The Common Causes of Implementation Failure

We all know that there is ongoing need to strategically realign to new market realities and opportunities. We often see market participants following a similar strategy but with a wide range of results in terms of realising these business goals. This difference is a result of a variation across firms in their ability to execute.

The most significant causes of failing to achieve the planned growth in clients, assets and revenues from such strategic initiatives are:

1.    Ineffective translation of desired strategic outcomes into well defined options for delivery.  In particular not taking into consideration the capabilities of the business to implement a given service to the requisite level of quality, on a consistent basis.

2.    Incorrect definition of the initiative. Care must be taken up front to understand what is the finish line and ensure that it relates to the business case i.e. not just a launched app or a new service, but a number of new customers, growth in AUMs, transactional throughput etc.  Too many initiatives stop at the first opportunity to declare victory with the business goals still unrealised, remaining somehow just in the future.

3.    Poor understanding of scope. Related to the above but what exact deliverables will be achieved in the first phase, balancing reasonable market impact with feasibility. What at this point is being identified as phase 2 or 3, and what impact will that have on the proposition?

4.    Insufficient definition work up-front. Projects tend to under achieve when there is there not enough clarity on what is to be implemented. In the absence of detail, the easy path is often taken and the delivery is not fit for purpose. Make sure that the relevant business processes are defined and expanded to a target operating model. All IT requirements should then be surfaced, defined and prioritised.

5.    However there is also a danger in over analysis. Some firms never get through to a decision point to actually start the delivery project or do so after such a long period of time that the opportunity for market impact is much diminished. Not all answers can be known. Major change is an ongoing process of managing uncertainty, using lean experimentation to iteratively move towards a successful first deployment.

6.    In many cases, in even the largest wealth management firms, a third party provider will be required for technology, business processing or both.  Poor selection is a common cause of failure as the partner cannot deliver what is required functionally or does so at unacceptable levels of quality. An objective, planned process is critical and can be the first stage is operating on a real partnership basis.

7.    An obvious but very common cause is where implementation is poorly run as a project. While this is always true, in our experience Wealth Managers often struggle with implementation. Firstly their size dictates a lack of internal implementation resource, often resulting in the assignment of line managers and other SMEs, typically without the project management skillset, always without the time. If delivering on time, to budget, to scope and hitting the project goals is important to you, hire or rent professional project management support.

8.    Once done, make sure your project management resources can adapt their tools and methods to the culture of the organization. Most importantly ensure they understand how to present and utilize these techniques in a time pressured environment where management will have little appetite for anything perceived to be more about meetings and documentation than getting things done.

9.    While managing change is much harder without the use of such formal methods, it is near impossible without the appropriate application of soft change management skills. Spend time throughout the project on selling the rationale, involving key staff, especially opinion formers, and educating and preparing all staff for life after implementation.  If the change is bad news for some, don’t sugarcoat it, but do make sure everyone understands what the future looks like as a more successful, growth oriented business.

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