Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Grow Your Business While Avoiding Technology Takeover

Whether you’re doing a complete overhaul or minor tweaks, improving your business performance is rarely a simple task. You have to consider how people, process, budget, strategy, and technology fit together. In this day and age there are a lot of software options that can perform the tasks you need completed, but the approach you take to find the solution that truly fits with your business and unique process is critical. It’s easy to let technology define your business strategy and performance, but don’t let it take over!

At DPT, we believe that people and process should always come first in improving performance. Technology selection and implementation should follow. That sounds simple, but how do you get started?

Our five part series, Grow Your Business While Avoiding Technology Takeover, will walk you through the common pitfalls businesses experience while implementing technology and driving business performance. We’ll also provide strategies to avoid them. It’s obvious that technology will always be a part of your business, and we’ll help you find an ideal way to integrate it.

If you’re ready to grow your business and improve performance while avoiding tech takeover, contact us. We’re always happy to have a conversation.

Thursday, 27 April 2017 00:00

DPT Champions Victorious Michigan Tech Students!

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Congratulations, Turnip The Beet!

What does it take to create or promote a community garden or urban farm in Michigan? There’s planning, of course. There’s designing, funding, and cultivating partnerships with local communities. All of these elements were part of this year’s challenge set forth by the WMPMI competition "The Project 2017".

Lettuce tell you about long-time DPT team member, Shawn Rathbun who has attended or volunteered with the competition every year. She is an adjunct instructor at Michigan Technological University leading their Advanced Project Management course. This year, she served as project champion two Project Management teams at Michigan Technological University over the course of a semester. Both MTU teams decided to create a community garden for a real community in the western upper peninsula.

The competition was divided into four stages with deliverables that needed to be sent in to a panel of judges. Preparing these deliverables taught the students how to write a project charter, a scope statement, develop a risk register, a communication plan and other project management documents. But the chief learnings were practical, real world lessons on time management (to avoid over-thyme as milestones approach), stakeholder management, scope management (pruning the scope to meet budget), teamwork (turnip for team meetings), open communication, and patience.

The students also gained confidence answering questions, and honing their public speaking skills by holding several public forums to gain feedback from their stakeholders in their respective community. By the end, they knew their project’s details better than anyone and were prepared for the final step of the competition--presenting the project to the judges.

Shawn described her students this semester as talented, mow-tivated, and enthusiastic – all of which the judges saw. In the end, they awarded team MTU team, Turnip the Beet first place, squashing the competition and making them the first Michigan Tech team to bring home the big check, the big trophy and even bigger bragging rights. This is a really big dill because Michigan Tech has always placed in the top 3, but had never taken first until this year.

So congratulations to Turnip the Beet! It takes a lot of growth, hard work, and mow-tivation to compete in The Project. It also takes great leaders like Shawn. We’re thoroughly impressed by them and can’t wait to see their gardens in bloom. And - we can’t resist one last pun! - if you carrot all about Project Management, come talk to us here at DPT!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017 00:00

The Top 5 Benefits of CRM for Nonprofits

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A robust Customer Relationship Management solution (CRM) may not be at the top of most nonprofits’ wish lists, but it really should be. Whether they’re volunteers, donors, or those receiving services, nonprofits thrive on good, two-way relationships with their constituents. Doesn’t it make sense to invest in them? The returns can be huge--saved time and money, simplified daily operations, more effective outreach.

Invest in relationships and see your nonprofit flourish.

 

How CRM can give nonprofits a leg up:

 

  1. Coordinated Communication. Between donors, volunteers, board or committee members, and those who receive services, a nonprofit has a lot of people to track. It often becomes more complicated if people occupy two or more roles like a volunteer that also makes monthly donations. CRM makes it simple. By streamlining data into a single source, nonprofits can track who they’ve communicated with, when, how, and how often. For example, it will keep people who occupy two roles from being on two mailing lists while still receiving information relevant to that role. It also ensures that outreach gets into the right person’s hands. This helps avoid mistakes like sending a letter to the husband when it’s supposed to go to the wife.
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  3. Efficient Processes & Systems. Saving time and money is a boon to any non-profit, and streamlined processes and modern systems will do just that. Once your CRM data model is set and processes running smoothly, daily tasks like donation follow-up and volunteer coordination will be more efficient. There will be more time in the day to do the work that really matters. You can ensure that more of your donations, grants, and other types of funding are going directly to services.
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  5. Preserve Organization Knowledge. If someone has been with a nonprofit for years, they may not need to reference statistics, procedures, and other important information simply because they know it off the top of their head. This system works great for them, but what happens if they decide to retire or move to another position? If that knowledge isn’t captured in the nonprofit’s systems, it’ll be lost. CRM mitigates this by building critical relationship information into its processes. It also grants access to several people or departments so the data can become institutional knowledge.
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  7. Relationship Visibility. Imagine being able to see all the touch-points and relationships for an individual or household in one snapshot. There would be records of events they attended, emails they’ve received, and face-to-face contact like times they’ve volunteered. There’d be no digging through dozens of spreadsheets or hunting all over a complex system to find one piece of information. CRM enables nonprofits to see this information at a glance. Having it all in one place helps provide better visibility and more effective marketing and communication.
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  9. Simplified Data Management. It’s no secret that executing critical projects like creating a new marketing campaign or planning an outreach event are complicated and time-consuming. It gets worse when spreadsheets, procedures, contacts, and plans have to be passed around in email after email. Nonprofits can stop the email chains and eliminate the need to constantly double-check information by creating a hub for all their information. CRM can be this one-stop-shop because it’s easy to add, edit, and share information.

