Teetering on Projects?
Tips for Pushing Projects Forward Pensively

Experts may say the recession is over, but for those of us who've held on during the tumultuous ride of this past year, letting our guard down and going back to business as usual isn't that easy. In fact, experts predict that moving forward; companies will not conduct business the way they did prior to the recession.

Instead, we've entered a new era, one that requires dynamic thinking, contemplative decision making, confidence in return on investments, and partnerships with companies that share the same values and put your best interests first. Given this cautious position, what does the future hold for companies that are ready to reactivate projects, but are still apprehensive? We've been witness to companies overcoming the hurdles that are preventing many from kick-starting new programs.

Based on our recent experiences and other best practices we've seen in action, STAR BASE Consulting has identified a few ideas you can put into immediate action to help your company overcome those apprehensions:

  • Engage in consultative partnerships. The concept of "consultative partnerships," is nothing new, yet it's a model that is not often embraced. It seems simple: partner with a company that weighs your project needs against business objectives and invests in getting to know your business well. Unfortunately, many business partners "talk the talk," but don't "walk the walk." Therefore, take time to make sure that the company whom you're considering working with clearly understands your business issues and your business objectives.

While you want a partner to provide a solution that meets your needs, it's equally important that they are identifying opportunities to provide stronger alternatives or more efficient strategies to achieve your business goals. For example, you have a project that you believe requires five software developers. In a consultative partnership, the company will look at alternatives—perhaps three developers with a solid set of X, Y; and Z skills; could do the job of five. Sometimes the suggestion by your business partner might not offer them immediate rewards; but in the long run, establishing a relationship that puts your best interests first always wins.

  • Separate "must haves" from "nice to haves." Take time to fully understand what goals you need your pending project to achieve. Are there components you can forego—that might be nice to include but not completely necessary—in order to achieve the stated business goals with less investment? For example, a closer look at the project plan for a new application installation reveals that with some minor adjustments, you can achieve the same benefits by rolling it out in two phases instead of the planned three. Holding off or eliminating phase three saves enough time and resources to rationalize the expense. It's this level of evaluation at the beginning of a project that will give you the confidence to make thoughtful investments.

  • Think out-of-the-box. Can you partner with other companies for any portion of your project—swap services, share expenses? Is your team cross-trained, and if not, can they be? Finding ways to work more efficiently and maximize resources will lead to at least a bit of flexibility in funds to get projects underway.

  • Own return on investment. Developing a business case and establishing meaningful ways to measure a project's ROI will be keys to gaining buy-in and approval of scarce budget dollars moving forward. In fact, in a recent CIO magazine article highlighting research around ROI and ERP systems, 52 percent of those surveyed estimate ROI "sometimes" or "never" to justify cost expenditures. And post-rollout, 75 percent "sometimes" or "never" measure ROI results after completion. While this might have been acceptable in the past, today more and more companies simply cannot approve funds without justification of business benefits. The more you can demonstrate success through hard facts, the stronger your credibility in delivering against established goals and the easier it will be to validate your need for resources in the future.

The bottom line is that most business leaders will continue to move forward in the final quarter of 2009 and begin 2010 with what we'd call the FUD factor: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. The challenge for all of us will be to overcome the FUD factor little by little, take pensive steps to move your business forward—and whatever you do—do not stagnate. Doing nothing will get all of us nowhere fast.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                




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