Preparing and Selling a Business Use Case

sherrie-suski-businessimageThe Business Use Case 

is a reference point before, during, and after a project. As the project begins the Business Use Case establishes the ultimate goal of the project for all stakeholders—including the project manager and sponsor. There are invariably concepts in the minds of the key project participants of what they expect the project to accomplish.  The vast majority of unsuccessful projects fail not because of poor project management, but because of poor decisions with respect to the choice of projects. A good business case helps to make right decisions and avoid a waste of time and resources. 

A Business Use Case should include the following categories:

Executive Summary

An Executive Summary should speak to the overarching goals of the project.  What is it, how does it benefit your company and what type of evaluation process have you gone through to narrow down the field to the top 2-3 vendors.

Vendor Recommendation

Here it is key to speak to differentiation amongst the top vendor selections.  What does each offer and why does your selection stand out as the right choice

Overview of Business Case

This is the meat of your presentation.  Talk about the purpose and scope of your projects, what the key deliverables are, who the stakeholders are and key team members that will participate in this implementation.  You can also include a brief financial summary here if warranted.

Cost Analysis

Here you can begin to break down the costs of both the software licensing and the implementation fees.  These are likely best served by breaking them into two sections as the software licensing fees are on-going where the implementation fees should be one-time costs.  It may also be helpful to add the number of hours required of the vendor and of team members in this section. 

Implementation Phases

Especially for large projects, you should break them down into phases.  Usually you will see somewhere between 3-6 phases depending on the length of time necessary for the implementation.  If various modules have been purchases, it’s a good way to showcase which modules will be implemented when.

Anticipated Benefits

This is your opportunity to sell!  Think about not only direct savings in terms of cost, time or headcount, but also costs savings that might result from decreased turnover, automation of processes, lack of errors, speed and efficiency.

What Disappointment Says about You

sherrie-suski-disappointmentWhile I know some of you will disagree, your feelings of disappointment in another person generally have nothing to do with the other person and everything to do with you.  Saying “YOU disappointed ME” is not only a morale-killer, but it backfires and reveals more about you than anyone else. Whether in a personal or professional setting these words speak to how you handle life when things invariably don’t go the way you had hoped.

Avoid accountability

First, and actually the most important — as the manager, you own the work of people who report to you. Their work is your achievement or lack thereof. If they have not delivered a quality product, it is your responsibility to help them figure out why. It is not your job to point fingers, deflect blame, and pronounce that the failure was somehow an inherent part of their being.

Show disrespect

You do not see your employees as colleagues working together toward a shared goal, and you are not showing appreciation for their effort. Your words reveal an out of place parent-child dynamic, in which the focus has become your approval rather than the work itself.

Ignore learning

These words have such a sense of finality that they would bring anyone to a crushing halt. You essentially show a lack of faith that the other person can change and grow from the experience

You also make them question their own competence in the job.

Condemn quickly

You think that you are maintaining high standards, but you show that you are a harsh judge of people who are simply trying their best. Disappointment should be a last resort and should be reserved only for people who do not, repeatedly, give their full effort.

Display insecurity

You think you are calling out the other person’s shortcomings, but if you dig deep, you will find you are mainly disappointed in your own effort

Your expectation did not match up with the reality of the situation, and in frustration, you blamed someone else.

Reserve the word “Disappointed” for situations where it is no one’s fault.  “I am disappointed that the Company picnic got rained out” or “I am disappointed that the flight got delayed and we missed the presentation” In these situations, everyone is empathic and agrees.  It puts into words what many people are feeling and can unite a team.

Internal Corporate communication Strategy

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When we think about the terms branding and communication, we often think about external efforts targeted at consumers of products or services which are normally the purview of marketing agencies or internal marketing teams.  However, internal corporate communications to our employee base is critically important in determining our ability to align our teams around one united purpose or mission and to effectively launch programs in support.

Developing an internal communication strategy necessitates that we consider the following:

Audience –  Who is our audience and what do we want them to hear?  Are we speaking to senior executives, investors or to our employee base?  If to the employee base, t what level should the communication be written?  Speaking to a group of data scientists may be different than speaking to a group of retail employees.

Channel/Format which channel(s) will be most effective when delivering this message?  IS this a message that can be communicated in writing or is the intent likely to be lost?  Should a live feed be followed up with video available to all who may not have been able to attend?  Is the expectation for all people leaders to waterfall the communication down through their teams?

