Astute Planning, Flawless Execution,
Delighted Customers

Issue #163

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In this week's newsletter, we introduce a few new topics including recent research on First Contact Resolution as a key metric for customer contact centers. We also present an article by Brian Solari about an approach for rescuing troubled projects.

In addition, we are proud to announce our new and improved website. To avoid the "cobblers kid" syndrome, we, too, seek to continuously improve how we address our customers and the marketplace. As such, we have several new pages on our web-site including revised videos covering the services that we offer. We hope that you agree that the enhanced version of the website more clearly articulates the services that we provide and the value that we deliver. Check us out!

First Contact Resolution

We are pleased to share with you research that was recently released by on the topic of First Contact Resolution.

Our clients often ask us for the key metrics that they should manage to in their customer contact center. While there are many useful measures, one of the most critical metrics is First Contact Resolution (FCR). In addition to improving customer satisfaction, a high FCR can also lead to increased operational efficiency. This builds on the common theme we like to share: by making it easier for the customer to do business with you, you by default become more operationally efficient.

As stated in the beginning of's report:
Successfully addressing your customer's need the first time they contact you - or better known as First Contact Resolution (FCR) - is an important metric for any support organization to measure. In many cases, a higher level of FCR can be directly correlated to higher customer satisfaction levels, which leads to increased customer loyalty.

If you'd like to learn more about the results of this research we encourage you to review the complete article which is available online.

Project R-E-S-C-U-E:   Using Agile Methodologies & Transformational Leadership to Attain Customer Satisfaction
by Brian Solari

I recently led an IT project at a well established, privately owned company. The objective was to design and implement a Sales Operations workflow automation system using Microsoft SharePoint as the core technology in order to streamline the opportunity assessment process and gain a competitive advantage with faster time-to-market. This company's IT organization had a small Project Management Office (PMO) which defined, documented and rigorously adhered to its own project management methodology – one founded on PMI best practices and a traditional waterfall process. When I started, the project was already underway; I was handed a requirements document, an "as-is" business process diagram and a target completion date. The project team resources identified included a Sales executive as project sponsor, cross-functional business analysts and managers, and one software developer.

After establishing the project schedule, conducting weekly team meetings, reporting status periodically to an executive level steering committee, moving through the development phase – effectively executing the project – some problems unfolded. First, too much time was consumed reviewing, revising, and re-reviewing the process flow diagram. And these changes to business workflow logic translated into new features and more sophisticated functionality in the SharePoint system, which not only warranted additional unplanned time for custom coding, but necessitated revisions to the requirements document…which I then discovered had never formally been reviewed and approved by the previous project manager no longer with the company. Meanwhile, direction I received from the PMO was to push back and prevent scope creep. Needless to say, when we tried to plow ahead under schedule duress, the first round of user acceptance testing was a disaster.

The actively participating project sponsor informed me that despite addressing everything explicitly identified as in scope in the requirements document, we were not meeting his expectations. He demanded a long list of additional product capabilities that were apparently implicitly communicated from the get-go, yet clearly not specified in the requirements document. This is when I identified the root problem – that no matter how successful my team was in terms of managing the project success metrics (on schedule, in scope, and under budget), this project was on a fast track for failure because it was not winning on customer satisfaction.

So I had a choice: remain compliant with prevailing PMO methodology, tightly controlling scope and delivering only what was agreed to be delivered in the requirements document; or do what I believed was in the best interest of all project stakeholders and guide the team toward the desired end-state. I chose to do whatever it took to meet customer expectations and deliver expected business value.

Through further analysis of the root problem, and increased interpersonal communication with the project sponsor, I realized the customer expectations were based on a vision that could not be fully represented in the requirements document – in part because the sponsor knew what he wanted but did not know how to get there. To help crystallize this vision, I presented some options to the project team, which participated in the decision to engage real end users, including executives, for iterative rounds of user acceptance testing – effectively prototyping smaller sets of functionality until the product met the vision. The team discovered we needed to re-engineer the business process and re-write the SharePoint logic concurrently but in manageable chunks, rather than serially in whole parts. The effort transformed from an implementation of new technology to simply automate a process, to using new technology as a vehicle for transparency, thereby exposing a need to change the business process in order to realize strategic results. Ultimately we had to move away from the stage-gate/waterfall methodology requiring a "final" requirements approval, and implement agile methods of time-boxed software development and user acceptance test cycles. After only a couple of additional iterations, the primary customer stated his satisfaction, the team claimed victory and I successfully closed the project.

One way to frame how I rescued this project is by recycling some elements of a commonly used acronym, R-E-S-C-U-E (for example, one variation of it which highlighted traditional best practices around managing projects in crisis was used in a presentation at Project Summit 2009) – and supplementing it with a fusion of new trends in project management methodologies and leadership techniques most associated with project success. In this case, the rescue formula was:

  • Re-assess the original project objective, and re-align resources to deliver the desired business outcome.
  • Explain the vision, and how the team can still achieve that outcome.
  • Sprint toward rapid delivery of business value.
  • Communicate progress early and often.
  • Utilize your project sponsor to help overcome remaining obstacles.
  • End it as soon as you can demonstrate the value you said you'd deliver.

Ideally, you'd want to prevent a project from ever getting to the point it needs rescuing. How? Do the same thing, early and often. From the get-go, Re-assess your project selection process, and ensure a selected project has a clear business objective that is strategically aligned to corporate goals. Upon early stages of execution, leverage transformational leadership to Explain the vision to the team, and reinforce it regularly. Inspire, motivate, enable creative problem solving, and always keep the project team focused on the desired business outcome. Schedule early milestones that deliver rapid realization of value, then leverage agile methodologies and Sprint to those milestones. Once you hit your first business value milestone, Communicate tangible progress. More than anything else, this will motivate the team, not to mention balance out any fear of failure that tends to bubble up when issues are identified. Utilize your sponsor as much as possible in the beginning – arriving at a meeting of the minds about the end-state in the beginning stage will help you focus on critical path activities and facilitate the most robust requirements definition. And have a plan for how to End it. Plan for how you will manage scope creep, champion change control, and plant seeds for continuing work to add supplemental value next time.

About Brian: Brian Solari is a certified project management professional (PMP) and business transformation consultant who specializes in promoting productive partnerships between Information Technology organizations, the business organizations they support, and the customers to whom they deliver value. By guiding project teams toward the rapid realization of business benefits, Brian helps CIOs, technology leaders and business executives achieve strategic success.

Brian earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from Stonehill College, and holds a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Information Systems from the Sawyer School of Business at Suffolk University. He has been practicing IT project management and delivering business impacting results for over 12 years to employers and customers including Genuity, Staples, Boston Communications Group, Computer Sciences Corporation and Camiant.



+ Project R-E-S-C-U-E

+ First Contact Resolution


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