Are we having fun yet?
Improving Service Delivery Processes
In my past experience as a manager who was responsible for delivery of more than 200 client projects a year, I spent most of my days involved in some part of service delivery process. I wrote process documentation, I implemented processes and I constantly revised processes.
Unsurprisingly, a key thing I learned over all this time is that a one-size service delivery process doesn’t work. Nor does a one-size PMO – despite expectations to the contrary. In fact, during my first week at a large service delivery company a senior sales rep’s initial comments upon meeting me were: “Oh great, Project Management – they cost me a $2 million dollar deal at my last job.” I pointed out that if a PMO cost you a deal instead of helping you (either in pre-sales or during implementation), then they clearly weren’t the right Project Management fit. And that’s probably because their processes didn’t match the company’s needs.
Everyone tends to groan or roll eyes when we talk process. It’s not a sexy or a fascinating subject but of vital importance.
Following are a few things I’ve learned about service delivery process to keep in mind:
- Customer Experience – Find out specific details about what and how your customer is interacting with your company. One of the most valuable meetings I had in my early days was a customer who told me clearly what his experience had been with our service delivery. I not only developed empathy with the customer; I walked out with my own priority list of issues I knew I had to address immediately. Knowing that I could make an immediate difference added purpose to my work.
- Controlled Processes – Many PMO Managers or Department Managers implement SO much process that it ends up delaying billing or adding to delivery timelines. The line between too many and not enough processes is a fine one that constantly needs addressing and revising. With more and more companies taking advantage of Managed AWS and Azure, the speed that they want to get to market and recognize revenue has dramatically increased. Control the chaos in the process and make things go smoothly. Don’t add time that’s going to be wasted in bureaucracy.
- Go Agile – Sometimes urgent issues call for urgent processes. If the process is 60% there, roll it out and revise. It helps if you have a seasoned team when you do this – especially if they’re already in the PMO. A group of PMs are quick to hop on the process bandwagon, become advocates throughout the other teams they work with internally and understand the final goal.
- Segmentation – When looking for areas to improve, consider segments of the larger process. In my past a company improved a tier of delivery timelines by a few weeks within our Customer Implementation Process. The process optimization took a few months of meetings, three department heads and a VP to get done. We also created a new position. So, it was a fair amount of work – but its a repeatable process that not only saves internal time and money but also is a win for the customer.
- Revisit Processes – I hate spending time on forms, but once a year I ask staff to go through all of the forms we use and question if each one is still relevant. Do these questions still make sense? Are we using the latest marketing language and graphics? Are the forms even being used? Refresh what you have once a year to make sure its use still makes sense to the company. What may have started off as a good process may no longer be needed or may need a revision.
Process optimization is not as fun as successfully shepherding a client through an implementation or solving problems or winning new deals. What it is, however, is a wholly necessary foundational element that allows us the skills and know-how to actually do the fun stuff. It’s like eating your veggies so you can have dessert. So get out there and take a look at what you’ve got and how it could get better; you might be pleasantly surprised