 

While for-profit companies have been using CRM for years, many nonprofits haven’t taken advantage of it yet. This is especially unfortunate because they actually have greater potential to benefit from implementing CRM than their for-profit counterparts. Based on the fact that so many of the people they interact with fill multiple roles, the impact of creating an efficient, accurate database to track and interact with them is much bigger. It fosters clear communication which ultimately means the nonprofit can serve more people.

That’s a win-win in our book.

If you’d like to learn more about how your nonprofit can leverage CRM to drive strong relationships and further its mission, contact us. We’d love to show you a free demonstration.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017 00:00

Getting More Bang for Your Donation Buck!

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Invest in Nonprofit Capacity Building & Technical Assistance.

Everyone wants their donation to make a big impact when they give to a nonprofit. They want as much of it as possible to go to the cause the nonprofit is championing, but a lot of people overlook the daily operational costs that need to be offset. In an attempt to better serve their cause, many nonprofits delay investing in internal process automation improvements, and they end up working with slow, outdated systems.

Thankfully, Kent County’s Nonprofit Technical Assistance Fund (NPTA) is trying to change that. Four times a year, they provide grants to qualified nonprofits around the Grand Rapids area so they can invest in capacity building and technical assistance.

As an approved supplier, we’ve worked with several recipients before and have seen the transformative effect these investments can have. For example, digitizing and consolidating a team’s paper files and multitudes of spreadsheets to a single data source of truth is a huge undertaking. It’s easy to put off again and again because of its expense and time commitment, but, in the long run, having a modern yet flexible solution like CRM will make it easier to serve more people and extend outreach.

To put it simply: improving a nonprofit’s process and technology will save them a lot of time and money that can be reinvested into the people they’re serving. Access to community funds is a huge help in jump-starting the process. If that’s not something to celebrate, we don’t know what is.

So congratulations to this year’s recipients! We wish you the best.

If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your nonprofit, don’t hesitate to contact us. Or get more details on how to apply for a NPTA grant by checking out our blog post How to Get Community Funds to Help Nonprofits Leverage New Technology.

Spring cleaning can be a springboard for the rest of the year.

It’s that time of year again! Dust off the strategic plan, sharpen the tools, oil the machine!

Haven’t we all seen so many plans and spring cleaning initiatives for businesses and organizations fall into the same pattern? It’s like going to the garage to plan and prepare for the growing season. “This should only take a couple hours.” But it doesn’t. It always takes longer and doesn’t always produce the best results.

But not this year! Not in 2017!

Let’s make it happen every day, every week, and every month this spring and all year long. By implementing consistent and constant Project Leadership, we can.

What would the outcome be if our spring cleaning had a charter to help us manage factors like integration, risk, and quality? It could include the cost of cleaning supplies, the time demanded for each task, and the scope of what needs to be cleared out, cleaned, or repaired. What would we end up with?

A project -- complete with the framework, processes, and project management expertise necessary for success. Maybe by turning our spring cleaning into projects we could clear the way and provide our people with all the tools--and Project Leadership--needed to drive our efforts to realities. Project Leadership is not the equivalent of Project Management. Project Management focuses on four areas when managing complex projects:

  • Managing the Technical aspects of the project
  • Managing all the Resources of the project
  • Managing the Project Framework and Project Lifecycle in its entirety
  • Managing to meet the Business Requirements for Leadership and Project Sponsors

Project Leadership focuses on creating the environment to keep all these in balance, enabling Project Managers to be successful in delivering a successful project.

 

The Role and Skills of the Project Leader

We’re living in the Knowledge Age where ideas are the new capital and massive amounts of information are hitting us at light-speed. Distraction is almost inevitable. Project Leaders work around this by guiding conversation to keep the focus on broad situations, not individual tasks. They help specify the “What” while empowering the team to identify and manage the “How.”

