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Less Is More.
We all know this saying!
It was apparently first popularised by minimalist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the 1940s and has since been transformed into countless hackneyed platitudes by advertisers, a song by Joss Stone, an album by Marillion and the name of a tour by Natasha Bedingfield – who knew?!
More recently, “Less Is More” has become the mantra and reality for businesses and organisations. How fortunate for those businesses that the resource for facilitating the creation of less from more is either already on the payroll or just a call away.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused great pain and suffering and before launching into a blog post about how it has damaged many companies’ bottom-line and public sector budgets, I wanted to acknowledge and send our best wishes to those personally affected, those that have lost loved ones and those who are currently battling with or recovering from Covid-19. My thoughts are with you.
Business as usual in the new normal
The first challenge for businesses back in March 2020 was the change in consumer behaviour. Most firms were affected negatively as individuals came to terms with their changing circumstances.
As a client told me, “Business expenditure and revenue is like a food chain: the consumer earns a living from ‘business Z’ and shops at ‘business A’; ‘business A’ buys from ‘business B’, ‘business B’ spends a little of this revenue with ‘business C’, ‘business C’ is buoyed by market confidence and invests in the services of ‘company D’ and so on and so forth, round and round the cycle goes – until it doesn’t!”
The ripple effect was like a wave of negativity as each link in the business food chain cut their costs and tried to do more with less - the pandemic had impacted business revenue at every level and most organisations were in survival mode.
Project Managers and Business Analysts – The alchemists of post pandemic business growth
As a provider of resources and talent through our Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) and Business Analysis as a Service (BAaaS) models, at Stoneseed we were buzzing as we started to hear how these sectors were driving positive business change in the difficult circumstances.
Project Managers and Business Analysts were like alchemists! They were making gold out of seemingly nothing! In reality, they were just better than anyone else at identifying the value and potential of this ‘nothing’ and creating the best environments to deliver the greatest outcomes from it – in other words – they were doing what PMs and BAs have quietly been doing forever!
Here are my favourite three stories of this alchemy:
Necessity REALLY is the mother of invention
Business Analysts have been well placed to notice and quantify the things that their company had started doing out of sheer necessity, but which were now delivering positive outcomes and results! Some of which have been truly jaw-dropping – from better working practices to previously deliverables and revenue streams. The challenge is to not lose these serendipities in the swamp of surviving and create a mindset where your business is positioned to leverage these ‘opportunities’ and turn them into a business plan moving forward
A BA friend had been eulogising about the benefits of a remote workforce for years but had been pushing against a bolted boardroom door. Then, Work-From-Home (WFH) became government advice, and the firm was forced to adopt it! She already had a base camp of data to show the potential benefit of WFH but was now able to collate real-time actual data to support what she’d been recommending.
She quantified the cost savings of needing less office space and fewer parking spaces; she was able to show how the benefits of greater flexibility for the workforce fed back into the business in terms of productivity (for instance, when one working mum’s children’s school was forced to close due to a Covid-19 case, the business lost thirty minutes of productivity as she popped up the road to collect her kids - as opposed to the whole afternoon that would have been lost had she been working from the office which is an hour’s drive away in the city centre); and the BA was able to demonstrate how much more accessible everyone was for meetings (several firms shared the meeting rooms in the office block and booking one was like a lottery, plus arranging staff to attend from remote sights was time-consuming and costly – this had all been replaced by Microsoft Teams and measurable cost-saving data was easily gathered).
The point is that this BA had been saying that WFH had operational benefits for the best part of a decade. Now is the time for businesses to double down on listening to what their BAs are telling them. They, more than anyone in the business, have their finger on the pulse.
Clearing out the cupboard
One business leader, a Stoneseed client, told me how he’d taken the prospect of being home for long periods to sort out the kitchen cupboard and how this had inspired him to take a helicopter view of the business and have a clear out here too.
In the same way that he’d emptied the cupboard of food well past it’s best before date and replaced it with fresh food he and the family would enjoy, he tasked his project team and business analysts with assessing the value proposition of everything the firm was engaged in. The results were eye-opening!
There were product lines that were, like the beans in his cupboard, way past their ‘best before date’, heritage relationships with clients that had become stale and were yielding less, processes that were out of date, sales markets that were no longer delivering results proportionate to the effort expended, and three entire revenue streams that were high effort / low return.
Again, most of this is what the PMs and BAs had been saying before the pandemic, they’d been making savings like this routinely – as my client said, “Sometimes it takes something big to happen to make you see the little things!”
Cutting your vintage cloth with new scissors
A number of Stoneseed’s clients have shared stories of how they have brought back some the things that worked for them before the pandemic but applied new ways of delivering them.
“We realised that we’d thrown the baby out with the bathwater,” one client told us, “when we abandoned a staff training programme that had really delivered results and benefits because of Covid. The short-term saving, although necessary, would have a long-term negative effect in terms of development. Plus, at a time when our staff were looking for security, here we were taking away a huge tool that had helped them progress – what kind of a message was this sending out? Morale was low enough!”
An IT Project was initiated to create an online version of the development scheme, Project teams and Business Analysts were able to work together to create value propositions for the existing scheme, distil them to their essence and replicate the deliverables in a safe virtual space.
It may be that you paused something that used to deliver results to your business because you had to cut your cloth accordingly. IT Project Managers and Business Analysts can help you cut your vintage cloth with more contemporary scissors!
Getting back to normal or coming back better?
Moving forward, business agility should be less about getting back to normal and more about coming back better and stronger than before. I shared just three ways here that IT Project leaders and business analysts are helping to make this so.
Economist Mariana Mazzucato said it best in a recent TedTalk, “Really, my view is that we need to do everything we can, not to go back to normal, because normal was part of the problem.”
She catalogues the issues that dogged the old normal and urged governments to rethink investments and not to waste the opportunity that this pause offers and that is a call that we would all be wise to heed.
In the context of organisations and business structures, project teams and Business Analysts are best placed to sense and respond rapidly to the changes in market conditions.
Business Agility is not a new thing, how we best achieve it may be changing, but those best places to deliver it in your business are the same. If you have IT Project Management talent and Business Analysts on your team, now is the time to call on their services and, if you don’t, now is the time to call on ours.