Monthly Archives: June 2017

My Top 3 Project Nightmares!

Most of my posts tend to be serious; telling you about the benefits of hiring a consultant, setting up your business strategy, and project threats. This time, I thought I’d amuse you by going down memory lane to describe some of the worst projects I’ve worked on.

Before I do, permit me to let you into a secret:

MOST PROJECTS ENCOUNTER HICCUPS AT SOME POINT.

Back in the days when I was in permanent employment, a common interview question was, “Describe a scenario where something went wrong on a project you were working on, and how you responded.” Or something along those lines.

Initially, I thought it was a ploy to trip me up. I mean, you actually want me to admit that something went wrong? Under my watch??

But as I matured in my field, it became clear that things DO and WOULD go wrong. All the time! The key in that interview question was to understand how I responded when the unexpected happened.

So, if you are working with a consultant or delivery expert who beats his or her chest and claims they have never had a failure on a project, please view them with suspicion…

…but I digress. It’s not about the hiccup, it’s about how you handle it, and the lessons you learn from it.

In the spirit of being vulnerable here are my Top 3 Project Nightmares; the 3 worst projects I have worked on!

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So in the spirit of being vulnerable here are my top 3 project nightmares; the 3 worst projects I have worked on in my time.

The first was in one of the big 4 banks.

I was the Lead Analyst, and the project was being managed by someone else. However, her style was to get involved in the minutiae of everything on the project.

And I mean, everything.

The micromanagement was constant, and it was challenging to work with someone who seemed not to trust my capabilities or expertise, and did not respect professional boundaries.

Lesson learned:

I’m a big believer of doing what I’m good at, and delegating or outsourcing the rest (I think the kids call it “staying in your lane”!)

Sometimes people look to cover all bases out of their own insecurities. This lady clearly didn’t trust me, for whatever reason. Which was a shame, because the project was already quite a challenge for lots of other reasons, and we could have provided each other with moral support.

Instead, it made the project ten times harder. Unfortunately, this situation dragged on for months, despite my best efforts to resolve it and find some common ground with her.

When the project was finally brought to an abrupt end, I must admit I did a little happy dance!

And talking of dragging on for months, that brings me to Project Number 2…

…actually it’s the same project, so I’ve cheated a little.

The Senior Management within the Corporate and Technology Directorates had decided on this fancy initiative. Not just that it needed to be done, but also on what the solution would be, how it would be implemented and when.

Which may not sound bad, but this was done without much groundwork being done upfront.

Call it whatever you will: assessing the feasibility, doing a study, undergoing project initiation activities. If any – or all – of these steps had been done, there is no way anyone in their right mind would have given this the thumbs-up. But they did anyway, and then…

..the project went on hold. Funding was withheld, and the whole team awaited a definitive steer on whether to proceed with it or not. FOR THREE MONTHS!

It was soul-destroying to witness that level of procrastination. The decision to do this had clearly been made in haste, but when the costs became apparent, those who ultimately held the purse strings wouldn’t retrace their steps and “abort the mission”.

Lesson learned:

Don't rush in, thinking you know the solution before you've analysed the problem. And if you have, just admit it

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Don’t rush in, thinking you know the solution before you have analysed the problem. And if you have, don’t be ashamed to admit you’ve made a mistake. Make the decision to remedy it quickly, instead of procrastinating and incurring even more losses.

Project Number 3 was for a smaller company.

Small and medium-sized businesses have their advantages, but a disadvantage can be the lack of processes and procedures. And a lack of will to adhere to them.

In this incarnation, I was responsible for both the analysis on the project, and overall management of it. It was to develop a new internet banking and customer management platform; all very sexy and exciting. We worked with a marketing agency to develop the branding and to make it all user-friendly.

Only problem was, the Marketing team just couldn’t decide what they wanted. One day, it was a blue homepage with purple banners. The next, it was a purple homepage with blue banners!

I understood that creativity was at work, and sometimes one needs to visualise an option to know whether it works or not.

But this wasn’t just for the aesthetic side of things; it applied to core technical functionality too. This went on for months, and got so bad that things were still being changed even as we were testing the finished product!

I honestly had never seen anything like it, and I haven’t since.

I doubt that the agency made a profit on that piece of work. I was on the client side at the time, and as the saying goes, the customer is always right. But I was ashamed to have to go back to them and explain why yet ANOTHER change was needed to a wireframe or concept which had been signed off two days before!

