Cheryl Gross & Associates logoProject Management
and Facilitation
to the Financial Industry

   36 Bromfield Street, Suite 306
   Boston, Massachusetts 02108
   (617) 426-3701

  Cheryl Gross, PMP, President


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The Nib
Timely Tips from Cheryl Gross and Associates

Project Management — A Tool for Providing Exceptional Service

Our goal as Community Financial Services Professionals is to provide exceptional products and services to our customers via the customer selected delivery channel. Our challenges are:

    1. Provide solutions that will enable customers to transact business by phone, internet or in person, while preparing for the next generation delivery mechanism.
    2. Increase productivity to enable customer-facing employees to spend more time with the customer and less on paperwork.
    3. Support our staffs with workflow tools that eliminate redundant work and drive the process from a customer-centric approach.
    4. Innovate against a backdrop in which the Regulatory burden is becoming more requiring with each examination.

When we work with clients who have more projects than resources required for delivery, we generally hear one of four questions:

  • Why are you always talking about Project Management? Our Project Person doesn’t use Project Management tools and (s)he still manages to get things done.
  • How can we do more with less?
  • We have trouble balancing the need to innovate with the need to advance Regulatory requirements. How do we leverage existing programs to foster growth and innovation?
  • We already use Project Management tools, but how can we use our existing structure to accomplish more?

By way of answering these questions, let’s talk about four ideas:

    1. The lifecycle of a project.
    2. Project Management as a tool for doing more with less.
    3. Leveraging FFIEC Vendor Management guidance through Project Management.
    4. Implementing a Project Office.
Project Management -
Cloning Your “Go To” Person

Let’s define Project Management. Project Management is a discipline that utilizes strategies, processes and methods to complete unique assignments quickly while employing a minimum of resources. The methods employed are designed to deliver a fully documented, risk-mitigated, on time and on budget project.

Most of us know when we need something done today and done correctly; we find the busiest person and ask them to get it done. Every one of you can name your “Go To” Person. It works, but why? We think it’s because they are generally focused, organized and goal directed. The limiting factor in completing projects is that individual’s time. Consider ways that you might be able to leverage your “Go To” Person’s time through processes and tools.

One of the primary tools of Project Management is the project plan. The project plan summarizes the unique tasks that are required to complete the deliverables. The tasks are manageable, measurable and discrete. In addition, the project plan identifies the responsible individuals, the sequence of events and the timeline for completion. As a result, literally anyone can pick up the project plan and know exactly what must be accomplished next. Eureka, you’ve just cloned your “Go To” Person. Not that your “Go To” Person is no longer valuable, but you now have the means to expand that resource by having them oversee the plan while assigning lower level or less skilled people to the individual tasks. The benefits to the organization are:

  1. Vesting multiple organization layers with ownership and success of the project. As a result, the project is accepted and embraced by the rank and file before it’s completed. No additional cultural change management is required.
  2. Developing the organization’s bench strength by facilitating employee growth from within the organization. You’ll be surprised how many “Go To” people you can develop.
  3. Enabling the organization to take on and successfully complete more projects simultaneously.

Your organization does all of these things and has for years. The issue is that the rules are not written down, and as a result it is very difficult to demonstrate that the rules have been applied and were applied across the board. Sound familiar?

Cheryl Gross & Associates offers a wide range of Project Management Services :

  • Multi-dimensional Vendor Selections and Implementations.
  • Process Design and Improvement.
  • Best Practice Review of Project Office Methodology.
  • Project Office Development.
  • Outsourced Project Office

Contact Us for additional information at:

(617) 426 – 3701

Implementing a Project Office

Many of you use Project Management tools on a regular basis and may be wondering how you might be able to gain more efficiency. The next step is to establish a Project Office.

The purpose of a Project Office is to provide the vehicle for managing multiple complex interrelated projects across the organization. The objectives are to:

  1. Provide Management focus to align the organization’s strategy with prioritization of projects, resources and opportunities.
  2. Facilitate resource scheduling to ensure projects are completed on-time.
  3. Optimize the number of projects that can be completed simultaneously.
  4. Standardize Project Management processes across the organization.
The benefits of a Project Office are:
  • Decreased costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved delivery quality

When establishing a Project Office you may wish to consider the following:

The Project Office becomes a viable management tool when you consistently have sufficient projects in the pipeline to justify a full time management focus. Consider phasing in the following types of projects:

  1. Cross functional projects like vendor selections and implementations.
  2. Single business unit projects that support core / critical business processes.
  3. Projects designed to upgrade applications that are in a sunset transition.
  4. Regular reoccurring projects such as BCP Testing, Year End Processing and Real Estate escrow analysis.

Leverage all projects by standardizing and designing templates to support common project requirements such as:

  1. Standardized project plans for regular reoccurring projects.
  2. Vendor selection Requests for Proposals.
  3. Vendor selection assessment tools, etc.

