As the private-label creative engine for a national retailer, our client’s product group always has a large number of business initiatives going on across its organization. These projects vary in size, complexity and impact—from determining a new color palette’s effect on inventory costs to deciding whether to focus all manufacturing vendors in one country. Yet the group has had no standard set of tools or processes to manage such initiatives. To add to the challenge, the people running them had little project management experience, and their core product development duties competed for their time. As a result, some projects suffered from lack of ownership, unclear scope, date slippage and deficient outcomes. Our client engaged Point B to deliver a solution that would give non-project managers the tools to lead projects to success.

Focusing on user value

Our client’s product group includes designers and product managers who create six seasons of apparel each year, so the basic concept of project management is not alien to them. We built on the group’s general understanding by putting project management methodology into words and examples that would resonate with them in the context of their daily work. Creating user value was our focus and our filter. We interviewed leaders and product managers in the product group to understand the issues they faced when they managed initiatives. How would processes and tools help them become more efficient and effective? What was the simplest way to help them accomplish their goals?

Based on our findings, we developed a custom project management toolkit and training program tailored to the group’s types of projects, organizational culture, and time constraints. The key: right-sizing the toolkit to support quick, clear and effective project management—from project objectives and team members to milestones, metrics, status reports and issue logs. We respected these users’ circumstances and time constraints with a level of tools that would empower them—not overwhelm. We also developed a user-friendly project dashboard. For the first time, executives gained a comprehensive view of all projects in process. This new visibility makes it easier to determine when and where the product group has the resources to take on more projects.
We delivered the project management toolkit in tandem with a successfully piloted training program. Given in two half-day sessions, the training uses real examples of projects from the product group to take trainees through the entire project lifecycle using the new tools.

Creating project evangelists

The product group’s adoption of the project management toolkit was so enthusiastic that it initially outpaced training. Members of the pilot training program began sharing their new work products with colleagues, and even employees who had not yet attended the training began using the tools. The tools also gave this group the information and insight to make larger project-related efficiency gains and “frame” projects within a larger context. For example, one pilot user proposed combining two related projects into one, which better aligned the projects’ objectives. Ultimately, the power of these tools is in supporting a process for people to think through their projects and communicate with others about them in a clear, methodical way.