From regulatory project to business as usual - the key role of transition

06 March 2017

By Mark Oxley

Financial institutions have spent the past few years working through enormous regulatory and operational change that shows no sign of coming to an end any time soon. There is risk associated with change and firms have turned to project management in order to keep risks under control. But one stage is often overlooked; the transition phase from a project to ‘business as usual’.

It’s become commonplace for firms to call on outside experts to help tackle the regulatory and conduct challenges they face. For example, firms seeking assistance to carry out past business review projects that incorporate parts of their complaint handling functions. While this brings huge benefits – these are, after all, experts in change management – it can be easy for firms to slip back into ‘old’ ways of working once the project team leave. So how can you avoid falling into the transitional trap?

The essential considerations for any firm undertaking a change project are time and rework. You need to focus on delivering on schedule and having a governance framework that keeps rework to a minimum.

Four ways to make change stick:

  1. First and foremost, I’d suggest focusing on the outcome. Too often, we’ve seen firms engage experts on a day rate basis, rather than on a cost structure that’s based on results. That’s why, when we’re asked to help, we focus on quality; overall, the project management teams we send to clients tend to be made up of a smaller number of highly skilled staff, producing the outcome the client wants as well as the comfort of lower operational risk.
  2. If the project is intended to address or improve culture – say in improving complaints processes - the quality of the outcome is absolutely pivotal in demonstrating that a customer-centric approach is at the heart of a business. This is a key area where the project must become ‘business as usual’ if it’s to be a success.
  3. You’ll need to be sure that there’s rigour around the operating model and quality assurance processes and that staff working on the project have the right skills and knowledge. In this case, a clear transition plan is especially important to ensure knowledge can be transferred from the project team to your own staff seamlessly.
  4. It’s also important to think carefully about the point at which you transition the project back to business as usual. Are new processes already fully embedded? Or must new procedures be developed? Do you have a team already in place that can cope with new requirements? Or will you need more people? All of this will influence the cost of the project.

Our outcome basis approach to project and change management is designed to make sure that none of the improvements made to a business are lost in transition. Why undo all your good work and investment in making a change? Transitional risk is very real and could result in financial loss, disruption to service or reputational damage. So focus on the outcome, and make it happen.

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