We were approached by a leading UK fuel financial services provider to help improve their product pipeline management and get products to market more quickly.
This business is a leading innovator in the fuel financial services sector but found it was unable to get products to market as quickly as it wanted. Senior management knew the innovations were sound and there was an extensive development team but even simple ideas were often taking months to fully realise. The senior management team believed the problem lay with poor efficiency in the delivery team and wanted help identifying the bottlenecks.
Following the brief, we initially focused on the delivery team, working alongside them to observe working practices, holding confidential staff interviews and so on. We found a few areas of concern but the team was consistently busy with little evidence of time-wasting or poor performance. However, a repeated message from the staff interviews was that morale was suffering because of constantly switching between projects.
We next looked at the rest of the business, visiting the head office and holding video-conference sessions with off-shore staff to understand how new product ideas were generated, assessed and approved. We identified that new ideas coming from all departments and were being vetted effectively; each department was then passing its requirements to the delivery team. The various departments all knew what their own pipeline of work was but did not know when their work would be delivered. This confirmed our suspicion that the underlying issue lay with how projects were being prioritised rather than with the delivery team itself.
"... it took an outside perspective to see the real issues ..."
It quickly became clear that there was no single control for work entering the delivery team, meaning that this team was constantly changing focus from one project to another. We also found that a small proportion were poorly defined, leading to a long string of clarification requests and deliverables not meeting requirements.
To address this we recommended a new change management process, bringing all senior managers together to prioritise their work and help each CxO understand the needs of the others. We built a new Jira-based tool to manage the backlog and helped restructure the delivery team so that low cost projects could be "fast-tracked" via a rapid-delivery team.
We also built a KPI monitoring tool displaying progress on a wall-board, so that the development team could both see what was coming up and clearly demonstrate their own performance.
The new prioritisation process showed benefits instantly - the delivery team was able to focus on real priorities, project "churn" has dropped dramatically and new products are frequently being delivered in days, not months.
The CxO team have far greater visibility of the pipeline, full understanding of each others' needs and are now able to kill off low priority projects before they became distractions.
The delivery team and CxO team both love the KPI wallboard - the delivery team can show how well they are performing and use it to help drive continuous improvement while the CxOs have full visibility of their work on a single intranet page.
One client comment that sums this project up:
"the changes you recommended appear simple but have made a massive difference"
The root cause of a problem may not be what it appears
It is very easy to look at a problem and make assumptions about it. What really counts, however, is your ability to see past the "obvious" and work out what is really going on. This case-study illustrates the benefit of an external view - we were able to see past preconceptions and, working analytically, saw where the real issue lay. If you can do this, the solution may be easier than you think.
If you have a business challenge that just doesn't make sense, we would love to help - please get in touch using the link below.