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Implementing large initiatives across financial institutions

Financial institutions are setting up new and large initiatives to implement new business capabilities and to adhere to rules and regulations. Effective execution requires a shared vision, building the business case and initiating a program organization to proactively steer it towards successful completion.

Planning and delivering value

The first step is the creation of a roadmap and/or a baseline plan in which direction and deliverables are set for the full length of the program. In this way, planning involves something of a waterfall approach. However, you also have to maintain Agility. If you start a 3-year plan, you can’t detail out for the next 3 years. You need to balance both waterfall and agile in order to be able to provide commitments in the long term and maintain flexibility in the short-term Regulation may change, technology may change, and the business may change direction. You have to retain the ability to stay flexible.

For that reason, we as ACE recommend that you detail your planning out for the first two quarters of the roadmap. As the first quarter rolls to an end, you should have meetings and checkpoints planned to detail the next quarter, to recalibrate, and to make any directional shifts or program tweaks deemed necessary.

Your roadmap should contain milestones and key deliverables. These milestones and key deliverables should map as closely as possible to business capabilities and resources, they shouldn’t just be ad hoc. E.g., if you can’t immediately implement a framework into the business, you can start with a department or team to build the knowledge on how to do that and IT can set up technical capabilities.  Milestones may change over time; however, they give you a good understanding of what you want to deliver when, in what steps it will happen, and how to build on each of those steps. Most importantly, milestones should deliver (business) value. If you can show what value you deliver at each stage of the program, you can better maintain support from the organization, therefore increasing chances of successful program execution.

“A lot of (business) value, especially for long running programs, is delivered at the end when the solution is fully implemented. It’s difficult for a program to run for 3 years without delivering anything. You might have budget issues, management issues, etc. If you can show you’ve delivered intermediate value,  making progress and working towards that high level strategic milestone, you’ll maintain much better organizational support” – Pieter Vrieleman, Consultant, ACE + Company

Define “done”

Many initiatives struggle, simply because people are not aligned on what needs to be accomplished. Sitting down to define clear deliverables and milestones in terms of business value as well as regulatory compliance is a crucial part of building a realistic plan and roadmap. This means aligning “what does it mean for the organization to say this program is (successfully) completed” at every level – from the executive board to the people responsible for the delivery. E.g., “ESG risk management factors are integrated into every part of the business, with processes in place to align strategy, decision-making, and portfolios with our ESG policy and processes to ensure that ESG awareness, knowledge, and data continues to grow”.

Defining done isn’t just about making sure you know what will be delivered. It also means defining the added value. E.g., even if the program is about ensuring compliance, there is always business value as well. Breaking that down will enable you to obtain and maintain buy-in from business stakeholders and executives.

At the same time, “Done” looks different depending on which people you ask. “Done” from an IT perspective may be very different than “done” from a culture perspective. Be sure to recognize those different perspectives.

Steer proactively

No initiative will stay on track till the end and needs steering.  At ACE, we often see that organizations respond reactively. For example, a milestone becomes overdue and the organization is taken by surprise and reacts to that. Or, the milestone responsible reports green all the way up until 2 weeks before delivery and then suddenly the status is changed to ‘overdue’.

Steering proactively means understanding how the initiative is progressing, actively taking measures to avoid those reactive pitfalls, to meet new requirements or needs, and to ensure that things are being done in the right order, with the right oversight, etc.

  • Milestones – Milestones allow you to track progress and to ensure that everything is going as planned. Closely monitoring these milestones will enable you to trigger early warnings so that you can steer proactively
  • Dependency Management – Every initiative has some dependencies and often they’re cross-departmental. Make sure you understand those dependencies so that you know how one delay will delay other parts of the delivery. Then, if a small delay from one team ends up in a month’s long delay from another, you won’t be surprised. Dependency management also means external teams and ICT resources.
  • Data and Guidance – Processes and tooling  support successful program execution. Ensuring you have the basic ‘hygiene’ in place will go a long way towards ensuring the program executes on time and in a controlled manner.

Financial organizations usually set up large initiatives to be implemented across the business. Unfortunately, those initiatives are often fragmented. You might have trouble getting a grip on what progress is being made and difficulty in actively adjusting course. Implementing a shared vision and direction, strengthening the program management, and ensuring you have monitoring in place to enable proactive steering s is crucial to getting those initiatives up and running.

We, as ACE, can help you with setting up your initiative or strengthening existing program management, contact us, we have the expertise and insight to help.