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Meet the consultant…

In a few words, what does your role involve?

Being a programme manager is all about considering the bigger picture for an organisation. Juggling several different projects is like imagining a completed jigsaw and then putting the individual pieces in the right place.

As a manager, another important part of my role involves trusting in my team’s expertise and bringing out the best in them to get great results for the client.

What does a day in the life of a programme manager look like?

There are no ‘normal’ days for a programme manager, but mine are usually filled with meetings – updating clients on programme developments and getting feedback from my team. I also spend a lot of my time considering ways to improve client outcomes, as well as the needs of different projects and how our people fit into them.

Any lessons you’ve learned in this role?

Having started at Entec Si on day one of the first national lockdown, I quickly learned that many aspects of consultancy work can be done just as well virtually. From making it easier to support clients based across the country to improving people’s work-life balance, I think the positive aspects of remote working far outweigh any negatives. However, I’m looking forward to meeting my colleagues face-to-face over a coffee as soon as it’s possible.

What are your personal or professional goals this year?

Professionally, I’d like to continue improving my skills and bringing my best to every area of my work.

From a personal perspective, one of my biggest highlights from the past few months has been having the time to complete a three-mile walk before work each day. Exercise is such a great way to clear the mind before sitting down at my desk so I’d like to keep it up, whatever the weather.

What does mental wealth mean to you?

It’s never been more important to dedicate time to looking after your mental health and wellbeing. A key part of that is having a healthy work-life balance.

Personally, I find that spending time in my garden, tending my fruit and vegetable patches keeps me happy and has the added benefit of providing delicious home-grown food all year round.

What has brought you joy or inspired you recently?

Other than my garden, during the early months of 2020 I got some day-old Bantam chicks. Seeing them develop from little balls of feathers to fully-grown hens has been a truly rewarding experience. Having fresh eggs every day is an amazing added bonus!

Something you’d like to try in 2021

The long period of working and socialising remotely has made me long to get off the grid and explore, as soon as it’s safe to do so. My husband and I are planning to invest in a motor home and later in the year we’d love to go on a wild camping adventure.

Lessons learned pre-mortem – top tips

Here at Entec Si, we undertake project and programme assurance work for IT-enabled change. Our experience in this space has shown that most projects and programmes struggle with some common challenges. Many of these issues could have been avoided at the start by assessing risks and issues.

This has made us think that perhaps every project or programme should kick-off with a lessons learned session. Acting as a kind of pre-mortem, this would get the team thinking about what challenges might occur during the project and how these can be addressed.

So we’ve put together some top tips, these are common lessons learned that we find time and time again across projects. Although you’re more likely to find these in a closure report, by addressing these potential risks from the outset, you’ll find your project will be a much smoother experience.

1. Securing dedicated resources for the project’s delivery

This is one of the most common challenges for any project or programme. Typically the client will only offer their key people to support the delivery on a part-time basis. These people will have business as usual as well as specific project work to complete. There are a range of ways you can overcome this issue:

  • Careful planning
  • Adding contingency into time and budgets
  • Bringing in dedicated individuals to manage specific work streams
  • Commissioning specific work packages for part-time resources

2. User Acceptance Testing is cut short

This is always a challenge, often because build and other tests take longer than originally planned or anticipated. The only way to manage this is by adding contingency into time, budgets and resources. If possible, use a dedicated test manager to oversee user acceptance testing. For large or complex projects, consider pulling together a test team.

3. The level of business change is underestimated

It is becoming more unusual these days to find technology projects that don’t take into account the business change elements necessary for a successful project, however, they do still exist.

The old adage of ‘people, process, technology’ is still valid to this day. The only way to manage the challenge of business change is to ensure that you always approach technology-led projects from a business perspective. Similarly, you should outline business benefits from the start. Engagement and communication with all stakeholders throughout the project’s lifecycle are critical elements of this.

4. A lack of operational readiness planning

It can be the case that poor operational planning will not support a smooth go-live and transition into business as usual. This is especially the case for complex projects and programmes.

Often this is an area that is left to the last minute, or sometimes even neglected altogether. The only sure way to ensure a ‘soft landing’ is to have a clear set of acceptance criteria. These can then be managed using a series of gateway reviews and ‘go/no go’ meetings.

5. People were slow to embrace change

In this situation, a slow adoption of change often means a project has to have a second phase. The root of this lies in a lack of focus on the change aspects of a project or programme.

It’s also often the case that training is rushed and therefore doesn’t allow for different learning styles. The way to tackle this is to offer different options and channels for learning. This would allow for additional support and the offer of training and support for some time after the go-live period.

Contact us if you would like to find out how we can manage your project or programme.

Rolling out positive change in 2021

The pandemic has taught UK business leaders some valuable change lessons. By building these into their strategies, they can improve the way their organisations operate and get teams on board with the change journey. So, what are the top transformation tips for companies to consider in 2021?

1. Adopt a step-by-step transformation approach

The perception that transformation projects are always expensive or have to occur on a large scale can be off-putting for many business leaders. Adopting a step-by-step approach to change and thinking 2-3 months ahead enables them to begin adding value to their business models straight away without breaking the bank.

2. Rethink long-term objectives

In light of the events of 2020, leaders must take another look at their long-term objectives and ensure that they’re still relevant. This should involve considering three key areas; what should the business stop doing, what should it continue to do and what should it start doing now? A strategic business health check can help leaders to spot change opportunities and make them a priority.

