Can you do away with the Project Initiation Meeting?

Project initiation meetings are often skipped to fast-track projects. Once a sponsor is found, organisations go straight to project planning and execution. But based on our own experience, holding a project initiation meeting can actually eliminate many issues that may crop up in the future and hence may speed things up instead in the long run.

It is in the project initiation meeting where your project objectives and scope are clarified and all stakeholders are brought to the same page. Project sponsors and stakeholders will have to know in a nutshell what is needed from them, what the possible risks are, what different resources are required, and so on. So that, when it’s time to proceed to the next phase, everyone is already in-sync.

So what are taken up in such a meeting? Perhaps an actual example can help. Sometime in the past, we set out to work on an eCommerce website project. After conducting the project initiation meeting, these were some of the things we were able to accomplish:

  • Identified deliverables e.g. site design, interface to payment system, etc.
  • Come up with the project phases
  • Agreed what should be in and out of scope
  • Defined the acceptance test criteria
  • Identified possible risks
  • Identified the possible training and documentation work needed
  • Established whether any analysis was required, e.g. as with regards to payment interfaces
  • Formulated disaster recovery plans
  • Defined roles and responsibilities
  • Drafted timelines and due dates

Aren’t these covered in project planning? If the project is a big one, the answer is no. In a large project, project planning is a much more exhaustive activity. In a project initiation meeting, only the basic framework is defined.

Some questions may still remain unanswered after a project initiation meeting, but at least you already know what answers you need to look for. In the example we gave earlier, we left the meeting knowing that we needed:

  • a list of all necessary hardware to estimate the costs
  • to identify possible dependencies we might have with third parties
  • to identify what software had to be bought and what skills we needed to hire

When it was time to proceed to project planning, everyone involved already knew what direction we were taking. In effect, by not skipping the project initiation meeting, we were able to avoid many potential obstacles.

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Making Click-and-Collect click

In my previous post, I introduced you to integrated e-commerce and explained why it is the right way to extend your business online. If you already have a brick-and-mortar retailing business and you’re looking to improve your online presence, you could start offering a click-and-collect service.

With click-and-collect, customers order online and then collect their merchandise from one of the retailer?s local branches. Why would they want to do that?

Apparently, there are buyers who now prefer a click-and-collect service over the delivery service of a purely online retailer. With the latter, they sometimes have to wait forever for the delivery van to arrive or contend with a missed-delivery card.

Basically, customers who want both the convenience of placing orders online and better control of their time find click-and-collect a better option.

Last December 2011, IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) reported a ?significant rise in the percentage of click-and-collect e-retail sales in the 3rd quarter of 2011?. This accounted for 10.4% of all e-retail sales in that quarter. More specifically, the gain was 7.4%, which was also the strongest quarterly gain since IMRG started collecting this data.

Clearly, this particular service is gaining popularity. But how do you meet the rising demand in this area?

A click-and-collect service requires a highly synchronised ecosystem. You don’t want to have a customer order items from your online store, drive a couple of minutes from his house to your nearest outlet, only to find out that one of the items is no longer available.

This can only work if all systems involved are interconnected. Changes in the inventory in your individual outlets should reflect on your database in real time. In turn, these changes have to be reflected instantly on your online store. Conversely, once a buyer has picked items online and is already directed to a local outlet, those items have to be reserved there.

But that’s not all. Your system has to be seamless enough to support fast and reliable service. You don’t want your buyer to have to wait a long time before the items are ready for pick-up. It also has to be capable of tracking the status of ordered products, handling uncollected orders, and monitoring inventory.

By implementing an integrated e-commerce system, these won’t be the only things you?d be able to do. You can even add more value to your service. For example, you can connect to your CRM and learn more about your customers? purchase history, buying habits, and preferences.

That way, it would be easier for you to provide a faster and more convenient buying experience for them in the future.

Click-and-collect is a very promising way to increase your sales and improve customer loyalty.

Business Turnaround Tip for a Successful MBO Turned Awry

When you acquire a company through an MBO, your hopes are always high. You know the business more than anyone else and you’ve got too much at stake to do a sloppy job. So how could things go wrong? Well sometimes they do. And if you don’t make a quick business turnaround, you could end up losing more than just your company.

If that management buyout was financed by a bank, then chances are you were required to invest a sizeable amount from your own pockets. I won’t be surprised if you even remortgaged your house for it.

Regardless of your source of funding, whether it was a bank, a venture capitalist or through a deferred consideration, the mere thought of losing your job and getting buried in enormous debt at the same time might be too much to bear. If you get too overwhelmed by your emotions and can’t think clearly, you’ll have to step out of the driver?s seat and have someone take over.