Goals/Objectives this can be further broken down into the following categories:

Decision Making where the goal of the communication is to listen, understand all viewpoints and come to a consensus in order to be able to move forward

Information Sharing where the priority is around getting the information out and disseminated quickly, efficiently and accurately

Status Update meant to connect employees to areas of focus

Team Building crat alignment around short and long term goals and foster personal relationships on your team

Problem Solving often linked to a discussion focused on deliverables and how you as a manager, can remove roadblocks to allow your team to progress

Innovation brainstorming sessions that can focus on how to drive the company forward and gain a competitive edge

Schedule – decide how often and when this type of communication needs to occur.  There is a fine balance between over and under communicating

Responsibility – who should have the responsibility for crafting the communication and who should have the responsibility for delivering the communication.  Inherent in everyone’s responsibility is the need to follow up to ensure that the message you wanted to deliver was indeed received.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that communication plans and channels will take care of themselves.  A well-orchestrated plan with all of the above components will help to ensure that your company is both aligned and informed!

 

Organizational Culture

sherrie-suski-cultureWelcome to 2019! It’s hard to know where to begin on your journey toward improving organizational culture if you don’t know where you are currently.  There are a number of different ways to measure culture……… satisfaction surveys, pulse surveys, MBWA, but it is sometimes helpful to have a framework in which to fit your feedback results.  Do you know what your end goal looks like and the steps needed to get from here…. to there?

The journey toward assessing and improving your organizational culture can be roughly broken down into the below five stages.

Functional

Learning and talent are often separate processes. Both are regarded as necessary for HR operations, but they are distinct from how business is done. Most employees do not regard the culture as engaging. Culture is frequently hierarchical. HR may conduct an engagement survey periodically but the inertia behind addressing some of the engagement challenges is low.

Cross- functional

Executive support for learning and talent is more evident but the culture is still principally characterized as a top/down command and control philosophy. The organizational structure is fairly hierarchical, but employees see opportunity for career advancement and mobility. Senior leaders are not purposefully driving efforts to enhance the culture or the level of execution and engagement among employees.

Building

Learning and talent begin to converge based on an awakening of how they can be leveraged to achieve better business outcomes. It is frequently at this stage that the organization becomes focused on quarterly or annual goals.  Employees recognize a shift toward more people-centric strategies as executives support more initiatives that strengthen the culture. Key to success in this phase is the degree of middle management support. Information flow becomes more organic.

Enhancing

An inspired, growth-minded organization is recognized as a true learning culture with a people-first philosophy. The organization is innovating and responds quickly to market changes, often seizing first-mover advantage and outstanding talent. Execution and engagement studies are regularly conducted to measure the tempo of the employee culture and there is wide-spread support for adjusting tactics when signs of engagement begin to drop.  Goals and a goal-based philosophy are adopted across the organization and embedded into the culture.

Optimized

A self-developing ecosystem drives change at individual and organizational levels. Collaboration and transparency in career and development abound. Employee ideas are valued and encouraged regardless of level. The organization is agile and consistently at the front of its field. The people culture is at the heart of the organizational philosophy. As such, multiple measures of employee engagement are used and there may be a dedicated function aligned to the candidate and employee experience. Highly sought after employer.

Not every organization will achieve the optimized state, but it is, nevertheless, a worthy goal.  The closer you can get, the better your organization will be from both an employee and investor perspective!

Wellness Programs

 

Bring up the word Wellness and what immediately jumps to mind is usually ways to improve the physical health of the workforce.  However, true wellness covers a broader spectrum and includes, not only physical, but emotional and financial wellness as well. Especially at this time of year when the urge to overspend is likely, a targeted approach towards financial wellness makes all the sense.  Similar to overeating and alter regretting it, over spending comes with its own regret and last log after the start of the new year and take much longer to rectify than losing a few pounds.  

The most effective Financial Wellness programs, however, are not a one size fits all.  A new study by Prudential Financial, Inc. examined differences in the financial needs and attitudes of various underserved groups in the workplace and the income inequality that affects each set. The 3,000 U.S. respondents included women, African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, caregivers, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Among key findings in the survey, African Americans across all income levels were more likely than the population at large to prioritize helping others financially, including caring for parents or other family members, paying their children’s college tuition, leaving an inheritance to their heirs, and giving to charity. Women in the survey earned an average annual income of $52,521, compared with $84,006 for men. Half of women said they were the primary breadwinner in their household. Almost 40% of caregivers don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire, compared to just 25% of non-caregivers, and caregivers were more likely to take out a loan or hardship withdrawal from their 401(k) plans.

In a statement, Lata Reddy, Prudential’s senior vice president, Diversity, Inclusion & Impact, said a person’s path to financial wellness is deeply personal. “While there are common experiences that tie us all together, there are also distinct factors that are unique to our individual journeys that impact the ultimate destination,” she said. “These factors need to be clearly understood for true progress to be made.” Reddy recommended that employers listen to the people in each community to understand their needs.

This ties in nicely with the Workforce of One approach that I am so an advocate of.  Programs created for the “average” employee are serving no one, because no one is the “average” employee.  Just like the Target page that pops up with different recommendations depending on who is logging in, we need to design our HR programs to ensure that we are meeting the needs of individuals.

