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Hyderabad, India
Delivery Excellence - Competencies and Centers of Excellence
March 26, 2010
If the relationship between projects is only that of a shared client, seller, technology, or resource, the effort should be managed as a portfolio of projects rather than as a program.
- Introduction, PMBOK 4
P
rior to transforming a delivery organization into a Delivery Excellence Office is to build Competencies and Centers of Excellence in various areas of business lifecycle. Clear distinction must be made between the group that handles the business side of the function (not sales/marketing, but the Industry focus - Retail, Telecom, etc.), and the group that handles the execution side of it. Build competencies and CoEs around these. I would call the skills (such as project management, systems analysis, technology, quality assurance etc.) competencies, and the industries or business focal areas such as retail, telecom, banking, insurance, transportation and logistics etc., as centers of excellence. It doesn't really matter if you call competencies verticals and business focal areas as horizontals or vice versa. Regardless of what you call them, they both intersect in several areas when a project comes into existence. Therefore, it is important that these groupings are clearly defined, segregated, and a common understanding achieved across the organization.
Building such Competency Centers and Centers of Excellence is a three-step process, as outlined below. Although they are "only" three, they are neither quick, simple, nor easy to execute. Depending on the organizational complexity, they can be very time-consuming and extremely complicated (as well as complex). While moving through these three steps, it is imperative to bring in Industry Best Practices, processes and methodologies for each of the verticals and horizontals.
First step in a delivery excellence model is to segregate the individual roles, clarify responsibilities of each such role, and undertake a role-based grouping. This gives rise to the first model in the excellence - with maximum utilization of organizational and resource capabilities. Once segregation of duties is complete, and roles and responsibilities defined,
  1. Projects will be managed by project managers who know (and are experienced in) project management (building a Project Management Competency)
  2. Business SMEs and Analysts will come from the Business Units and are experts in the business domain
  3. System Analysts, Architects, Developers, and testers are the technology wings, experts in their field, knowing how to analyze, architect, design and develop and test a system that provides a technology solution to a business problem
  4. System Analyst, Architect and Developer roles may be initially combined into a single individual for cost effectiveness, but only if that individual is experienced enough to effectively fulfill all three roles
Second step, after segregation, is to combine efforts. Identify "like" projects that contribute towards same or similar goals, and build programs and management capabilities around them. This will ensure effective utilization of resources shared between multiple "like" projects, and build a lean organization that maximizes resource utilization and provide higher cost-benefit to the company. The caveat is that not every project may fall under a specific program, in which case, such projects have to be run independently outside any particular program (unless the project is large enough to be split into multiple sub-projects - in which case, they can have their own programs.
Third and final step in structural change before moving to Delivery Excellence, is to identify vertical portfolios (such as Retail, Telecom, Mobile and Web, etc.) that target a specific industry of focus for the company's business. This allows the organization to build competency centers (or Centers of Excellence) in each of the business domains, with strong domain expertise in each portfolio. Such a center of excellence, combined with the competency centers, would then act as a major marketing point for the sales team with current and prospective clients.
In this model, you would then have an opportunity to build high competency and excellence centers for each of the vertical and horizontal focuses.
  1. Program/Project Management Office would focus on overall project lifecycle management, building processes, best practices and competency to ensure end-to-end delivery
  2. Business Units would focus on vertical business analysis and domain subject matter expertise, creating and improving business processes and flows
  3. Technology Unit would focus on
    1. Technology competencies, analysis, architecture, design, development, testing and their standards, maintenance and technology solutions to business problems (Development House)
    2. Quality Assurances processes, tools and techniques and continuous process improvement (QA House)
  4. Since the resources are shared, a cross-vertical program or project will leverage SMEs from multiple business domains instead of hiring a SME consultant for specific one-off cross-vertical project needs
Though these three steps seem simple, make no mistake, building and implementing is neither simple nor easy. It is highly complicated and complex. So far, I have talked about structural changes only. I haven't started on Organizational Change Management yet - the nuts and bolts of "How to implement this in real life that involves real people?". Much of this work can be done on drawing boards, albeit involving individuals drawn from various organizations within the company. The real hard and challenging work begins after completing the new org structure. It is when you start to implement and make personnel and operational process changes, that you could expect to run into many people and territorial challenges, resistances etc. At some point, tradeoffs and hard choices/decisions must be made in the larger interests. So, tread carefully. Further, a thorough organizational study, full range of risk management and proper change management planning must be put in place prior to starting transformation. A broad based executive management personnel must commit to the organizational change, starting with the highest level. Such a commitment is imperative to achieve any level of success.
Caution: The change may be initiated in six months, but the change to completely set in and move, it could take as long as three to five years. Therefore, make sure you take into account that, during the process of organizational change, the company's business focus may change as well. Therefore, the initial planning must take into account, the actual time taken for the change to complete, the other factors that may change during this process, and build that flexibility into the initial plans. Along the way, periodically revisit these plans and make necessary adjustments based on the changes that occurred outside the organizational change spectrum.
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