For many businesses, executing on project delivery is like running an obstacle course full of endless challenges. One wrong move and scope expands, costs spike, or timelines extend. Suddenly, the project is off course, and teams fail to deliver. It’s an all-too-familiar scenario, yet one that can be easily avoided with teamwork.
In our last article, we introduced the idea of including your CFO and Finance team as part of the Agile process. Of course, when it comes to keeping projects on track for delivery, IT plays the central role–but Finance can also be a key contributor to success. When project execution is off-track, often trust and dependability break down, risks intensify, delays in decision-making occur, and needed resources disappear rapidly. A close partnership with Finance, however, can help to avoid those things entirely.
Partnering with Finance
So how can Finance help the IT team during project delivery? In short, Finance typically brings a needed focus on risk mitigation and internal controls, helping to manage expectations and performance throughout the organization.
Building upon what we learned in our last piece, let’s illustrate a new scenario by revisiting our sports equipment manufacturer: Run-n-Play. The IT and Finance organizations have already found ways to collaborate during project selection, planning, and status reporting. Run-n-Play is enjoying success thanks to new capabilities. But individual projects (and trust) begin to go off-the-rails, as critical stakeholders fail to take accountability for important governance milestones. This leads to Finance taking an adversarial stance during status meetings, criticizing project leaders and their teams. As a result, the leaders and team members feel it necessary to limit the information shared during these meetings to avoid critical escalations.
Janice, the head of IT, decides to speak to Jim, the CFO, to solicit his help in changing the dynamic for status meetings and halting behaviors that could result in significant, adverse outcomes. Both Janice and Jim understand that status reporting is a leading indicator of issues and that receiving accurate information about project status is critical. Projects often move from green to yellow or red, highlighting problems and creating opportunities for the executive team to mentor and help remove obstacles, empowering teams to adjust their plans.
Building Trust Can Change the Dynamic
Because of Janice and Jim’s strong, trusting relationship built over the last several months, they work together to hold team members and other stakeholders accountable for their commitments. When team members commit to deliverables, the rest of the team needs to believe in the follow-through. Jim and Janice’s actions include ensuring that all projects complete a charter, hold steering committee meetings with regularity, commit to specific benefits and scope during planning, and prioritize work against stated company objectives and guiding principles. Along with trust, commitment and dependability are essential to the success of any project.
With Jim’s support and a new level of practical accountability, Janice turns status discussions into useful problem-solving forums. Jim and the Finance team work with IT to adjust plans, shift resources, and re-prioritize the delivery of various capabilities. In some instances, projects are combined, put on hold, or de-scoped. Jim recognizes the need to pivot from an adversarial discussion to a focus on problem-solving in partnership with project team members and leads.
Flexibility is Crucial to Success
Managing the tradeoffs between scope, schedule, and budget are part of a healthy project management process in a trusted partnership. This strengthened alliance between Finance and IT shows an immediate positive impact on projects. Project leaders appreciate Finance’s support, asking for help to overcome governance obstacles and looking for guidance when sharing risks and issues. Jim and the Finance department benefit from these changes as well. Now brought into critical discussions earlier, Jim can better steer essential work. An increase in clear communication, a broader increase in stakeholders taking accountability for completing process steps, and greater adherence to agreed-upon process milestones results in projects that return to green more rapidly and ultimately leads to better delivery. At a higher level, Jim’s improved understanding of status changes allows him to adjust the annual plan more efficiently and communicate with the CEO and Board.
Ultimately, Run-n-Play improves its project delivery process and implements new capabilities with far less friction. Increased trust levels lead to better commitments with higher dependability. Higher dependability leads, in turn, to a higher level of trust.
Regardless of the project or the organization, a willingness to make adjustments coupled with the flexibility to follow through and enact them is a fundamental and vital part of Agile Project Management. It is essential for Finance and other stakeholders to understand that the dynamic nature of agile permits, enables, and requires frequent course changes. That said, it is just as crucial for IT to understand the financial impacts of delays and course changes. Cross-functional trusted relationships like the one illustrated here help ensure that the right capabilities are delivered efficiently and within ever-changing constraints.