Corporate Wellness Programs

 

There is some truth to the saying that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.   And more employers are taking a holistic approach to their employees’ health and well being.  Not only is it good for the employees, it’s good for the company’s bottom line! To effectively integrate an approach toward health and wellness into the workplace, though, requires planning, education and a platform.  Enter the new breed of Wellness portals. Wellness portals are a critical piece of a total wellness solution.

Wellness portals are online platforms designed with responsive design in mind so that they can be accessed from any device at any time.  Wellness Portals offer a place for every member of your workforce to access secure, personal information having to do with their particular paths toward wellness. They will be able to track their progress in a wide variety of different program activities, set goals for themselves, and see these goals achieved which creates motivation to set new goals.

The Best Wellness Platforms Should Be Able To:

  1. Conduct a confidential Personal Health Assessment
    2. Educate (videos, books, webinars, biometric results)
    3. Track program participation and activity
    4. Make engagement easy with a mobile app
    5. Track and administer incentives and rewards
    6. Demonstrate how to be healthy
    7. Provide the tools needed to be healthy
    8. Deliver behavior change campaigns and challenges
    9. Encourage social support
    10. Create a health promoting culture

If you choose, Biometric screening can be integrated with your wellness portal so that the results of any screenings your employees have done can be accessed through their own portal and they can keep track of screenings year over year to track progress.  

Although a wellness portal is a fantastic, some employers believe that having an employee wellness portal is the same as having a wellness program. They mistakenly assume that all their company needs to improve employee health and reduce health care costs is get their employees to go online. A wellness portal is not a wellness program. It’s a computer software program that can be used to help deliver wellness programming and help manage the process. They have all of the features and benefits that come from the computer coding and programming and are tools to encourage and promote a healthy lifestyle!

Thankfulness

At this time of year many of have much to be thankful for, family, friends, our health, our homes.  It’s a shame that high on that list for many is not our life’s work.  I remember sitting around a Thanksgiving table years ago with our extended family on both sides going around the table talking about what we were thankful for and when it was my turn, one of the things I mentioned was my work.  This was met with disdain by one of the people around the table.  How ridiculous that I would name my job as one of the things that I was grateful for in my life.

How sad for that person that their job, their life’s work, their chosen profession was not one of the things that they could take pride in and be grateful for.  There are many benefits of work:

Fosters Creativity and Learning

Creativity thrives when people have an opportunity to work together. Brainstorming ideas prevents stale viewpoints that often come out too little interaction.

What you have learned from your individual experiences is entirely different from your coworkers. Thus, work maximizes shared knowledge and you learn new skills you can use for the rest of your life/career.

Builds Trust

Relying on other people builds trust and working establishes strong relationships. Despite occasional disagreements, an effective workforce enjoys working together and shares a strong bond. When you put your trust, you are establishing the foundation of a relationship that can endure minor conflicts.

Trusting your teammates also provides a feeling of safety that allows ideas to emerge. It helps employees open up and encourage each other.

Teaches Conflict Resolution Skills

Workplace rewards encourage employees to feel proud of their contributions. Tackling obstacles and creating notable work makes team members feel fulfilled. Working toward achieving company goals allows employees to feel connected to the company. This builds loyalty, leading to a higher level of job satisfaction among employees.

Encourages Healthy Risk Taking

Working with co-workers allows team members to take more risks, as they have the support of the entire group to fall back on in case of failure. Conversely, sharing success as a team is a bonding experience. Once a team succeeds together, their brainstorming sessions will produce revolutionary ideas without hesitation. In many cases, the riskiest idea turns out to be the best idea. Teamwork allows employees the freedom to think outside the box.

The benefits of work are many that have nothing to do with the economic benefits.  The benefits of work are a matter of what one does while working, the social relations one enjoys, and the of learning one avails themselves.

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

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Diversity is not just the range of human differences, but acknowledging, understanding, accepting, and valuing differences among people including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs.  Diversity and Inclusion programs are developed in the workplace to ensure that people of all types are included at all levels of the organization and can draw on each other’s strengths and experiences.

The world’s increasing globalization requires more interaction among people from diverse backgrounds. People no longer live and work in an insular environment; they are now part of a worldwide economy competing within a global framework. For this reason, organizations need to become more diversified to remain competitive. Maximizing and capitalizing on workplace diversity is an important issue for management.

Managers need to recognize the ways in which the workplace is changing and evolving. Managing diversity is a significant organizational challenge, so managerial skills must adapt to accommodate a multicultural work environment.

Effective managers are aware that certain skills are necessary for creating a successful, thriving, diverse workforce.

First, managers must understand discrimination and its consequences.

Before we can truly embrace a diverse workforce, managers must understand that discrimination hurts us all, not just the person who is of a different ethnicity, but those who have to witness it.  It creates a divide in the workplace and is counter to the desire to collaborate.

