Independent Project Review
Pension Services Industry
"We need an objective, independent party to review the situation before we commit more time and resource to this complex technology project”
A leader in the Canadian pension services industry was seeking greater agility and scalability of their core business systems to respond to regulatory changes and capture growth opportunities. After two years, they began to lose confidence in their project to custom develop a replacement for their core pension administration system. To provide greater confidence to senior management and a committee of the board they sought insight from an objective, independent advisor with experience in large-scale technology projects in pensions. Ember Advisory was engaged to perform a six-week deep dive into the project and validate its probability for success.
Ember’s recommendations were accepted by the project sponsor and the board committee and changes were made to the project governance, a new project director and PMO disciplines were introduced, the systems integrator was phased out, and an integrated project plan was created to improve probability of success. In this case, what mattered most to the client was to gain confidence in the plan and its budget to ensure ongoing support by senior management and the board. The project is now on schedule, and is tracking to budget, instilling greater confidence.
Large Scale Project Recovery
Financial Services Industry
"Our project is not on track. Can we get an experienced project director to help us deliver?”
Managing the successful delivery of large-scale technology projects is not easy and is not a core competency of many organizations. Cost overruns and missing business benefits continue to be issues experienced in large technology projects in the marketplace. A large company in the investment and pension services industry faced that situation after failing to mitigate the risks associated with their legacy modernization program. In response to a recommendation from an independent project review Ember Advisory was engaged to turnaround the program starting with the introduction of an experienced Project Director. What mattered most to the project sponsor was gaining confidence in the schedule and budget required to successfully complete the project; “no more surprises”.
In order to turnaround the multi-year program, Ember listened to perspectives from project team members; ranging from senior level executives to the developers and testers, the external auditor, and to the technology vendor supporting the program. The remedies included: 1) defining the appropriate Governance model with clear roles and accountabilities for everyone involved, 2) mobilizing new Program Management (PMO) processes and tools to effectively manage status reporting, scope, schedule, budget, risks, issues and contracts, 3) transitioning the vendor off the program and introducing new vendor governance processes, 4) introduction of ‘stage gates’ at various milestones to establish quality checks along the way, and 5) Finally, resetting the delivery methodology from agile to waterfall to better support a phased release strategy. As these changes were implemented, over three months, the risk profile of the project was reduced and confidence increased. The project has received very positive feedback from the steering committee, Senior Executive Team, and the board. Approval has been secured to proceed with the re-set project for the next 4 years.
Ten Year Business Case Financial Forecast Model
Financial Services Industry
“How much is this program going to cost, and what is the expected return?”
Ember Advisory was engaged by Toronto based financial services company to help them secure management and board approval for a multi-million dollar technology project by creating 10-year Financial Forecast Model, ROI analysis and detailed Business Case. What mattered most to the client was that we bring all the stakeholders to a common understanding and high confidence in the numbers and the underlying assumptions. To secure approval the forecast and ROI analysis had to be very detailed and bulletproof.
Leveraging experience in large-scale program management, project estimating, financial modeling and forecasting, the ember team guided the client through the creation, audit, and presentation to senior management and the board. The financial forecast model was the foundation of the Program Business Case that was endorsed by the Senior Executive Team and the board.
Business Model Transformation
“As our company changes how it goes to market, what is the right organizational structure, roles, and measures to ensure success?”
Recognizing the major shift underway in how technology is sourced and procured, a global systems integration and outsourcing company was transforming how it goes to market. The rise of cloud computing, software-as-a-service, and increased focus on industry solutions triggered a shift from a geographic oriented go-to-market to an industry centric go-to-market approach. This change drove a restructuring of their alliance program and hardware and software resale business.
Building on previous trusted relationships they reached out to ember advisory for advice and support. After a thorough current state assessment via interviews and market analysis, ember lead the client through building the case for change, rightsizing the business function, operationalizing the new organization, and establishing the new performance management program to support the new organization. What mattered most to the client was maintaining the current revenue stream while repositioning the function to support a new go-to-market by industry. With support from ember, the client implemented the new organization model in July 2014. The new alliance and reselling team is now better positioned to support the industry team and thrive as their clients adopt cloud computing and SaaS solutions.
Data quality and reconciliation
Pension Services Industry
“As we migrate over time from a legacy system to the new system how do we ensure data is synchronized in both systems?”
A leading Canadian pension services company was seeking greater agility and scalability of their systems and processes to respond to regulatory changes and capture growth opportunities, but confidence in the systems was threatened by data concerns. The migration strategy required maintenance of similar data sets in two separate databases as they transitioned between the old and new pension management systems. In order to ensure a successful transition, they sought out qualified assistance from an independent advisor. ember advisory was brought in to provide expertise in data management. Working along the client, ember created reconciliation reports to reconcile the completeness and accuracy in both databases. The team created a process to analyze and validate results, identify trends and the root causes of problems, thereby speeding the rate at which these problems could be fixed.
What mattered most to the client was to gain confidence in the data. Through ember’s data reconciliation efforts, issues were identified with user processes and conversion routines. Root cause analysis then allowed the data and code issues to be identified and corrected. The reconciliation process and report was operationalized providing the client a sustainable way to identify and solve problems before they escalate.
“How does my small technology company partner with a large consulting firm effectively?”
When a small technology services company wanted to team up with a global consulting powerhouse the negotiations can be one sided. Thinking big, the small technology company reached out to ember advisory for advice and support in their negotiations. Leveraging his previous experience building and leading alliance programs and negotiating alliance agreements, Rob helped prepare a win-win arrangement for ember’s client and the client’s strategic alliance partner. What mattered most to the client was quickly getting to an agreement that would create new market opportunities to jointly pursue. Recognizing that the fees for ember's advice would be significant to the small client ember agreed to do the work 100% continent upon its success. Upon successful completion of the negotiation the client asked Rob to bill for the services and the CEO expressed his enthusiastic support for the advice and unique approach.
Contingency plan for a large technology project
Pension Services Industry
“What options do we have if the current project does not deliver the expected benefits on time and on budget?”
A leader in the Canadian pension services industry was over budget and behind schedule on a large-scale project to replace their legacy system with a modernized platform based on service oriented architecture and business process management technology. Efforts to manage the project in-house were facing challenges. Building on findings of an Independent Project Review, management and the board felt it prudent to establish an actionable contingency plan for the in-house led program.
Over four months, ember advisory led the efforts to create an actionable contingency plan including a market scan of like projects across North America, RFI to eight vendors - orals with five, make vs. buy analysis, detailed planning and estimating for three strategic options, and the creation of a business case for a strategic decision by management. What mattered most to the client was the ability to create a defendable, actionable contingency plan without distracting or upsetting the ongoing project. The client feedback was that ember advisory navigated difficult waters effectively and objectively to help the client make an important strategic decision.