Internal playbook

Clients prefer speed over everything else. They hire consultants equipped to deliver fast. As a consultant, I’ve been handed concise technology road-maps as well as hundred-page decks loaded with business requirements. Client readiness varies across industries. The key is to provide a playbook or checklist to your business stakeholders. This sets expectations, so that they are prepared for a rapid implementation and smooth on-boarding. Clients can also save costs by preparing requirements with their internal subject matter experts before the technology consultants arrive. The requirements phase of the project sets the tone. Success or failure starts here.

A few years back I was on an engagement with JP Morgan Chase. Their consumer-banking division had a strong presence in Columbus, Ohio. A major issue was impacting their business growth: only 25% of captured technology requirements made it into production. The requirements process was broken. Execution was a disaster. The lack of familiarity with the technologies being implemented affected the quality of documentation. Also, requirements were maintained in multiple formats across many systems. This spaghetti resulted in project failures and expensive re-work. Some business milestones were missed by multiple years. Everything was in Red.

My team focused on putting together a playbook for requirements gathering. The goal would be to align Business and IT stakeholders so that they adhered with the playbook guidelines. Requirements could not be drawn up on a napkin or stored on a spreadsheet. For example, user stories would have to be clearly written for a Salesforce Service Cloud implementation based on standardized templates. The online tool Jira was customized to capture user stories based on pre-baked templates. Excel spreadsheets were complementary and used to provide detailed inputs. Jira requirements were analyzed and fed into a Salesforce tool called the PMO toolkit. Proper nomenclature and numeration was established so traceability could be maintained between the PMO toolkit and Jira. Playbook scrum masters were added to teams across the bank.

The playbook mandated such rules not only for Salesforce projects, but for other systems, too. Hands-on training was provided for writing system requirements. The quality of technical writing has gone downhill in this age of social media and tech-speak. English is becoming a second language for everyone. A college degree doesn’t ensure that one can read their diploma. It’s well known that good documentation results in good code and fewer missed requirements.

Today, JP Morgan Chase has become successful in implementing large scale projects. I believe the playbook from several years ago made a difference.

Never underestimate the power of a playbook as you execute new projects.