6 strategic projects any business can implement in 2016

2016 is just around the corner and now is the time for businesses (regardless of industry, size, product or service offering, or location etc.) to take stock of all resources and initiatives, and plan strategy-centric projects to implement in the New Year. There are many projects any business can implement, that if executed successfully can create fresh opportunities or drastically reduce the chance of costly missed opportunities. Focus is often put solely on creating opportunities but often times it can be the missed opportunities that can have far-reaching consequences.

Projects are often pursued for the purpose of generating revenues, creating growth opportunities, seeking innovation or even increasing brand awareness, among other things, but it can be easy to get caught up in just day-to-day operations without recognizing the actual cost of missing some more basic projects. Here are six projects any business can implement in 2016 to help ensure the people, processes, and technologies in your business are working together effectively to create better opportunities or avoid missed ones.

Project 1: Put more focus on projects that support strategy

Whether your business is small, mid-market or large, the first project should be an initiative to review the vision and direction intended for the business, and ensure all projects support that vision. If your business is small, this can be accomplished by assigning one individual to be a dedicated or part-time project manager, focusing time and efforts in this regard.  Larger organizations can transition their traditional Project Management Office (PMO) into a high-performing Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) that ensures all projects, programs and portfolios are channeled effectively and efficiently to fully support the company-wide strategic direction.

Project 2: Re-assess customer/client needs

The end result for businesses ultimately is to meet the needs of customers, regardless of a product or service. Now is the time to pause and think about whether your product or service is meeting the needs of your current or potential customers. Have you solicited feedback? What feedback have you received? Is the product or service you provide meeting their needs? If not, something needs to change; if you are meeting their needs, maybe exceeding expectations could be the new goal. Either way, this would be a good time to assign project management resources to address this, and stay ahead of the game. Remember, client’s needs change; it is easier and less costly to keep an existing client happy than to have to find a new one.

[Related: 6 proven strategies for evaluating and prioritizing IT projects]

Project 3: Take on Business process improvements (BPI)

The processes that were put in place when the business started may not be effective or even relevant anymore. This is another area businesses should revisit annually to reduce manual workarounds caused by ineffective business processes. As a business grows, processes must be updated or possibly removed if they no longer make sense or if they create additional unnecessary work for employees. This does not always mean there is a need to take on costly process re-engineering initiatives, often times after the process reviews are complete, it may only be minor modifications to a process that are required yet still translate into overall improvements, cost and time savings. It makes no sense to continue utilizing any process or partial process if the only reason it is in place is because “it has always been done that way”. This is one of those areas where past performance should not necessarily be an indicator of acceptable future performance. Businesses regardless of size should always look for opportunities to continually improve what they do, and how they do it.

Project 4: Revisit vendor service offerings

Many business owners and management intend to make vendor or service offering related changes but are so busy. Instead, they plod along paying for services that do not fully meet their needs. As companies grow and change so do their needs; often times their back-office functions in particular can no longer keep pace in a way that supports current and future business growth requirements or potential. For example, this may be of particular issue for many small to mid-market businesses owners who receive accounting related services that only provide after the fact, partial, and not necessarily relevant financial information; making unnecessarily difficult to make crucial decisions on time. All vendor service offerings should fully meet the needs of the business, otherwise it is a poor use of financial resources, regardless of the dollar amount. It simply makes sense to pay for performance. This project should be on every business owner’s annual list.

Project 5: Review and re-vamp information systems and technology (IS&T)

In conjunction with revisiting vendor service offerings, taking an inventory of all information systems and technologies should also be an assigned project. Advancements are always taking place, and as your business grows or changes, it creates the potential for the systems/applications and technologies utilized to also require changes. This is not to suggest jumping ship annually with all vendors or service providers, only when significant gaps exist and existing offerings cannot sufficiently support the business currently or going forward. As with the vendor service offerings mentioned above, it may be time to either implement required enhancements if available internally or outsource to specialized service providers. Careful planning and selection is the key to finding solutions that are scalable to grow as your business grows.

Project 6: Re-deploying human resources

This is one of the most important and most difficult projects to approach as it has the potential to place employees in a state of panic. That said, it can also be one of the most rewarding for many employees as it can open up opportunities for advancement as well. Be transparent and talk with employees about this initiative in advance to alleviate the fear of job loss. The goal behind this project should be to determine the most value-added use of human resource by matching high-level skill sets to key job requirements, and then re-deploying those human resources to better meet strategic objectives. It makes sense to sit down with individual employees to discuss their interests and career goals in conjunction with the business goals to create as much synergy as possible prior to making any changes.

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