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Straight Talk on Project Management

Tech as good as your talent

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Ensure your IT Projects make your tech as good as your talent

Guest blog by Nicol Cutts – Stoneseed’s Head of Projects, Professional Services 

Your hiring and recruitment strategy is “on-point”, your on-boarding procedures second to none, your in-role training is industry leading, your retention record is enviable – your people are GREAT people.  

You’re an example of textbook HR.  

You have nailed your customer facing operations!  

But – is your tech as good as your talent? 

I’ve been ruminating on this very question as there have been at least three recent examples where it’s not been the case. Three companies and organisations with amazing people (when you finally get to speak with one), all with well thought out and well executed cultures … but whose systems and IT let them down badly. 

SALTY CHIPS  

My colleague had a stone chip flicked up from a passing lorry on the A1 last week. He’d recently renewed his car insurance so the welcome pack was still on the kitchen table (awaiting being filed) complete with a booklet that had a windscreen claims number on the front cover (no weblink – that might have been more useful, it is 2022 after all!) 

The call handler on the windscreen claim-line was really helpful, advised that the nearest centre had free slots on the following Monday (it was Thursday). My friend said that this would be perfect. The call handler then advised my friend that he would get a text the day before with the time of the actual appointment. 

“Can you not just book a time now?” asked my colleague. 

“No. You’ll get a text. The slots will be 9am to 5pm” 

“What if I can’t make the time?” 

“You can call up and rearrange.” 

“Aren’t I calling up now. Can we not, er, prearrange?” 

“No, sorry,” said the customer services lady, using that voice people reserve for when they know that the customer is right, but the system isn’t designed that way. It doesn’t benefit the customer, my colleague had client meetings and other work appointments on the Monday but wouldn’t know which ones to cancel until 4pm on the Sunday! This would mean hurried apologetic calls first thing on Monday.  

It surely doesn’t benefit the windscreen repair depot either. I mean, they start the day with a full appointments book lined up, until they open the phone lines at 8.30am and customers start calling one by one to say they can’t make the time they’ve been allocated.  

The human side of the operation, the call handlers, and the guys at the actual windscreen depot were amazing! The overall take-away from the experience my friend had was one of contentment – indeed the repair to the windscreen was made the chip invisible – this company hired and honed its people perfectly. It was just the tech, the system, that left my colleague feeling salty (handy for a chip) and cost the company a five-star review. 

If you were inventing this system from scratch, with all end users front of mind, you’d have a one stop appointments app upon which you’d select your nearest depot, you’d be given a list of available appointments from which you’d pick a convenient time, key in your insurance details, pay your excess … and … that would be it, more or less. In fact, I believe, this is what some windscreen repair firms do. So, an extra takeaway – don’t just make your tech as good as your talent – make sure your tech is not worse than your competitors’ 

As business becomes more digitised, marginal gains and extra benefits potential customers can access from their keyboard will be the difference between them choosing your business or your rival. 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS LAST!  

Research shows that it takes just 0.05 seconds (50 milliseconds) to form an opinion about your website, in fact, a few years ago, Google established that some opinions are develop within just 17 milliseconds. Your customer’s digital experience needs to be bang on the money from the very first click. That’s quicker than the time it takes for my boss to vanish when someone suggests brew-time in the office! 

Every aspect of your digital offer must fire on all cylinders – and it must do this from day one. IT Projects that transition into service smoothly do this more effectively than those that launch with some bugs still to be eliminated. 

One such project came onto a Project Manager friend’s radar as a customer recently. 

WHITE ELEPHANT TRUNKS 

She’d ordered from this swim-wear business’ website a number of times and, as a returning customer and given what she does for a living, immediately noticed that a change had been made. Not a good change – at least not yet. 

Struggling somewhat, she called the customer service helpline to complete the order and register some constructive feedback! An outsider listening to the ensuing conversation would be forgiven for thinking the business had called my friend to complain. They were still “chasing bugs in the new system”, it was already “six months behind schedule” when implemented, the system overhaul was “a white elephant” (at least he’d have some trunks). No-one in the customer facing team wanted the new system or had been consulted. 

My friend dug a little deeper, it turned out that she knew someone who’d worked on the project! As many the issues that she’d encountered as a customer were down to flawed service transition, she asked what the Service Transition Manager had had to say. The “inside man” laughed and explained that service transition was reliant upon a joint effort of the whole team, that communication between stakeholders and the project team had been “appalling” and that, as a change manager, it had been demoralising delivering change that no-one apart from the exec team actually wanted – change that a business analyst would have struggled to find a benefit for (had one been asked to do so).   

I have worked with many organisations who pay lip service to the vital area of transition into service, (and business analysis for that matter). Many organisations rely on those delivering Project Management activities to also deliver their projects into service and carry out BA functions – sometimes this works, and when it does it’s often more luck that judgement. In my experience, instances where delivered projects aren’t, well, delivering, a lack of service transition discipline is usually the cause.  

I bet you too will have experiences of tech not measuring up to talent.  

TAXING PROBLEM 

Just today, I spoke with another friend whose son recently turned 18 and it dawned on them all that he’d not received his National Insurance number. Simple online job – you think? Following the instructions, it turned out that he’d need an account and to set one up, you guessed it, he’d need his National Insurance number! It was OK, there were hyperlinks if you didn’t know yours but a few clicks led back to the same problem – i.e. them needing the thing that they were trying to access! Again, having Googled for a telephone number, a call with a human being sorted things out. 

Most businesses are well versed in the art of human resources, but the question is, as more and more businesses digitise their operations, are they equally attentive to how they onboard non-human resources?  

When ‘recruiting’ Software as a Service (SaaS), Project Management as a Service (PMaaS), etc, to deliver for their customer – are they paying the same due care selecting the provider that they would if they were hiring a person to physically represent the business to that customer? Do those tasked with delivering your technology aspirations into service have the resources they need to achieve this? 

Simple lesson – Make sure that your tech is as good as your talent.  

This starts with the IT Project team delivering your IT solutions having everything needed. If you have any gaps from business analysis to transition into service and everything in between, Stoneseed can help.  

Remember, all the experiences listed here could be how your customers are talking about their experience with your business. Sobering thought that.  Talk to us on 01623 723910 or email info@stoneseed.co.uk 

Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed

Sources: 

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01449290500330448 

https://research.google/pubs/pub38315/