Critical Initiative Delivery During the Pandemic: Is Your Organization Meeting its Obligations?

Across all industries and particularly in the financial services industry (FSI), regulatory obligations and strategic initiatives need to be delivered by mandated deadlines. With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to impact much of the world, both workforce and vendor partners are at various stages in their resiliency activities. While some work locations are starting to re-open, many companies plan to work remotely for the foreseeable future, which is causing ongoing challenges in ensuring the right work is being delivered to meet the expectations of regulators, boards of directors, customers and stockholders. These key stakeholders and participants need transparency and need to know whether their teams are working on the right projects to provide the intended returns on investments across scope, schedule, cost and quality, along with organization health checks across effectiveness, efficiencies and well-being. With transparent project delivery, it is not only important to what gets done but also how the intended outcomes get completed that keeps team members safe and motivated.

In an earlier blog, Resetting the Technology Portfolio to Align with the Reemergence Strategy, our colleagues addressed how a Program Management Office (PMO) should set an organization’s strategic direction to drive growth in this new economy. In this blog, we take a closer look at some of the steps we see as critical to FSI to achieve success in this remote workforce-driven environment.

To achieve the required goals and fulfill the obligations, establishing a rapid execution PMO and Program/Project Management team to re-baseline is critical in these times of change. With rapid execution, the PMO and PM team can maintain control, pivot priorities, facilitate delivery, remove obstacles to mitigate risks, provide direction and communications and ensure daily alignment to achieve the approved outcomes with quality acceptance.

Maintain Control to Achieve Rapid Execution

As many financial institutions evaluate which functions may soon return to the office, and which functions may not return to the office until late 2020 or perhaps even in 2021, the following are the steps the PMO should take immediately to achieve the most critical initiatives or where needed to reset the technology portfolio to align with the reemergence strategy:

  • Reset the technology portfolio strategy to define the outcomes needed to achieve the new business strategy. Define, document and align technology initiatives to business imperatives with expected outcomes. Leverage the PMO to ensure strategy and roadmap alignment. Remove the challenges of having a virtual workforce by ensuring technology currency and resiliency.
  • Evaluate the existing portfolio to understand the challenges and gaps, project health and business case. Conduct an exercise to gain a complete understanding of current state (where we are now) and future state (where we want to be) across scope, schedule, cost and quality.  This should also include an assessment of resource plans, remote collaboration technologies and all vendor personnel and remote capabilities.
  • Execute the strategy

Establish priorities to finalize the path forward – Group initiatives and define a roadmap of what is needed next, soon or eventually.  Then, align resources to deliver on the priorities in the right sequence for what is needed next with a clear definition of what “done” means, and backlog the items that will eventually be needed. Further, implement change management to enable focus, trade-off awareness and outcome success.

Identify priority risks – After establishing priorities, invest time to identify potential risks or obstacles up front and incorporate action steps to immediately address before they evolve into issues impeding execution and progress.

Monitor progress – Establish meaningful metrics and burndown progress reporting to bring transparency into active/inactive work, progress on approved work and insights to risks and issues including mitigation plans, documented minutes and action steps with clear ownership.

Communicate – Establish daily and weekly cadence to reaffirm priorities, daily objectives and expected outcomes, gain an understanding of what is done and what is next, and determine where impediments, escalations and decisions are needed so deliverables are completed.

Educate on Maintaining Security and Compliance

More than ever, this remote work environment means PMOs need to ensure documents and deliverables are properly classified, dated and tagged to ensure FSIs follow stated governance, policy and standards. Further, it is critical to ensure team members are using secure laptops, secure VPN connectivity to ensure electronic communications and documents are properly encrypted and protected.  PMO team members should be reminded to follow privacy best practices to protect PII and raise awareness of increased probability of malicious forms of cyber-attacks, such as phishing.

Unite the Team

To accommodate a rapid response and manage through uncertainty, companies need to embrace change. In a previous blog that presented the U.N.I.T.E. Checklist, we introduced collaboration concepts which are critical to rapid deployment.

Leverage collaboration tools – In a remote working environment, PMOs must ensure collaboration tools are being used by all team members in a standard way — this is critical to success. PMOs should leverage dates in the file names and have standardized folders and naming conventions consistently used across all teams. Meetings should be thoughtful and with documented agendas. Stakeholders, project leads and PMO managers should be aligned prior to meeting with all team members. Full team member meetings should be provided documented direction, including progress reports and affirmation of priorities requiring delivery focus that are published and accessible by all in the collaboration tools. Encourage video calls where possible to maintain camaraderie across the team.

Transform your conversations to be value focused – For distributed teams, flexibility and learning culture are critical. Each junior team member should have a more senior peer buddy they can ask questions of and seek assistance or guidance. More senior resources should also be aligned to a senior peer and or team lead so acceleration and learning can take place to produce results in a quality, efficient way. The lead resources need to ensure alignment to scope and the definition of “done” for the stated work and can synthesize best practices and solution challenges to make each wave or sprint of work better.

Closing Thoughts

The process and steps outlined above are practical in nature and the trick is not in the methodology and approach. Rather, success is in the project leadership and communication of the vision. Leaders, working closely with their teams, develop and communicate the vision to help the team members understand how their contributions align and enable the vision.  When the leader keeps the vision and the daily tactics in front of team members while listening for possible impediments or risks to mitigate and solve real-time, the expected outcomes can be delivered to the agreed-upon definition of “done,” including scope, schedule, cost and quality. Once in place, the leader continues to groom the backlog and coach the team where needed, then steps back and let them accelerate execution velocity.


Michael Mills

Technology Consulting - Technology Strategy and Operations

Tom McKernan

Technology Strategy and Operations

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