2. Project management tips and guidelines
The project leader
Some family offices prefer outsourcing technology projects to consultancies whilst others use internal resources ranging from accountants to investment advisors and client-reporting specialists. A project leader is preferably an individual who understands the various stand-alone systems currently in use and who has been actively involved in one or more successful technology transitions. While a background in information systems is beneficial, the ideal project leader should have a firm understanding of both accounting and investment focus areas to help balance project requirements and priorities. Excellent communication skills are also required to ensure effective collaboration with key stakeholders throughout the duration of the project.
Before selecting your project team, ensure that all major tasks are identified and separated into workstreams. Thereafter, these workstreams can inform the creation of project roles and the assignment of individuals to these roles. It is important to establish a cross-functional team of individuals with diversified skill-sets to ensure that all impacts and requirements of the transition are properly considered and managed.
It is essential to set specific timelines and milestones to manage stakeholder expectations and keep the project team on track. When establishing timelines, consideration needs to be given to the normal daily demands on the project team, as well as holidays and vacation time. Also be aware that, if you require a vendor to customise a solution, this could result in potential delays.
It is important to identify areas where there is a high of overspending. Typically, customisation requirements and having to employ third-party consultants are key contributors to overspending.
A project requires peoples’ time. The current responsibilities of individuals as well as their significant deadlines need to be taken into account. Consider offloading non-core responsibilities to other team members who are not involved in the project and perhaps look at a time-management system to track individual time contributions to the project.
What you put in is what you get out
Family offices that have enjoyed the rewards of a successful technology transition are those that have planned ahead and have a clear idea of what they need to improve and how technology can assist in achieving their objectives. It is also important to remember that technology is just a tool. It can’t fix poor data and broken processes. By putting in the hard yards to clean data and optimise structures and processes upfront, a digital transformation becomes a far less daunting experience. Once a decision has been made to invest in new technology, it is important to follow a clearly defined process, ensuring that the right vendor and tool is selected to tackle your core business challenges. A technology project can either be a very rewarding or frustrating experience – it all depends on how you approach it.