Project management has featured prominently in our Treasury Matters blog in recent months. Today, we will be taking a closer look at how it is best implemented. BELLIN being a globally active company with clients and partners all over the world and offices in Germany, Canada and the UK, we’ve been involved in project management activities in various different countries. Today we talk to three of our consultants about what they think makes for effective project management: Nancy Bredin, who is based in Canada, Katja Franz, based in Germany, and Lena Pennington from the UK.
The different stages of project management
What does project management entail? In corporate treasury, it generally covers three stages: the pre-project/sales phase, the implementation phase and the post implementation phase. So what is important in each one?
Lena: “In the pre-project and sales phase we provide the prospect with a time line and discuss and plan how proposed consulting days will be used. This is followed by the kick-off meeting where we review the proposed time line and the project charter. From a UK perspective, I can say that we find communication during the ensuing implementation phase particularly important. This involves regular, for example monthly, overall status updates, time usage reporting, measuring the progress against the project time line and key deliverables: how far have we come? Have any delays or issues been highlighted? What are the action items and have they been clearly communicated to all project team members? Everyone needs to understand where we are today and where we are going next. Post implementation, the project gets signed off and the main point of contact becomes the relationship manager.”
The size of team and project
Lena’s account provides us with a comprehensive overview of the different stages of project management that BELLIN covers. But is this simply the UK view? We get Katja’s input.
Katja: “In general, we follow the same pattern as Lena described for the UK. From my point of view, the really important parameters are the size of the team and the project, as they tend to influence the amount of project management and documentation needed (and/or expected). For example, a smaller customer team may require more project management guidance to focus their attention and ensure a larger size project is moving forward. A larger customer team may also require project management to coordinate the numerous resources who are working on the project. Sometimes, in particularly small projects, we encounter prospective clients who’d rather do without any project management. However, we strongly believe that project management needs to play some role in any project to be able to provide a good service. We see it as our duty to offer each client the help and support they need and that always implies a minimum of project management. For us, it is crucial to know the client’s priorities and to understand their setup to help them with their project and processes. Both BELLIN and the customer need to be clear on the scope. For us, this is the basis for properly translating the client’s requirements to our software world: what can we offer to meet their requirements?”
The complexity of a project
Next to project and team size, Vancouver-based Nancy sees another crucial factor: the complexity of a project: “The more functionality, the more external systems (for example accounting systems) or the more modules need to be implemented, the more complex the project. Each layer of complexity translates to more demanding communication standards, and that in turn means more elaborate project management requirements.
A straightforward, standard project will only require light project management but in more complex projects you need to ensure that a succinct vision is upheld and all relevant stakeholders are included. Generally, customers often have a better handle on the treasury aspects of a project but may not be quite as comfortable dealing with for example international payment formats. For some, this is relatively new territory, adding to the complexity of the project. They will require more hand-holding, training sessions, and documentation to ensure a successful implementation. In complex projects, you may also be dealing with stakeholders from multiple departments, working on various aspects of the project, with different motivations to see project completion. While the treasury team may be motivated to develop a more streamlined way to perform cash management, corporate accounting may be more interested in automated bank reconciliation. It becomes essential to ensure that all stakeholders are informed of the project status, and are led throughout the project with frequent action items, weekly calls, and updated project plans. In a nutshell: the more complex the project, the greater the emphasis on project management.”
At BELLIN, it is our job to help establish what fits the needs of a specific project. We believe that every project can benefit from project management, if only to set everyone on the right track when it comes to where we’re going and how we’re planning to get there.
Ultimately, project phase, size of project and team and complexity determine the exact nature of our project management activities.