Lesson learned:

Requirements MUST be finalised and approved by the business upfront. That process sounds logical enough, but they must be approved on the understanding that any changes after this point will need to undergo a special approval process, and will cost the project additional time and money.

I knew this, but my stakeholders didn’t buy into the change control process, and I inadvertently encouraged them to circumvent it when I agreed to get things changed, again and again.

So you see, not every project I have delivered has run smoothly.

Just don’t mention “Internet Banking”, or I might just start to twitch!

(Only joking 😊! If you need help delivering or overhauling your Online Banking platform – or any other project – let me know)

6 Business Development Tips & Tricks Every Business Owner Should Know

It goes without saying, that generating new business is the lifeblood of any going concern.

Whether you’re a multinational bank, a local fitness centre, providing wedding planning services, a retail store or a consultant, you will have considerable resources – both money and time – decked against your plans to bring in new clients and grow your revenue stream.

I’ve got to be honest and admit that Business Development does not come naturally to me. It has previously conjured up images of aggressive and pushy salesmen, trying to convince a hapless punter that a ten-year old Ford Focus performs in the same way as a new Mercedes E-Class!

But it’s safe to say, that model of selling is more or less obsolete, and I’ve certainly had to change my mindset since starting and growing my business.

In particular, there are five tips and tricks which have really helped me start to master the BD process. I’ve incorporated them into my business, and I thought I’d share them. I hope you find them useful too!

Here are 5 tips which have helped me master the Business Development process. I hope you find them useful!

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KNOW your target audience

You need clarity on who specifically each product or service in your repertoire is intended for.

Do you mainly deal with individual consumers (that is, B2C)? In that case, you need to work out if your product is mainly for the male or female segments of the population; or maybe it’s unisex. What age range are they in? What do income range do you think they fall in, and how does that relate to the price points you are considering?

If you cater for other businesses (that is, B2B), what sectors are the businesses you have set your sights on? Do those businesses have to have been in operation for a certain amount of time; do they need a certain level of liquidity? Do they need to generate a revenue within a specific range?

UNDERSTAND their problems

It’s crucial that you have a handle on the kinds of issues that your target audience face regularly.

So if you run a PR agency, your potential clients probably need exposure and coverage for their brand and product range. If you run a gym, your target audience have a need for a comfortable place where they can achieve their fitness goals, under the supervision of skilled professionals.

I’m sure you know your business inside out; now take the time to study the problems your target audience face each day.

Understand HOW your product or service can help them

I know it sounds simple, but businesses often fall foul by trying to provide the solutions they want, to problems that don’t exist.

So, the solution to inefficiencies within a department may not be deploying new software. It may be more useful to re-engineer the processes within that department, or review and re-structure the operating model as a whole.

That may mean that you earn less, but providing a solution that does not a suit a client will never pay off. Not in the long run anyway!

APPROACH your Target Audience

This implies that you know where to find them!

If you don’t, there are many places – both online and offline – where they hang out, hoping to bump into someone skilled and authentic with the solution to their problems. You may find that you prefer some more than others, but networking events, LinkedIn, telemarketing, email campaigns and mailshots are ways of approaching potential clients.

Long-term, using tools like social media and blogging are ways of showing your audience what you've got

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Also, we often think of the direct approach only. In the long-term, tools such as using social media and blogging – about your services, problems clients have and how to solve them, case studies, testimonials from past clients – are ways of showing audiences what you’ve got. It is a slow burn, but reaps rewards in the long run!

EXPLAIN how your product or service will solve their problem

When someone takes the time to explain in detail how their product or service can solve a specific problem I have, they tend to get my full attention!

At that moment, it ceases to be a sales pitch, and becomes an interesting conversation; one I am willing and ready to engage with.

Ongoing RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

Engaging with your target audience – and doing so on a continuous basis – is essential, especially when it comes to big-ticket items. Think about the last time to spent a significant sum on a product or service. You didn’t just hand it over the moment someone mentioned it, did you?

It’s often said that the aim is to build relationships with your potential clients, so they get to KNOW, LIKE and TRUST you. Once that rapport is developed and they believe in your expertise, you are well on your way, not just to making a sale, but to gaining a client for life.

I hope these tips help you on the journey to achieving great things in your sales.

And, if you need help developing Business Development processes – or fine-tuning your existing ones – do drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you.