Why and how to communicate efficiently

Publié le mardi 7 juillet 2020.

Launching a new planning and reporting solution

IT project best practices for Finance

Interview – Senior Finance Controller

After over 10 years in business controlling, Amandine implemented a Performance management solution dedicated to staff in Controlling and Operations. She shares with us her experience as project manager through describing the key roles of project communication, meaningful training and tool adoption by the end users. Three factors that guarantee the success of a transformation project.

Key roles in project communication

The Project Manager

Delivers a unique, transparent and realistic message throughout the project.

The Sponsor

Convinces C-levels and the main stakeholders.

The Key Users

Provide the PM with every useful information and are the key point of contact for the users.

The User’s Managers

Relay the project information to their teams.

IT Teams

Provide technical support and knowledge.

HR and Internal Communication

Support the PM on their areas of expertise.

How did the conviction work for your project go ?

« The groundwork vis-à-vis the Management Committee was laid by the project sponsor who was part of the Finance Department. This led to the initial authorization to proceed with the preliminary budget and potential solutions for the needs identified. Once the Management team was on board, we deemed essential to convince other key stakeholders of the need to implement such a tool. Their cooperation was crucial to the smooth running of the project and to obtaining a standardized data repository. In line with today’s collaborative management approach and the numerous teams involved, we did not want to impose a solution. In order to convince, we presented the potential ROI at different levels and identified the various hurdles to better anticipate and overcome them. Presenting the project in concrete terms without overselling it led to a better understanding of the project and its benefits. Finally, an economic study carried out with IT and Procurement enabled us to obtain and present all the necessary information.

When did you start to communicate about the project ?

We communicated well before the project kick-off, in order to anticipate possible misunderstandings and encourage teams to buy into the tool. Convincing stakeholders, studying market solutions, prep aring requests for quotation… all these activities can take up to 2 to 3 years prior to the project kick-off if everything is handled internally.

What is the purpose of the communication on this type of project ?

The project team informs and answers. The end-users express their expectations and questions. The success of the project depends on its ability to respond to the requirements of end-users. The project team must therefore have the means and a certain legitimacy to welcome concerns and suggestions. Two-way communication is paramount because it fosters commitment and transparency.

How did you organize your communications ?

We sequenced communication on this project. The internal communications department identified the target audience and adapted the messages for each. First, we communicated with the Management Committee. We alproject communicationso involved top management and in particular IT, one of the main project stakeholders. The numerous project stakeholders were part of different departments, each with specific constraints. They therefore communicated on their own roadmap that we built together : the number of days devoted to the project and the work periods. A few weeks before the launch of the project, the list of key users was known, the date of the kick-off confirmed and the macro planning established. Our line of communication was clear: we wanted to send a strong message to the teams that the doors of the project were open to them and that their needs would be taken into consideration before conception of the solution. To reinforce the impact of the message, we proposed to managers to communicate on the project during their team meetings and to directly interact with their team members.

How did you develop your messages ?

We sought to harmonize our wording by distributing tool cards to different people invited to speak about the project. All communicators were thus able to provide the answers to the questions raised by the various end-user teams. End users had to be aware that their feedback would be listened to and was fundamental in improving the tool functionalities. Effective communication guarantees the support of teams in the field, which is a crucial factor in the project’s success.

To whom do users send their questions ?

We wanted to give users the opportunity to interact with multiple contacts. Indeed, it seemed obvious to us that they would not ask the same questions to a peer or to a manager. Hence, the value in developing harmonised wording and diffusing the messages to all target populations.

How did you make sure that messages were reaching all of their target audience ?

Key users and managers of end-user teams were my primary contacts but we had multiple communication relays and channels. Having relays reassures and ensure that the messages are well received. It helps to lighten the workload, which is often heavy during the project. It also preserves proximity in communication, physical or functional, which is a pledge of confidence for the end-users.

Resistance to change often accompanies this type of project. How did you manage this resistance ?

We tried to be as transparent as possible. During the kick-off, we communicated on the objectives, the risks, the constraints, the training plan, new work habits and expectations towards the stakeholders. Operational teams felt taken into account from the beginning, which helped alleviating their fears. Sharing the milestones of the project with a goal for each phase is excellent practice. It fulfils the end users’ requirement to have full visibility throughout the duration of the project.

How did you choose the key users ?

We chose to diversify user profiles in order to have a representative sample of the operational teams and of the possible reactions to the project: an experienced person with seniority, a newcomer to the company, a data consumer manager, a person with little experience in data, drivers of change, reluctant colleagues…

When do key users intervene ?

The voice of key users during the design workshops is essential. In our project, key-users even reviewed the conclusions of each design phase. They also relayed the main design principles to the operational teams. In this way, we communicate on where we are going throughout the project lifecycle. This does not mean that we revisit the initial design with end-users and responses to their requests may not all be positive. The idea is to show them that the tool will meet as many of their requirements (defined at the outset of the project) as possible.

Were there other stakeholders supporting the project team ?

Yes, I associated Internal Communication and Human Resources with our project. HR ensured that the tool training, provided in-house, was compatible with the company’s training plan. The Internal Communications manager helped me develop the communication strategy for the project. Together we defined the time to be devoted to communication, the necessary resources, the target audiences and the messages. Following our work sessions, she wrote the wording for team managers and key users. She handled some of the official communication through the company’s newsletters and by email during key major project stages.

How did the Business/IT relationship function on this type of project ?

IT is one of the essential partners in the implementation of the tool. They must therefore be convinced of the merits of the project. Balancing the relationship with the project manager is essential, especially if there is a hierarchical level between the two. To this end, the role of the project’s business sponsor is decisive.

Did you build on previous experiences ?

Yes, capitalizing on the experiences of previous projects within the company is important. This makes it possible to anticipate constraints or difficulties inherent in the business. By sharing difficulties already experienced, we can limit the risk of errors but also better understand some of the team’s concerns stemming from previous difficult experiences.

Is communication an integral part of the project or even a sine qua none condition for its success ?

It is indispensable. Failure or delay in communication is not only annoying but can cast doubt on the project or even on the project team. Communicating means giving visibility: transparency allows users to look to the future with confidence. The project manager must consider communication in terms of time and cost. For example, you can use a trainee dedicated to organizing training or a key-user dedicated to writing training materials. The expertise of Internal Communication is very precious. Communicating about a business project requires skills and methods !  »

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