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Identify Managers Before You Begin Any Project

Robert Regis Hyle | October 14, 2014

It took a while for companies to figure out that just because technology was involved in improving the way they do business, new software or upgrades aren’t necessarily “technology projects.” Implementing new core systems, data warehouses, and business intelligence tools are “business projects” that just happen to involve technology.

Recognizing what is right in front of us can be a challenge because we are trained to put things in certain boxes in a certain way. That was a second lesson learned from the implementation of some of the necessary software solutions the business side needed to be productive and competitive.

Since technology was the top layer of the new tools, it stood to reason the IT shop should be the ones to manage the implementation. It sounded good at the time and there was probably enough evidence available to show this often was a good idea. The problem lies in the difference between often and always.

As the business and financial challenges increased for insurers and the prospect of facing multi-million dollar software upgrades was before them, how many companies could afford to gamble on often rather than always?

IT leaders will always be important contributors to even the smallest of new product implementations, but many have learned that it’s a dangerous path to take on such tasks without shared responsibility from the business side and a strong leader in the middle to ensure both sides work together for the common good of the enterprise—and with no finger pointing allowed.

As Tracey Berg, CIO of West Bend Mutual told me for an article on project management, “We didn’t want to learn the lessons the hard way.”

Finding project leaders is difficult for small and midtier insurers because they can’t afford to dedicate a group of employees—or even a single leader—to a fulltime position as a project manager. There are plenty of options in the world of consultants, but it is also important to have someone involved who has invested their time in the success of the company, not just a single project.

Those people have to know both sides of the aisle and have to put the success of the company above the needs—and complaints—of one segment. They have to have the confidence to manage people that don’t look upon them as their manager and the backing of senior executives to be allowed to demonstrate those management skills.

 “We use the rule that if it didn’t hurt to pull them out of their previous jobs, they probably were not the right person for this,” says Berg. “For project management, the actual managers bring strong leadership and the mechanics of being a project manager who knows how to manage and track activity. We were looking for someone weighted with strong leadership skills and the core project management capabilities.”

There are people within your organization that can do this job. As always, the key is to find the ones that can do it well. Long before the request for proposals take place, business and IT leaders need to identify the people within their organization that can see a project through to a successful climax. After all, the best software in the world isn’t worth a dime if a company can’t successfully implement it.

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