The Strategy Phase- How and When to Engage Project Stakeholders

strategyIn this blog series, you will learn how NEOS teams successfully lead process 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:

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• Measures of Success – Measures of success are broken into two categories.

• 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!

• 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.