Staffing Pol­icy Ad­min

Defin­ing roles and ded­i­cat­ing staff re­quires care­ful thought and con­sid­er­a­tion. Putting the right peo­ple in the right place is cru­cial.

Digital Insurance - - CONTENTS - By Chuck Ruz­icka

Tips from No­var­ica on how to put the right peo­ple in place for core sys­tems re­place­ment projects

You are about to en­gage your com­pany in a multi-year pol­icy ad­min­is­tra­tion trans­for­ma­tion project. You have es­tab­lished and com­mu­ni­cated the vi­sion and you have de­fined cri­te­ria. What else should you do? Prob­a­bly the most crit­i­cal thing is en­sur­ing that the right peo­ple as­signed to the project and that their roles and ac­count­abil­ity are clearly de­fined. Here’s how to get started on that path: De­fine the roles and ac­count­abil­i­ties first. Too of­ten com­pa­nies as­sign ti­tles like project spon­sor and project man­ager to peo­ple on an ex­ist­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion chart with­out drilling into the ac­count­abil­i­ties, skills re­quired, and time de­mands for the roles. De­tail­ing the author­ity lev­els and project re­spon­si­bil­ity is the right first step, and this ap­plies to both IT and key project stake­hold­ers.

An es­pe­cially im­por­tant po­si­tion is prod­uct owner, a com­mon re­quest of Ag­ile teams. While se­nior VPs are of­ten named project cham­pi­ons and have fi­nal say over bud­get and direction, it is crit­i­cal to de­fine a spe­cific owner. Car­ri­ers need to choose some­one who is re­spected within im­pacted departments, for­ward-think­ing, or­ga­nized, and able to build con­sen­sus and in­flu­ence opin­ions. They must be en­gaged and em­bed­ded in the de­vel­op­ment team, as busi­ness peo­ple of­ten hes­i­tate to let go of de­part­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to take on project roles.

De­fine author­ity lev­els and gov­er­nance pro­cesses. Clearly defin­ing ac­count­abil­ity will save a great deal of time dur­ing the project. Com­pa­nies of­ten as­sign shared re­spon­si­bil­ity for over­sight or def­i­ni­tion of direction with­out in­di­cat­ing how de­ci­sions will be made or prob­lems re­solved. This is done to avoid con­flict but of­ten re­sults in con­fu­sion, cost over­runs and longer projects. High-per­for­mance teams work through th­ese is­sues early, and es­tab­lish clear direction to ex­pe­dite the process.

Author­ity lev­els for scope de­ci­sions, pri­or­ity de­ci­sions and change con­trol are most im­por­tant items to de­fine. To this end, it is im­per­a­tive that a steer­ing com­mit­tee be es­tab­lished to de­fine guide rails and con­trols, mon­i­tor progress and re­solve strate­gic ques­tions. Car­ri­ers sub­se­quently need to de­fine when the prod­uct owner has de­ci­sion-mak­ing author­ity and when the steer­ing com­mit­tee has ju­ris­dic­tion. Ag­ile de­vel­op­ment teams will need ac­cess to one or more de­ci­sion-mak­ers to re­solve project and sprint scope is­sues, clar­ify pri­or­i­ties and ap­prove de­liv­er­ables.

Re­quire­ments can­not be de­fined at the steer­ing com­mit­tee level, but car­ri­ers must make sure the re­quire­ments de­ci­sions do con­sider the “out of the box” ver­sus cus­tomiza­tion im­pact and the de­sired fu­ture state. Even when author­ity is clearly del­e­gated, things can break down if the process for com­mu­ni­cated changes is not clear. Very of­ten re­quire­ments de­ci­sions can be made in meet­ings but not re­flected in the spec­i­fi­ca­tions the team is de­vel­op­ing or test­ing from. Good project man­agers make sure that de­ci­sions are doc­u­mented and com­mu­ni­cated.

Chose the right per­son to lead the project. The most se­nior or ex­pe­ri­enced per­son might make a great sub­ject mat­ter ex­pert, but may lack the skills nec­es­sary to be a suc­cess­ful project lead. For in­stance, in­di­vid­u­als near­ing re­tire­ment may be less likely to take risks or move the busi­ness so­lu­tion far enough to­ward the fu­ture state. It is more im­por­tant to choose the right per­son based on skills re­quired and sup­ple­ment them with SMEs.

Project man­agers must know how to drive de­ci­sions and es­ca­late is­sues to keep projects on track and re­sults-fo­cused. Or­ga­ni­za­tions of­ten ap­point project ad­min­is­tra­tors into project man­age­ment roles. Project ad­min­is­tra­tors are good at track­ing sta­tus and re­port­ing out­comes, but rarely act de­ci­sively to im­pact out­comes. Suc­cess­ful team have both skill sets in place.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions that lack the skills nec­es­sary to suc­cess­fully staff a pro­gram or project man­ager role in­ter­nally of­ten look out­side for ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple to full th­ese roles. This is an ac­cept­able prac­tice es­pe­cially for large and com­plex projects. How­ever, this does not mean that the car­rier can ab­di­cate its lead­er­ship and over­sight roles en­tirely. It must choose a con­sul­tant who has a track record for de­liv­ery and for man­ag­ing com­plex projects suc­cess­fully, and who can clearly de­fine suc­cess cri­te­ria and direction.

A com­mon mis­take is as­sign­ing peo­ple to crit­i­cal roles on a part­time ba­sis, es­pe­cially busi­ness an­a­lysts and project man­agers who are re­quired to keep prod­uct sys­tems run­ning or the project work load is un­der­es­ti­mated. But th­ese are full-time roles. While it is chal­leng­ing to free up your best peo­ple, best prac­tices sug­gest that car­ri­ers should do just that. An­other strat­egy is to over-staff crit­i­cal roles, bring­ing on new hires. This can pro­vide cov­er­age and can also help re­duce the risk of turnover dur­ing long projects.

It is an ex­cel­lent idea to have in­tro­duc­tory meet­ings to discuss roles and help es­tab­lish norms. When new team mem­bers are brought on, it is im­por­tant to re­peat this process. Suc­cess­ful team cre­ate on­board­ing pack­ages and pro­ce­dures to make sure new team mem­bers know the ex­pec­ta­tions and author­ity lev­els.

INNSight is ex­clu­sive con­tent from No­var­ica.

Chuck Ruz­icka is VP of re­search and con­sult­ing at No­var­ica. His ex­pe­ri­ence in­cludes time at Lib­erty Mu­tual ,where he was CIO of its agency mar­kets divi­sion. He also was a tech­nol­o­gyVP at Pro­gres­sive.

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