Second, managers must recognize their own cultural biases and prejudices.

Each individual is unique and does not represent or speak for a particular group. When creating a successful diverse workforce, an effective manager should focus on personal awareness. Both managers and employees need to be aware of their personal biases. Therefore, organizations need to develop, implement, and maintain ongoing training because a one-day session of training will not change people’s behaviors.

Finally, managers must be willing to change the organization if necessary.

Organizations need to learn how to manage diversity in the workplace to be successful in the future. When dealing with diversity, managers must promote a safe place for associates to communicate. Social gatherings and business meetings, where every member must listen and have the chance to speak, are good ways to create dialogues. Managers should implement policies such as mentoring programs to provide employees access to information and opportunities. Also, employees should never be denied necessary, constructive, critical feedback for learning about mistakes and successes, due to concerns about a person’s differences.

Managing diversity is about more than equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. Is it about embracing each of our unique differences.

Performance Management is not an Annual Exercise

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There is a dwindling focus on the traditional annual performance appraisal and a there is a growing trend toward developing feedback loops that give continuous, real time feedback to employees. According to the 2018 State of Continuous Performance Management Survey,  conversations about aligning business goals, check-ins on progress and periodic feedback should be used to manage and continuously motivate employee performance.

HR respondents in the study identified their top three goals for their performance management program as creating and maintaining feedback and coaching cultures, retaining high performing talent and training the workforce on needed skills. To better manage and motivate workers, Betterworks said, employers can help employees find purpose and direction among change, connect employee contributions to the organization’s larger goals and identify and reward top performers.

In a Wakefield Research study, more than 60% of employees said they feel the traditional performance review is outdated, and nearly all respondents said they prefer that managers address performance issues and development opportunities in real-time. Frequent, informal assessments allow workers to improve or correct their performance with immediacy.

Ideally, having a robust performance management platform can assist in giving and receiving real time feedback, create an environment where information is sought out and shared, build engagement and detail plans for talent learning opportunities and enhancements.  Employees want to know not only how their past performance has been, but the plans for their future as well. Consider the below:

  • More than 90% of 18 to 34-year-old workers say a clear succession plan would boost their level of engagement
  • 94% of employers report that having a succession plan positively impacts the entire workforce.
  • 32% of people say they’d quit if there was no room to learn, grow, or advance at their job.
  • Succession programs have been shown to have a positive impact on employee retention. By preparing high-potential and high-performing employees for progression in the organization, and investing in their development, you demonstrate an organizational commitment to them that will most often be reciprocated.
  • Companies with sound succession plans are correlated with better long-term performance.

Succession Planning or Talent planning, which refers developing plans for the whole organization, are a primary outcome of a solid, on-going Performance Management approach that many companies are moving toward today. It is a win-win scenario for both employees and employers alike!

 

Employee Satisfaction

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When employers consider employee surveys to discover ways to boost employee satisfaction and retain employees, they often think of incentive pay, additional benefits, and perquisites. When reviewing results of such surveys, employers may fear they won’t be able to respond to employee needs that surface. However, they may be missing existing satisfiers that are already in place but are not being well utilized. In some cases, giving attention to current programs and setting of expectations can turn stale programs into real opportunities for employee satisfaction.

Career growth and even professional relationships are often motivators of satisfaction and engagement. One of the reasons employees leave a company is career growth opportunity; a reason employees stay is the relationships made while employed. One survey showed 25 percent of departing employees revealed that they would have stayed in their position with the company if they had a more respectful and connected relationship with the direct manager.

Employees want to learn, be in mutually beneficial and respectful relationships, and experience healthy professional relationships. Management must connect with workers both professionally and personally, and, depending on the work atmosphere and nature of the company, create a fun work atmosphere and initiate conversations about things outside of work. Other things managers can do to build employee satisfaction are:

  • Permit employees to use and demonstrate their strengths. Everyone wants to be valued and make a difference. Know where to place each employee for the greatest results. Ask what an employee wants to do in the company and look for opportunities to create the experience.
  • Ensure employees understand personal and business goals and the work scope related to their position and how it ties into the big picture. Individuals on a team create winning solutions when everyone knows their role on the field and the game rules.
  • Enhance communication. Hear your employees. Ask what is and is not working and take action to explore where the company can and cannot implement idea changers. Have managers meet with employees on a regular basis and report on performance, engagement, and employee feedback.
  • Consider stay interviews to understand turnover and engagement.
  • Create a learning environment. Foster internal opportunities to learn from one another and expand upon existing skills. While this may slow some projects down, future projects led by a well-rounded work team will create greater quality, productivity, developmental growth, and shared knowledge.

In the very tight labor market we are in, it is critically important that we find more cost effective ways to keep our employee workforce engaged and energized.