.

Bridging the Gap...Connecting Your Project to Real Business Value

01 Aug 2016


FutureWeek, What is it?

Listen to a quick webcast on a piece of NEOS’s proven method of modernizing business processes. Find out what exactly FutureWeek is, how it is conducted, the common business process improvement challenges it addresses and the benefits of conducting a FutureWeek.

How and When to Engage Project Stakeholders

Nailing Down Your Strategy and Project Goals

In this blog series, you will learn how NEOS teams successfully lead processtrategys redesign efforts and simultaneously engage project stakeholders to eliminate downstream concerns or project failure. The Strategy Phase, the first of 3 process redesign phases, is critical for establishing scope, direction, and a business case for change. It serves as the first and best opportunity to secure any executive-level commitment that can provide backing when projects begin bumping into each other down the line. This phase also produces a tool known as the NEOS Business Value Linkage Dashboard (BVLD). The BVLD ensures clients’ critical initiatives are tied clearly with discreet measures of success valued by the business. Let’s take a moment to explore how and why.

The goals of the Strategy Phase are specific; to engage cross-functional leaders, determine project scope and define a targeted set of objectives that meet the needs of both sponsoring executives and the overall business strategy. It engages a subset of stakeholders and key leaders who will provide a broad range of feedback and impact knowledge. Various tactics are used to capture input on project goals from all relevant groups. This information is then consolidated and used to guide a focused discussion and nail down exactly what will be achieved through the redesign effort. The result is a set of simple, practical, but very robust set of deliverables. More importantly, the true power comes from the process. Coming out of the Strategy phase, clients have gotten key leaders aligned with one another, with a tightly defined scope and minimal room for deviation. Establishing these expectations early on means:

  • Critical advocates buy into your redesign initiative early and likely for the long haul
  • Key leaders are prepared to advocate strongly for your initiative because they understand what’s in it for them, what’s not in it for them, and how it will enable the business.

This is no small feat for just three weeks of work, and the results will keep your project alive when the going gets tough (i.e. new projects begin competing for the same resources and funding)

Here’s an important caveat. Many people typically leave IT out of this stage, perhaps rightfully so. When redesigning a business capability or process, it can seem logical to define the business need first and determine technology solution second. However, our experience has shown it is a sound practice to engage IT early from an awareness perspective. Engagement is the most powerful tool you can give stakeholders. It gets them thinking about what change is coming down the pipeline and can result in great suggestions. At this stage, IT can also identify high-level impacts that should be considered for prioritization and planning purposes. I will provide further insight into appropriate IT involvement in the next installment of this series.

The result of all stakeholder engagement in the Strategy phase is a defined set of deliverables to direct the redesign process. These deliverables typically include:

  1. A Clear Vision – In some cases, we need to ground ourselves in the overall enterprise or business vision to ensure key leaders are clear on the ultimate outcomes.
  2. A Targeted Mission – The inputs from initial assessments clearly define, “what is the particular initiative or project going to deliver and how does it support the broader business objectives?” There is a specific way to construct this so that it is meaningful and measurable.
  3. Clearly Defined Business Objectives – Stakeholders help to answer, “How do we define success for the project?” and “What will success look like?” The best approach is to develop 3-5 objectives depending on the size of the project or program and examine questions such as will your project automate processes and reduce the likelihood of human error? Will it organize data more efficiently in some way? Make sure the objectives align with your project mission and broader business objectives. Doing this will help your team to control the scope with precision; doing so in collaboration with impacted leaders is a powerful tactic to get leaders on board early.
  4. Measures of Success – Measures of success are broken into two categories.
  5. Business Indicators – Organizational metrics will help you identify project success, or show the organizational areas that need to be strengthened. Indicators will also answer the question, “How should we track and report success for the project?” Here’s a practical tip. It is important not to focus entirely on what is measured today, but this is a good starting point. This step is often overlooked in projects, but it is necessary to keep a project on track, demonstrating value and sustaining buy-in for the change. Don’t skip it or you can’t truly measure success!
  6. Detailed Metrics – in those instances where the criteria are clear and data is already captured, it is important to document detailed metrics. At a minimum, Business Indicators are selected. Metrics will emerge more clearly as the process definition gets under way.

Together, these deliverables combine to create the proprietary tool we refer to as the Business Value Linkage Dashboard (BVLD).

The Strategy Phase is incredibly powerful because it helps leaders define the business value in terms that resonate with them and understand how success will be measured and what strategic goals will be met. It also determines who must be involved from all respective teams to ensure success.  With the commitment of senior leaders to these outcomes, you will be prepared to determine required roles and ensure those resources are available to participate throughout the lifecycle of your project. Implementing these few fundamental shifts in your approach to strategic planning for your next initiative will guarantee confidence that you are engaging the right stakeholders and dramatically impacting the results from Day 1.

Subscribe to the NEOS blog to receive Part 2 of the series, where we will discuss the Redesign Phase.


At the close of the webinar, attendees gained knowledge as to why taking an in-depth look into their processes will allow them to reduce their level of operational risk. Included in the webinar was discussion on how to use a NEOS tool, Process Control Topology, for single regulations, what the benefits of documenting with controls can provide, as well as how to use process inventory to identify, quantify, and mitigate operational risk. The webinar included insight from the following panelists: Carla Gregory, VP, Consulting Operations, NEOS: Carla brings over 25 years of consulting experience in the business process management, organization development and operations efficiency spaces. Since joining NEOS in 2011, Carla has established and leads the Business Consulting practice area, responsible for internal operations, engagement delivery and execution, and client relationship management. Patty Kurlansky, Independent Financial Services Professional: Patty retired from The Hartford Insurance Group in 2007, after a 33-year career that included all aspects of individual life and annuity service management from point of sale to the termination of a policy, mergers and acquisitions, international start-ups, and large scale systems and organizational integrations. Jill Vancour, CPA, Director and Risk Manager, Mass Mutual Financial Group: Jill has over 24 year’s consultative experience in accounting and finance for the insurance industry with proficiency in external audit, internal audit, operations, sourcing, and risk governance. Currently, Jill is a Risk Manager for the Financial Reporting Risk Group, a team within Enterprise Risk Management focusing on internal control compliance.

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