Business Context/Key Business Drivers
Providian Trust delivers financial and fiduciary services to clients across 216 branches. In an industry built on servicing clients, many of Providian Trust’s trust officers had 20-30 years of experience with the company and managed clients at a personal level. The trust officers had total control over what was sent to the client, including generation of financial statements. Control of the financial statements often resulted in a 2-3 month lag in statement delivery, a slower turnaround time compared to competitors. Additionally, trust officers often discounted or waived client fees for late or inaccurate statements, costing the company an estimated $2 – $5 million dollars per year. The institutional custody business was becoming technology intensive, and from the client’s perspective, Providian Trust had outdated reporting systems. In response to client demand, Providian Trust embarked on an initiative to upgrade their systems and change the way they serviced their clients.
To better serve their clients, Providian Trust started a large information technology project within the trust division. The objective of the project was to convert their outdated information system into a more efficient, trust and custody management system. Initiative leader, Michael LeBlanc, also wanted to address issues between the back office and front office, issues Providian Trust experienced for years. He convinced the Providian Trust board that the new software (Access Plus) would support a redesign of business processes. After board approval, the project scope included a system implementation and business process redesign. Providian Trust expected annual savings of approximately $9.2 million from this project. In addition to the estimated annual savings, the initiative expected the following benefits:
* Inadequate member selection for Steering committee * A key leader of the field was not selected, intensifying political tension within the group * Impact: * Ineffective executive sponsorship and lack of leadership guidance for the project * Implementation Committee (made up of junior people) took on Steering Committee responsibility. Implementation Committee was unaware of their role and responsibilities associated with it (e.g. are they responsible for the success of the project?).
* Project timeline to deliver technology infrastructure and train employees was not sufficient * Many employees did not have the proper computer skills to operate a PC. PC skills were a pre-requisite for the success of Access Plus. * Clients were expecting changes as a result of the software implementation, but the field did not even have PCs or PC skills to operate the new technology * Impact:
* User audience not prepared for implementation training, adoption is at risk * Risk of not meeting client expectations
Project Team Selection
* Proper resources were not identified for the project team * The project team was mostly made up of individuals from the Operations department that only represented a portion of the processes the initiative would impact. * The IT group selected to implement the technological changes did not have experience implementing an information technology initiative of this magnitude * Impact:
* Lack of implementation experience puts technology implementation at risk * Lack of user group representation affects accuracy of business processes being changed * Employees are not fully supportive of the project since they were not represented
* Risks not handled appropriately * In multiple instances, the project team was notified of risks by senior management. Project Team did not address risks directly. Instead, they handled the topics one-off. * Project team did not handle risk of insufficient testing * Impact:
* Risks not addressed impact success of project
* Sufficient testing is not conducted. It is unknown whether the system can handle the information volume
I do not expect this initiative to be successful. Inadequate planning, poor resource selection and an undefined vision put the project at risk for failure. From the beginning, there was a lack of due diligence across many levels of the project. The employees involved in the project were not selected appropriately. Junior employees who lacked experience were making project decisions, decisions that would have a significant impact on the company and the way they do business.
Additionally, user representation on the project team was low, impacting the accuracy of business processes and also impacting user support and adoption of the initiative. It was evident that Providian Trust lacked strong executive leadership on the project which did not send a good message to the field. Lack of executive support will impact the adoption of new business processes. At the end of the day, if the users do not adopt the system or the new business processes, it will impact clients and clients are the central focus in this service-focused industry.
Relevance and Analysis
In my experience, if the project vision is not defined and the project team selection is not right, the foundation for the project is unstable. Providian Trust was operating with an inexperienced project team that lacked executive sponsorship. Executive sponsorship is a key support component to a project team, especially if the team is inexperienced. Executive support and guidance would have impacted the decisions being made and made this initiative more successful.
Providian Trust underestimated the amount of training that was needed for this initiative. Success of the project was highly dependent on user adoption, something that was not addressed adequately. Providian Trust decided to take a Train the Trainer approach for this initiative. Trainers were trained 8 months before the implementation. A lot can change with 8 months remaining in a project and it is likely that training topics covered would have changed in the 8 months left of the project. Further, many employees did not have PCs and others did not have PCs for enough time to learn basic computer skills that would serve as a foundation to learn Access Plus.
From a financial perspective, only 3% of the net investment was dedicated to training. In an initiative that introduces so much change into an organization that is historically resistant to change, user training needs to be a top priority. In my experience, Train the Trainer approaches are effective when trainers are sufficiently trained and there is strong leadership support. Both of these elements were missing at Providian Trust. This case reminded me of the importance of a defined project vision, leadership support and proper resource allocation.