Planning In Uncertain Times: 5 Strategic Steps to Success
Written by: Rob Prinzo
The end of August marks the end of summer vacation and the beginning of planning and budgeting season. One small problem: the economic sluggishness that was supposed to be behind us has reared its ugly head once again. With wild swings in the market, who can't help but feel a bit skittish.
Nevertheless, you want to move your initiatives forward and you’ll undoubtedly be asked for your plan regardless of funding limitations. But how do you prioritize the list of projects that have accumulated over the last year and develop a strategy to move forward in this economic environment?
Developing a strategy does not have to be a major event requiring an off-site retreat, consultants, breakout sessions and flip charts. The following is a simple five step process that can be conducted in one to two hour long sessions. The result will be an effective, prioritized plan for your projects. You may even surprise yourself and find that there are a number of initiatives that you can move forward without additional resources.
Step 1- Make a list of all your projects, big and small. By developing a comprehensive list, you feel more organized (but perhaps temporarily overwhelmed).
Step 2 - Categorize the projects in a spreadsheet using the following criteria:
- Size (big or small)
- Function (business process or technology)
- Type (new project or part of existing operations)
- Funding Required (yes or no)
- Level of Effort (high, medium or low)
- Resources (requires additional resources or can be absorbed by existing staff)
- Organizational Impact (high, medium or low)
Step 3 - Determine which projects are depended on the following factors:
- Other projects
- Business Decisions
Highlight projects without dependencies and rate the team’s ability to influence the dependencies.
Step 4 - Based on the categories and dependencies, prioritize the projects according to the following:
- Low Hanging Fruit – Small projects with few or no dependencies that have an immediate impact and can be achieved with no additional resources. Examples include: implementing existing systems functionality requested by end users, cleaning up customer lists or developing new ways to analyze data to make better decisions.
- Intermediate Projects – Small to medium size projects that make a measurable impact with dependencies that can be influence by team. Consider breaking up long term initiatives into smaller projects or breakout the upfront requirements definition into separate projects. Examples include: Rolling out additional system functionality, gathering business requirements, documenting processes or evaluating vendors in preparation of a larger project that is inevitable but unlikely to happen this budget cycle due to the economy.
- Long Term Initiatives – Medium to large size projects that have a significant impact, but have significant dependencies outside the influence of the projects team. Examples: business process transformation projects, new system implementations or new strategic initiatives.
Step 5 - Putting it All Together
Based on your categorized list, start by developing a plan to knock out the low hanging fruit. Hopefully, this will clear your plate of some nagging initiatives and make room for larger projects when funding is available.
If you are unable secure funding for inevitable long term initiatives this year, try to get a head start by working on the intermediate projects that are considered pre-work for the long term initiatives. This strategy will prepare the organization for the larger projects, reduce the overall project timeframe for the bulk of the work and spread the cost over a longer time period.
If you are ready to move forward on the long term initiatives, make sure that your requirements analysis is complete. Most projects failures are attributed to poor upfront requirements analysis.
In reality you can't escape the inevitable, nor can you ignore the economic environment. However, having a realistic strategy developed through methodical planning will help keep your organization moving forward towards its long-term goals.
Rob Prinzo is founder and CEO of The Prinzo Group, an innovative knowledge firm that provides performance management expertise through project assurance solutions for enterprise transformation and technology projects, as well as performance measurement research, publications, workshops and training. He holds a Master’s Degree in industrial management and a Bachelor’s Degree in marketing, both from Clemson University. Prinzo makes his home in Georgia. His new book, No Wishing Required: The Business Case for Project Assurance, is available at nowishingrequired.com and Amazon.com
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.