During these unprecedented times, many companies are adapting the way they operate with the emphasis on remote working. In fact, it is highly likely that you will be reading this from your own home office space. Overnight, Covid-19 has forced a new style of working which could even become permanent as companies and employees embrace the flexibility that it offers. Could this be the new normal?
What does that mean for finance transformation projects?
Like many companies, we have had to be agile in the way we work to ensure continuity with our existing engagements and how we kicked off new ones. Utilising technologies such as VPN, videoconferencing, on-line document repositories, screensharing and screen-control has enabled distributed teams to carry out activities as if they were on-site.
By using the right tools for online communication, collaboration and documentation, our engagement teams have maintained the high level of delivery service that our clients expect without exceeding timelines or budget.
Our team has been running projects and managing services in a distributed fashion with outstanding success for several years. These would have been a mixture of on-site and distributed working and it has enabled us to rapidly adapt our delivery methodology to 100% distributed with minimal impact.
How have we adapted our delivery approach?
The fundamentals of our delivery methodology have not changed. We continue to work collaboratively to ensure our clients are part of the journey throughout the project and we have maintained our structured change management framework. Our use of technology has been enhanced for communication and collaborative working and we have acted in an agile and proactive way in order to achieve the same quality results that our clients are used to. By utilising collaborative tools such as videoconferencing, virtual whiteboards, instant messaging and screensharing, a greater level of interaction and insight is created, making our stakeholders more informed than ever and enabling the right decisions to be made immediately.
To ensure quick and easy communication with team members, we use Microsoft Teams. Tools such as instant messaging, video calling and screensharing all help to provide the kinds of conversations and discussions you would normally have over the desk.
Mobilisation & discovery
There are some benefits of the current situation: we do not require building access, a team space or the booking of meeting rooms while expenses are substantially reduced, if they exist at all. Although network access (including VPN) is a must, we have the flexibility to use our own laptops, but we understand that some organisations require the use of their own equipment.
The objective of discovery is to fully understand and validate the requirements, existing processes & systems and the organisational structure the solution will need to support. Our discovery template lists the documentation that is required, including as-is processes, as-is technological landscape, as-is reporting catalogue, as-is data models and organisational structure. Supplying electronic versions of these provides our team with a solid foundation to facilitate distributed discovery sessions via videoconferencing to validate the strategic vision and objectives.
Iterative design & development
We fully understand that home distractions are likely and Business As Usual (BAU) work will require attention, so we limit each distributed design session to 1-2 hours long. Our design “building blocks template” structures each session on an area of focus, while prototyping brings the design to life. The prototypes allow key functionality to be designed, developed and tested in discrete blocks scheduled around BAU timetables. This approach provides flexible attendance based on expertise and interest and allows for iterative review and approval of build elements.
Deployment & hypercare
Our training approach has proven to be a success for many clients. The training sessions unite our expert skills in the solution together with the extensive experience of our long-standing training partner, Keyteach, the leading provider of EPM training in Europe.
Together with Keyteach, inlumi’s subject-matter experts develop fully customised business process-oriented training materials. Face-to-face classroom training might not be possible right now, but a “live online” interactive class can be delivered anywhere in the world and eliminates travel costs. Keyteach also offers customised user e-learning as a robust source of reference and BAU training solution.
Our iterative design and development supports real-time testing by the project team which eliminates the risk of the larger testing phases in a traditional “waterfall” approach and keeps user groups engaged throughout. An end-to-end test, courtesy of a parallel run, is still recommended. These are traditionally run for all end-users, and as they are likely be distributed under normal circumstances (even without a lockdown), the same collaborative tools, dedicated helpdesk, knowledge share repository, hints and tips will still be used to support them.
Project and change management
When teams are not able to physically be together, reliance on technology for communication and collaboration increases. Multiple tools exist, many of which overlap in functionality, such as emails with instant messaging. Knowing which tool should be used and communicating that message to the team will maintain an audit trail of project-related communication without being swamped by chatter.
Daily team meetings provide a “check-in” for team members to allow them to stay connected, collaborate, share thoughts and voice concerns. It can also be used to reaffirm tasks and what is required to complete them. The meetings should be short – less than 15 minutes – and be interactive with each team member given a chance to speak.
Weekly Project Status Reports keep stakeholders informed of the status of the engagement and regular Steering Committee meetings, via videoconferencing, provide strategic oversight and guidance to the project.
Our projects are not just about implementing a new EPM solution, they are about change; change in the way people work, change in process and the way data flows and change in the system landscape. Managing that change is essential to ensure smooth delivery and user adoption. The best system is no good if users do not accept the change.
Maintaining team morale
Physical distancing does not mean that we cannot be social. Project milestones should always be celebrated and achievements recognised. It is important to maintain camaraderie and create a community mindset. So far, our teams have used collaboration software such as videoconferencing and team chats to:
- Create team activities such as quizzes and after-work drinks in a virtual pub
- Celebrate birthdays and anniversaries
- Share photos, such as of pets at home.
These ideas, though nothing revolutionary, are critical to maintaining engagement and a team spirit. The biggest thing our team is missing with remote working is the social aspect of working in the office, the coffee break chats or lunch with colleagues. Maintaining this engagement helps our team to have the right mindset to continue their excellent work.
If you are interested in hearing more about how we work and how we could assist you, or would like to share how remote working is working for you, then please feel free to contact me.