Fast tracking the Initiation Phase using Disruptive Technologies – Some examples

In our previous article, How PMO’s Can Catch the Wave of Digital Disruption,  we looked at how project managers and their PMO’s are embracing digital disruption. The article explained how digital disruption was causing all C-suite executives to sit up and take notice and that if we, as project managers, embraced those very technologies, we could also benefit from them by delighting our stakeholders while staying true to our project management principles.

For this article, I would like to look at the example of a three-year marketing program, where I was the program manager. The program’s purpose was to provide an international investment firm, with a new digital capability. This would target, entice, transact and upsell to new and existing customers. The program was the largest the investment company had ever undertaken. While a majority of the activities would be geared to rewriting legacy systems, a key concern and focus for the program steering committee was the customer experience of the new platform.

My program sponsor, the VP of marketing, did not want to engage the services of research companies. Previously, these companies had cost them a quarter of the total spend on their original website. Instead we looked at how we could use technology to change the game for us. One of the ways we did this was to create digital focus groups.

Customers Engaging in Digital Focus Groups

During the Initiation Phase, we hosted five small group sessions. Each consisted of eight customers from the different segments of the investment firm. Each of the participants was given an incentive to participate.

We set up user stations where we had Hotjar operating on the machines. (In this case, it was Hotjar, but there are many other technologies such as Mouseflow and Zarget.) Hotjar is a piece of software that allows you to track customers as they view a website.

We asked the customers to conduct a number of transactions. We asked them to open a new investment, find an investment that matched certain criteria and a number of other use cases.

After that we then divided the groups into teams of four where they discussed their experiences and then went on to ask what they would like to see on the new website.

We finally concluded with a collaborative session creating a quick affinity diagram to categorize the different ideas.

Rapid Prototyping – InVision to Share the Vision

We used InVision, a rapid prototyping tool, to come up with some new look and feel interactive concepts with some light code behind to mimic basic functions. We demoed this to the support staff for feedback.

We then compiled this information into a quick ten-minute video that consisted of some of the video of our customer focus groups, some findings from Hotjar, showing were customers had had problems with the original design, as well as the light look and feel concepts demoed to the support teams. Our presentation to the steering committee lasted 30 minutes and the program was approved. From our short one-month excursion, we were able to create the following:

  • A business case that focused on the needs and our expected returns over the next six years.
  • A list of requirements that contained the MVP (minimum viable product) that would go to market in one year from the business case approval.
  • The start of a list of personae that we continued to develop and evolved into customer journeys and helped steer customer experiences across the new platform.

Technology allowed us to reduce the cost of the traditional survey approach, and with existing development partners, we could provide a digital presentation to our investment steering committee. This took us just one month.

Traditionally business cases, for comparable size programs have taken twice, sometimes three times as long and the project team had no working prototypes at the end of these traditional approaches. Using digital technologies, we were able to reduce the time by half and have some working code and real customer feedback. Disruptive technologies have helped me so much that I am always looking to optimize my project lifecycles through them.

Currently, I am fast tracking an IOT project that from start to completion will be completed in a total elapsed time of four months.  It is my hope that you would use disruptive technologies in the same way too fast track the projects and programs that you are involved with.

Ben Richardson

Ben Richardson

Ben Richardson runs Acuity Training, an IT training business offering classroom courses in London and Guildford, Surrey. A leading provider of MS Project training the UK, it offers a full range of Project courses, from introductory courses through to advanced.

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