Thursday, February 17, 2011

Be Careful What You Ask For!

Wow....what a week!  I have been honored to work with a phenomenal organization to architect and develop a solution that can revolutionize an industry.  This project blends project management, business process re-engineering, and solution design.  It is a once in a lifetime type of project and the immediate team that I am working with is truly amazing.  We were paid one of the nicest compliments that I have ever received from a client.  This client had been working on the design of a solution and trying to find technology to deliver it for over two years.  He said to me last night, "Where we are now is where we had hoped to be 12-14 months ago.  However, having you guys on board made it worth the wait."  That was just one of the many compliments delivered to us this week by one of the most amazing clients.  I have never worked with a client that embraced and appreciated hard work as much as this one.  We heard from the top of the organization, the senior leadership, the project manager, the business liaison, the IT sponsor and everywhere in between compliments as nice as that I said in the a week!

Early on in my career, I was called in to rescue a  project that was one year past due and one million dollars over budget.  The goal of the project was to reduce the entry of the items by the employees in the field from 5 minutes per item to 3 minutes per item.  We spent another year developing this system that was originally estimated to take 6 months.  I begged to meet with users in the field and gain their input in the design of the system.  Each time, my request was denied.  When we finally debuted the system just slightly two years overdue, the field users hated it.  It now took them up to 15 minutes per item.  We had increased their time instead of decreasing their time.  The managers all thought they knew best and made all of the decisions during requirements and design.  They were wrong.  The end result was we lost the customer, they lost 2.5 years and 3 million dollars, and they had to start all over by throwing the system away and starting from scratch.  Learning from that mistake, we had asked for user involvement in this current system we are developing.  This leads me to the title of this blog careful what you ask for!

This week was the culmination of 16 months of requirements and 5 months of heavy development with 6 separate incremental demonstrations of the functionality.  We had a select group of individuals representing each of the roles in the system come in for the first true unveiling of the design.  While the system overall was a hit, we missed a core element of the system in a big way.  All of the requirements, all of the discussions, and all of the design sessions....and we missed a core element.  At first, it was devastating.  It was scary.  What did it really mean?  Luckily, it wasn't the first rodeo for me or the client.  We were prepared to have something go wrong, but we were all honestly surprised how far we missed the core element.  By the end of the session, we had a new design and a new approach hammered out and on the way to the core decision makers for their approval.

The moral of the story is you have to get to the users.  You have to get the true input of the people that are the ones that are going to use the system.  It does not matter how much expertise you have in the room, how good the developers are, or how long you spent doing requirements.  If you do not have the core users giving you input on how the systems should function, your chances of success are reduced exponentially.  At the same time, you must be careful what you ask for.  When you do solicit feedback, make sure it is early enough in the process that you can make the appropriate adjustments.  If we had this session 3-4 weeks later, I think it would have been detrimental to the project.

So the project management tip for this week, make sure you are getting users input.  Make sure that you do it early enough in the project where the feedback can be applied to the project without many changes.  Don't be afraid to ask....just be careful!

Until next time!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Time for a New Set of Goals!

Happy Anniversary! I am proud and blessed to announce that R2 Consulting has turned 2 today. I can't believe it has been two years already. What an incredible journey this has been. The people that we have had a chance to work with, the solutions that we have been able to craft, and the ability to create an appropriate work/life balance have surpassed all expectations. We exceeded our first year revenue goals by over 10 % and grew an additional 5% over the next year. While 5% is modest growth, profitability grew by 61% year over year. We have also just concluded our largest revenue month ever. We created this little upstart in one of the most challenging economic times in our Nation's history and have been blessed to continue to do what we love while being able to support our families.

My VP of Sales, partner, and great friend Greg Huffman shared a story with me this morning on the 2 year anniversary. He had dinner last night with an associate of ours who told him the story of how he had met me. In 2005, I was a senior project manager for CA and was assigned to the Clarity implementation at a retail company in Jackson, MS. We were utilizing a partner company to do the implementation of the system. As I try to do with all of my partners and associates, I took the two gentlemen from this organization to dinner to become acquainted with them. Generally at these dinners, we tell stories of experience and past projects and begin to build a relationship with each other. At this particular dinner, I was asked what my career aspirations were. I had some ideas that were just brewing in my head at that time and listed my goals:

1) I wanted to write a book. (I have 3 on the market now)
2) I wanted to build a speaking career and seminar business around the book. (I speak for an average of two organizations or events per week)
3) I wanted to eventually own my firm. (R2 Consulting)
4) I wanted to consult in many different industries and inspire organizations to look at project managers as a strategic resource. (Our client and industry list continues to grow)
5) I wanted to travel the world with my family. (We go overseas at least twice per year. Once for vacation and at least once for a speaking engagement)

Those were my long term goals. When I woke up this morning, I had an e-mail from Greg wishing me a happy anniversary. He also said that our associate had relayed the conversation and was happy to see that I had achieved all that I said that I would. That made me pause for a moment. I have achieved what I had set out to do. Sometimes, we get so busy in our day to day routines that we often do not take a step back and reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we are heading. I was blown away by the story. I can't believe that he remembered what I had said that evening. Now thinking back to what I had listed, those were items that I had wanted to accomplish over the next 10-15 years. I have been blessed to be surrounded with such a phenomenal group of friends, business associates, and family to help me achieve these goals so quickly. So it is time to set the next set of goals. Here goes:

1) Build a proven system that promotes project management and project managers as strategic resources that revolutionize the way organizations operate.
2) Create a motivational seminar series that teaches and empowers individuals and organizations to harness the power of change and improve their lives and communities.
3) Franchise the seminar series and create a worldwide audience.
4) Expand R2 Consulting to become the premiere resource for project management technology and development.
5) Spend more time fulfilling my roles for my family (Father, Husband)

There it is. Exposed for the world to see (or at least the 20 of you who actually read this post). Let's pray that the next 5 years grow like the last 5!

Finally tonight I wanted to touch on one other topic. On a post last April, I talked about why I like the small, family-based company feel ( I was heartbroken to hear the shocking layoffs of two of my friends. One had been with a company for 16 years. She just recently had her second child and upon returning from maternity leave, she found out that her job was being outsourced to India. My other friend was put in a position a few years ago with no training and little chance for success. He persevered and was achieving his sales goals for the company. Furthermore, he was about to close a very lucrative deal that he had put quite a lot of effort towards. Two weeks before the signature of the deal, he was laid off. The Department of Labor talks about how transient the workforce is these days. They estimate that an average person will have five jobs before the age of 30. We also are seeing statistics of average length of employment at a company is two years. For the young mother of two, 16 years of loyalty was paid off by giving her job to a cheaper resource. The message continues to be sent that profit is more important than loyalty and service. Where has common sense gone? Where has loyalty gone? I remember I was almost removed from a company because I had exceeded my goals and it would have been more of a cost savings to the company to not pay me my incentive. They had made the decision to keep the person who was not performing as well. If I had not closed a big deal when I had, then they would have gone through with it.

I pray for my friends and for all of you out there who may find yourself in this position. Keep your head up. Maybe it is time for you to find your passion and pursue a career that gives you the freedom to do what you want and the satisfaction of doing it your way. Maybe it is time for you to set some new goals......

Until next time!