About Us

Cheryl Gross & Associates was founded in 1994; our goal is to partner with our clients to create economic value and sustainable productivity gains by providing outstanding project management expertise, leveraging internal resources and offering objective perspective. We create value by providing senior focus and organization to strategic, financially significant opportunities. We deliver challenging assignments that pay for themselves by being accelerated.

Our President, Cheryl Gross, is a financial services professional with over 25 years experience in retail banking, private banking, residential and consumer lending.

Ms. Gross has served in positions with Boston Five Cents Savings Bank, Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company and Household International.

Ms. Gross holds a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from Babson College, Wellesley, Massachusetts and a Bachelor of Science from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.

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Lifecycle of a Project

When you look at a project, whether it’s work or leisure related, the project has a lifecycle with a logical beginning and ending. So, as you think about this section, we’d encourage you to put on your tool belt and think of this as a Habitat for Humanity project. The key elements are:

  1. Project identification — during this phase, you identify the opportunity, the business purpose, how you provide the product or service today, and how you envision delivering the product or service after the project is completed, and you develop an initial budget and select your team.
  2. Project scope — this phase is the grist of the project and generally where you’ll encounter barriers. In this phase you:
    • Conduct the Needs Assessment—what are the features and functionality of the ramp to support handicap access to an existing home or building a new home?
    • Develop the Business (and System if technology is involved) Requirements—think of this as the punch list for determining the permits you’ll need, architectural, heating and A/C, site plans, materials lists, etc.
    • Complete the Vendor Selection (if applicable)—target your donors, complete your diligence, determine the site.
    • Build the Project Plan or break down the major deliverables into smaller elements that are manageable, measurable and discrete. This phase is where you go from the high level building permits to the 100 different steps it takes to obtain all of those permits.
    • Develop the Resource Plan by assigning the individuals responsible for the elements, determining the work effort and establishing the timeline. During this phase you put a name and a face to each one of those 100 tasks, establish the sequence in which the tasks must be completed and determine the timeline.
    • Integrate the acquisition costs, resource costs and anticipated revenue and / or savings into the budget—yes, there’s always a budget and nothing is worse than a half-finished home.
  3. Implementation —most organizations think of this phase as the most difficult when, in actuality, it’s a relatively straightforward execution of the plans. This phase becomes difficult only if you have failed to adequately plan the project. In this phase, you configure the business requirements, complete the system development and integration, monitor the deliverables, test and make changes, obtain sign-offs and take the project live. You get those permits, pour the foundation, frame it, build the exterior walls, roof it, install the electric, gas and plumbing, sheet rock the interior and complete the interior customization, again with many stops along the way for testing and sign-off. Just as you’d never jump into building the house without first planning all the steps, you shouldn’t begin an implementation without proper planning.
  4. Lessons Learned—during this phase, you examine the methodology you used, determine operational / management improvements, identify system / infrastructure improvements, modify the templates you used and determine the prioritization of the new projects that were identified while completing this project.
  5. Ongoing Monitoring—and alas develop controls to measure results: risk rate the vendor, establish the ongoing vendor management requirements, determine the budget variance and begin monitoring the financial payback on the project.
  6. Smile, pose for the pictures and cut the ribbon.

Leveraging Vendor Management with Project Management -
Or Completing Two Projects at Once

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to comply with Vendor Management requirements. The FFIEC is merely suggesting that you design your own processes or utilize existing Project Management methodology to satisfy the requirements.

When you look at the essence of FFIEC’s Vendor Management guidance, you are asked to develop a program that supports Service Provider Selection and Ongoing Service Provider Monitoring while mitigating the risk to the organization. The Service Provider Selection requirement (The NIB: FFIEC Guidance on Vendor Management – Is There A Common Sense Approach?) components are:

  • Requirements Definition
  • Service Provider Selection
  • Due Diligence
  • Contract Negotiation

The first thing you’ll notice is that our definition of Project Management sounds a lot like the Vendor Management requirements. Now, compare the Project Management methodology (click to open in new window) and you’ll notice that all of the elements required as part of a Vendor Management program are included in a typical Project Management template.

Many of you have told me that you’ve bought templates in the past and then struggled with customizing them to meet your organization’s needs. The next time you are faced with the prospect of selecting a major service provider, consider engaging a project manager. Our experience tells us that the Project Manager will use all the tools you’ll need to satisfy the Vendor Management requirements, and you’ll be able to leverage a project that you’d be doing anyway to fulfill a FFIEC requirement.

Message from our President

Hi All—

The focus of this issue is Project Management.

As Senior Managers, most of us view projects from the 50,000-foot level. There may be ten elements to the project, and our “Go To” person always seems to get it done. What’s the big deal?

“Go To” people are rare institutional treasures. They instinctively know how to organize, schedule and deliver a project. Not everyone has that gift.

In my view, Project Management is a skill that can be taught and, conversely, learned. Once taught it’s a skill that can leverage your organization’s ability to innovate. And, innovation is first and foremost a competitive advantage.

I hope you’ve found this newsletter interesting and informative. Your comments are always welcome.


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