3. Balance reactive changes and strategic transformation

The process of balancing short-term changes and the need to invest in strategic transformation should begin when setting annual objectives. Once a range of potential short and long-term improvements have been identified, leaders should develop a plan that gives attention to both areas.

4. Secure stakeholder buy-in

In the current remote working environment, leaders need to think creatively about how to engage people with change and strengthen team relationships. Digital channels such as Microsoft Teams can play a valuable role in keeping people connected. However, being clear from the start about the purpose of each channel is important to prevent them from becoming overwhelmed.

5. Invest in the workforce’s mental wealth

To ensure that change projects don’t negatively impact people’s mental health, leaders should view workforce wellbeing as a vital strategy for commercial success. Setting aside dedicated resources to protect the team’s mental wealth and remembering that change is personal is key to creating an organisation that thrives from change and is fit for the future.

For more information contact Sue Johnson Gregory or Julie Smith here.

Putting our employees’ mental wealth first

The events of 2020 caused feelings of stress and isolation for many people, impacting their mental health. As an organisation we have always recognised the importance of having a supportive working environment. However the pandemic really solidified the need for a safe and judgement-free space for our team to discuss their concerns.

Opening up the conversation

To help encourage our people to open up about their mental health, we have created a Mental Wealth Working Group. This takes the form of a Teams channel run by our Mental Wealth team. The group allows those from across the business to have open discussions about how they are feeling and offer support to one another.

A united company

To accompany the group discussions, the Mental Wealth team has been working alongside the CSR group to arrange monthly events that bring the company together. These have included recipe sharing for Veganuary and holding a virtual ‘Brew Monday’ event to mark Blue Monday.

Keeping up the momentum

Finding innovative ways to support employee wellbeing is an ongoing task. But this is something that we are all committed to working towards. We are continuing to encourage all of our staff to be open and honest about any worries they might have.

Removing the stigma

Eman Al-Hillawi, co-founder and director of Entec Si, said:

“The nature of consultancy work means many of us are focused on different clients and projects. However, it is vital that we take the time to talk altogether, making real connections in what can be a lonely time.

“We hope that having a dedicated Mental Wealth group will remove the stigma that often looms over mental health. Our people will always be our priority, and the pandemic has put into perspective just how important the support of our colleagues is.”

Meet the consultant…

Put simply, what does business analysis involve?

Using problem-solving skills to help take a business from point A to point B. We take an in-depth look at the company to understand its issues and requirements, allowing us to develop solutions and facilitate change.

What first drew you to this role?

I’ve always had a passion for problem-solving. Being a business analyst allows me to combine this with my knowledge of business strategy, which I studied at university. I also enjoy thinking creatively to help businesses overcome their challenges, which is something I get to do on a daily basis.

Your top tips for becoming the best possible business analyst?

It’s essential to have a keen eye for detail but at the same time be able to take a step back and appreciate the bigger business picture. This allows you to understand why change is needed and how to make it work. Since business analysis can be applied to many fields, knowing what drives you about the role will help you become the best you can be.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes; they’re an inevitable part of the process. Every decision should be viewed as a learning experience. 

Any advice for those with their sights set on a consultancy career?

Graduate schemes can be a great way of securing experience, as an analyst or consultant. However, if this isn’t possible, reaching out to your network can help get you to get a foot in the door. This was how I managed to get in front of a hiring manager.

Before you start in the field, knowing your USPs compared to other candidates is also very important and will help you to shine in the eyes of a potential employer. 

Your unique selling points as a member of the Entec Si team?

What sets me apart is my varied sector experience, covering manufacturing, finance, supply chain and consultancy.  I am continually questioning how business challenges have arisen in the first place and why improvements are needed. Keeping this in mind helps to guide my decisions throughout a project. 

What cause are you passionate about, and why?

I’m passionate about considering the ‘why’ of things and try to apply this to all areas of my work. Having a questioning mind means that I’m always looking at ways to make businesses better and there’s always a strong purpose for putting business improvements in place.

How do you plan to make the most out of 2021?

2020 was a year that made many of us change our priorities. In 2021, I want to continue focusing on my personal development but having moved into my first house, there are lots of home improvement projects that I need to get started on too! I’m also hoping that before too long, it’ll be possible to spend more time with my family and friends.

Enabling the third sector to keep on giving

The not-for-profit sector has had to quickly adapt its practices during the pandemic. With a growing demand for charitable services, it’s important that organisations embrace continuous improvement, modernise their processes and use new technologies to achieve efficiencies.

Look to the future

In order to overcome COVID-19-related challenges to services and fundraising, organisations should consider adapting their operations in line with guidelines, for example, switching to virtual fundraising events. Charities should also consider a forward-looking culture of continuous improvement, focusing on sector pain points and consistent impactful changes to prepare for the future.

Three ingredients of effective change

When considering change on a small budget, the golden triangle’ model, consisting of people, processes and systems, can provide a roadmap for successful implementation. With help from external experts, charities can become more efficient and benefit from improved access to fundraising. However, for successful change to happen, people must buy into new processes and technology.

Remember that change is personal

By building on the lessons learned during the pandemic, not-for-profit organisations will be in a better position to embrace positive change. As part of this, leaders should remember that change affects everyone differently and ensure employees feel supported at every stage of the transformation process with consistent and honest communication.

An attitude of ongoing improvement

Charities must focus on continually improving in order to become more resilient and continue their crucial work. Although large-scale change may be the ultimate goal, through minor shifts in the right direction and by keeping people at the core, change will allow charities to support their communities for years to come.

Email Jack Considine for more information.

Let's start a conversation!

Contact us at info@entecsi.com