  • Project Leaders write the vision by setting the “Why” and the “What” in order to establish the strategy, goals, and milestones.
  • Project Leaders support the project team as they set the “How” in order to establish the most effective path to deliver the project.
  • Project Leaders engage their teams in conversation to internalize a story, enabling them to implement and adapt to the ever-changing landscape.

 

Getting Started with Project Leadership

One of the founding fathers of Total Quality Management, W. Edwards Deming, brought us the System of Profound Knowledge® with the belief that profound knowledge generally comes from outside the system--that the system cannot see itself in whole. Project Leadership is often enhanced, improved, and sometimes accelerated with capable talent and resources from outside the department or organization. Outside experts can help ensure:

  • Complex projects and programs are guided to success
  • The right people are doing the right work
  • Focus and vision are clear the whole way

 

Start Today

Start making your plan for spring cleaning today while you’re in the mood. This will be sure to set the stage for transforming your Cleaning into Projects and establishing the vision and the framework. Start building your awesome and highly capable project teams now to start the process of writing the charter to kick off the season and transform your Projects into Realities.

 

In Conclusion

Schedule a Reality Celebration for one year from today and repeat!

Check out our Twitter and LinkedIn for more information. You can also contact us. We’d love to have a conversation.

Plandocheckadjust

The late Peter Drucker is famously attributed with the phrase, “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and we couldn’t agree with him more. In fact, at DPT, we have our own take… strategy eats technology for breakfast.

Just as culture formulates a solid foundation to build and ultimately implement strategic initiatives, strategic focus provides the same foundation for technology applications. In many businesses, this also equates to the difference between technology and solutions. To put it simply, technology is the “impulse purchase” made to fill a current and immediate need. In contrast, a solution is planned. It’s rooted in a strategic vision that incorporates both current and future-state business requirements.

Human nature lends to pushing the conversation to an immediate and impulsive decision. Too often, this “solution” is a band aid that resolves only a single and immediate need without much consideration for the long-term consequences. While resolving that need may be important, this approach lacks strategy and will inevitably lead to an ecosystem of unsustainable technologies and endless integrations.

In other words, a long list of headaches that could have been avoided with a well-planned strategy.

If you were constructing a home, you wouldn’t want your builder to start pouring a foundation without blueprints. There’d have to be planning involved. You’d talk about the basement, square footage, the number of stories, and layout before beginning. In this situation it may seem like common sense, but your business should be taking a similar approach to building sustainable applications and technology solutions.

When implementing applications ranging from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions to business process management solutions, stick to a tried-and-true approach to collect business requirements. This helps to ensure you tie people, process, and technology into the business solutions you ultimately implement.

Below are just some of the key elements to a foundational approach in building sustainable technology applications to help drive your strategic business initiatives.

 

  • Slow down. Don’t make impulse decisions. Take the time to understand the strategic business initiatives. Interview key shareholders and stakeholders throughout the organization to increase visibility and alignment between each area of the business. Listen to the unique requirements and pain-points they have. Key stakeholders will appreciate being involved in the chartering process.
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  • Review Recommendations. Once you have put a high-level framework around the solution requirements, reconvene with the key stakeholders to discuss recommendations. These recommendations should be ranked and prioritized based on critical success factors to achieving your business goals. Ensure a solution is tailored to your business and workflow by focusing the discussion around people, process, and technology applications.
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  • Create a Detailed Project Plan. Once the requirements and goals are firmly documented, understood, and signed-off on, proceed with a detailed project plan. If possible, it is always wise to involve Project Management Professionals (PMP) to guide the entire process. While key team members often hold intimate knowledge in key areas, a project manager will help ensure these subject matter experts are pulling the rope in the same direction.

 

The process of vetting and implementing a solution may seem long and tedious compared to quickly patching up a problem, but it’s worth it. Remember: strategy eats technology for breakfast. So become proactive and avoid problems down the road by carefully considering and planning solutions that are driven by your strategic business goals and objectives. We’d be happy to help.

Check out our Twitter and LinkedIn for more information. You can also contact us. We’d love to have a conversation.

 

DPT is excited to announce that two of our team members will be presenting at the West Michigan Project Management Institute (WMPMI) March dinner on the 13th. Our presenters include Amy L. Flick - PMP, Project Leadership Practice Lead, and Dan McGraw – PMP, Senior Consultant and Microsoft Relationship Manager.

 

Plandocheckadjust

 

They’ll be breaking down the three sides of the PMI Talent Triangle by drawing on three practical project experiences. It’s obvious that there’s no cookie-cutter solution for every project that comes our way. We think understanding how the three sides interact is critical to developing a comprehensive strategy for each client. They’ll also discuss how different combinations of leadership, business management, strategy, and technical “know-how” can affect a project’s success.