That someone can’t be a member of the management team that took part in the management buyout. Like you, he/she might be in panic mode as well. You need someone from the outside who has no emotional attachments to the company and hence can view the crisis from a clear perspective.

Here’s what’s needed:

Review and Plan

Take a closer look at all factors affecting your business: governance and organisational structures, employees, suppliers, systems and procedures, roles and responsibilities, etc. Identify potential risks and assess the likelihood of them affecting your business.

This will give a clearer picture of cause-and-effect relationships as well as the specific tasks on hand.

Thus, when it is time to draft a plan, you can do so from a well-informed standpoint. This will enable you to target specific areas of improvement and avoid pointless activities.

Assure all stakeholders

Once a watertight plan has been formulated, you will have to approach your stakeholders. They?ll need to know what your directions are. Once they’re all sold on the plan, you could implement our strategies unimpeded.

This is a very crucial part because a sceptical stakeholder can serve as a major stumbling block in our efforts to improve the situation. You need to convince your banks, sponsors, and investors in order to avoid additional financial obstacles. You need to convince your suppliers too. If they cut off or limit supply, you won’t be able to continue doing business.

Most of all, you need to persuade your staff and employees that the proposed major changes have to be carried out in order for the company to survive. You can’t run your operations without them on board.

Redesign and set up new systems and procedures

Any company requiring a turnaround will certainly have systems and procedures that are no longer working well in the current conditions and hence would require either major changes in key areas or a total revamp. You need to study personnel roles and responsibilities as well as systems and processes, including financial and IT systems, and supervise the implementation of necessary changes.

You will need to evaluate your existing IT architecture and determine how you can best maximise what you already have and propose what you think will work more efficiently for our proposed systems and procedures. Every piece of hardware or software recommended will take into consideration your present resources. There are many solutions out there, you just need to find the best fit.

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What are Operational Reviews

Faced with growing competition, businesses continually need to find new innovative solutions and ideas to improved organizational performance, especially in various cut-throat industries where innovation and good management can make or break the company.

This is the reason why, businesses place greater emphasis on the evaluation of efficiency, effectiveness, and economics of its operations.

Conducting regular Operational Reviews are key to keeping your company at peak performance.

What is an Operational Review

An operational review is an in-depth and objective review of an entire organization or a specific segment of that organization. It can be used to identify and address existing concerns within your company such as communication issues between departments, problems with customer relations, operating procedures, lack of profitability issues, and other factors that affect the stability of the business.

Operational reviews allow the organization members to evaluate how well they are performing, given that they perform appropriately according to the procedures set by them, allocating their resources properly, and performing such tasks within time frame set and using cost-effective measures. More importantly, it also shows your company how well it is prepared to meet future challenges.

What are the objectives of an Operational Review

The goals of an operational review are to increase revenue, improve market share, and reduce cost.

An operational review allows the management to see their company in a different light i.e a larger perspective. That is, it gives the management the opportunity to evaluate if the entrusted resources were used wisely to achieve the desired results of operations.

Operational reviews provide a comprehensive assessment of authority in that they help define expectations, and empower people within an organization to enact? up on it. This is due feedback provided will help them to better gauge the value of tasks performed and whether the job is being done the right or wrong way, and on what areas the company can excel and improve on.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Questions worth considering in an Operational Review

Are you able to view your own organization as a whole from an objective angle?

Do the different departments complement each other so that they form a cohesive unit that boosts your business in the right direction?

With our comprehensive assessment of your organization?s current systems, operations, processes, and strategies, our operational review programs aim to help you in achieving these lofty goals: to improve business profitability and identify incompetence in both operations and organizational systems.

Benefits of an Operational Review

The main objective of an operational review is to help organizations like yours to learn how to deal with and address issues, instead of simply reacting to the challenges brought about by growth and change.

Information and data gathered in an Operational Review is practical from both a financial and operational perspective. Using? data, management can then formulate recommendations, which are not only realistic, but more importantly, can help the organization achieve its goals.

The Operational Review recognizes the extent to which your internal controls actually work, and enables you to identify and understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

What should be included in an operational review

  • Assess compliance within your own organizational objectives, policies and procedures
  • Evaluate specific company operations independently and objectively
  • Impartial assessment regarding the effectiveness of an organization’s control systems
  • Identify the appropriate standards for quantifying achievement of organizational objectives
  • Evaluate the reliability and value of the company’s management data and reports
  • Pinpoint problem areas and their underlying causes
  • Identify opportunities to increase profit, augment revenue, and reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of the product or service.

More Operational Review Blogs

 

Carrying out an Operational Review

 

Operational Reviews

 

Operational Efficiency Initiatives

 

Operational Review Defined

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