 

We’re excited to share our knowledge with you and hope you’ll join us. If you want more information or simply can’t make it, please don’t hesitate to contact us or check out our pages on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Thursday, 27 October 2016 00:00

Data Integrity Management

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Now that you’ve established your data standards and processes, you need to focus on how to establish continuous improvement and oversight to keep the bad mountain of data from returning. As a reminder from our previous blog posts, ownership and design is the core component of Data Stewardship and involves assigning and communicating data ownership and accountability. Next comes quality standards and communicating the relative business value of data and establishing processes accordingly. The third  cornerstone of data stewardship is quality standards.

Now, let’s dive into today’s topic. We’ll discuss the importance of actively engaging and measuring, ultimately making data stewardship part of the fabric of your organization.

 

Plandocheckadjust

 

A key to proactive management of your data includes building into your current operational processes a Plan, Do, Check, Adjust approach. The prime example is when a data owners finds a pattern of misaligned data, they might be tempted to just correct the data. Using a PDCA approach, however, would lead them to investigate the source of the error immediately instead of putting it off until later.

In an ideal world, you’d rarely have a data quality problem going forward if you make data stewardship a priority. But knowing the reality of today’s dynamic business environment, when quality issues arise, having a data improvement plan is important. If your dataset becomes bad, do you have a process, defined methodology, or improvement plan to get it caught up while you’re fixing the cause of the problem? In the event that the design isn’t executed, identify an improvement plan and incorporate it.

The keys to remember for data integrity are the importance of building data monitoring and improvement into your processes the first time and getting the responsibility for clean data tied to people’s operational roles and job performance (have it written into their job description or performance evaluation).

To wrap up the data stewardship series, there are four key areas of focus that when managed intentionally lead to a solid data stewardship environment. To help you get started we have created a “Data Stewardship Checklist.”

 

Thursday, 08 September 2016 00:00

Data Quality

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As discussed in our previous posts, all your sales and operational data does not provide the same level of value to your organization. So then why do you think you should manage all data to the same level of quality? Quality is relative to the value the information provides or supports as measured by its contribution to your business objectives. 

The goal is not perfection – because there is a cost to perfection that will not necessarily lead to increased value. A better goal might be... “imperfect – but with intentional and consistent quality”.

Here are some tips to help you develop and manage a balanced data quality program.

“Value Stream” Your Data

The concept here is that if you can’t map (clearly identify the affect of) how the data contributes to a meaningful and measureable outcome for your organization or department, then it is simply an interesting piece of information and not worthy of process control. Note that this does not necessarily mean that the data should not be maintained at all – but it does beg the question.

Begin by outlining the key measurements that drive your organizational or departmental success. These are the outcomes (think KPIs) that must be met in each of your organizational performance areas such as compliance, financial, operations, customer service or reputation management.

Next, go down a level and identify the measurable outcomes that drive success in each of your key measurements for each organizational performance area. For instance, one such measurement in the financial domain may be total sales revenue generated in a period.

Then map the data that contributes to each of those measurements. Be specific and identify the data element’s contribution level by categorizing it as:

  • Direct – has a direct relationship to the final measurement. For instance, the actual GL revenue generated from a sales transaction. This then ties back to a key measurement of profitability.
  • Supporting – is not directly attributed to the measurement, but supports the narrative for the measurement.  For instance, the level of discount applied to the list price to arrive at the net revenue amount.
  • Leading – a direct measurement to the future of the primary area of focus.  For instance, the estimated net GL revenue on open sales opportunities.

Balance is Key

Once you map each of the organizational performance areas, you should validate them based on the tiers you outlined based on our previous Blog post. Then you can more easily identify each of the organizational performance areas. This helps you understand WHY data is important and is valuable in supporting process and data quality communications with your team. This also informs how you must balance your organizational performance areas and therefore your data management and quality programs.

Lastly be sure to look at the data that you maintain that IS NOT on the list created through this analysis. Ask yourself why you maintain it. If you can’t identify how the data provides current or future value, is it worth having? In a world that leads you to believe that more data is always good – it can be argued that without intention and purpose it is just cost and not value.

Design Quality Goals Based on Value

Now you have the information to define data quality goals that are meaningful to your organization. Using data source and business process analysis techniques, you can build processes that increase the value of the right data while not spending time and money on information that does not lead to results that are important to you. You now can build an intentional and consistent quality management program for your data. This is the subject of our next post – in the meantime, click here to read the rest of this blog series.

Want help getting started? Get the Data Stewardship Checklist

 

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