The criticality of review meetings, vendor management, and conflict resolution.
Your cross-functional project is underway, but some deadlines are starting to slip. Teams are having trouble getting resources from collaborators and some uncertainty remains over who is managing the vendor. Fortunately, there’s still time to correct the course. To help ensure your project is a success, this third article in our series details the criticality of (1) leveraging review meetings, (2) managing vendors, and (3) resolving team conflicts.
Note: for a quick refresher, check out the first two articles in this series: How to Gain Support for Cross-Functional IT Projects and Launching and Leading Cross-Functional Projects in IT.
Leverage review meetings to stay on schedule
Review meetings are commonly held at the peer-to-peer, project, and portfolio levels.
Peer reviews involve far more than a simple code inspection. For instance, a team member may need feedback to improve a report or presentation, or a stakeholder could request a consultation to expedite the team’s access to resources.
To maximize the benefits of peer reviews:
- Instill a practice of having team members in the same discipline review each other's work before making a handoff to the PM.
- Use peer reviews to refine and accelerate the escalation process. When the PM meets one-on-one with a stakeholder, performance review tends to be the focus. But performance is affected by how well a team can tap outside resources to resolve an urgent issue. Make sure the stakeholder informs their team of how to best escalate an issue to the proper contact.
Project reviews are typically held on a monthly or bi-weekly basis and provide visibility into the project schedule, budget, and scope at each specific stage. A popular format for project-review meetings consists of:
- A review of the prior meeting notes to guide the evaluation of the project’s status.
- An update from stakeholders on completed tasks.
- A discussion of the current meeting’s agenda.
- Actionable next steps for the stakeholders and their teams.
To optimize the flow of project-review meetings:
- Send out status reports and agendas prior to the meeting so your team knows which questions they should anticipate answering. This practice often allows issues to be resolved before the meeting, freeing up time to deal with other important matters at the actual meeting.
- Keep a running log of:
- Essential points used as the basis for decision-making.
- Resource allocation and occupation.
- Summary of new findings and opportunities, and any associated risks.
- Priority shifts.
The goal of a portfolio-review meeting is to demonstrate to the C-suite that your cross-functional project is being managed as effectively as possible. Portfolio reviews might only occur quarterly, meaning a lot of information must be condensed into a short presentation (for more guidance on this, check out our tips for presenting to the C-suite).
To facilitate comprehension and hold the attention of busy executives, use visual aids (e.g., a roadmap) to spotlight:
- A high-level overview of the project’s benefits (as those removed from the day-to-day workings of the project may need a refresher).
- Updates on the budget and resource allocation.
- Risks and opportunities.
- Best practices that may be leveraged to improve project management throughout the company.
- Teams and individuals who have achieved outstanding results. Appreciation keeps team members motivated; their accomplishments are further proof of the value of cross-functional work.
Set KPIs and an escalation process for effective vendor management
Establishing clear goals and communication methods is vital not only with your cross-functional team, but with vendors as well. Here is a quick rundown on the dos and don’ts of vendor management:
- Designate a team member as the primary vendor-contact.
- Set KPIs to evaluate vendor performance.
- Insist on a service contract that details a process for escalating issues.
- Reevaluate the terms of the contract prior to renewal, keeping these questions in mind:
- Are you getting the most value out of your current agreement?
- Where has the vendor excelled and where have they struggled? Is it possible to restructure the contract to leverage the vendor’s strengths more effectively?
- Can you renegotiate to reduce costs?
- Meet with just any contact on the vendor side. Make sure your team is communicating with the right contact on a regular basis.
- Forget to schedule formal review meetings. Whether quarterly or bi-annually, you need an official record of your vendor’s performance as it relates to the KPIs.
- Miss the renewal date of the service contract. This seems obvious but can be easily overlooked.
Recognize the signs of conflict and use the issue-review log to find solutions
One key to solving conflicts is identifying them before they grow into major issues. Below are common signs a project is veering off-track:
- Misalignment of project priorities (e.g., project priorities conflict with those within a department).
- Consistent delays due to a lag in resource assignments
- Constantly running over-budget
- Confusion over leadership
Most of these issues boil down to a lack of communication. No matter how capable, a team cannot solve a problem they are not aware of. An issue review log provides transparency into any problems the project faces—for all individuals, regardless of which team they belong to. Most importantly, the log shows how one department’s work affects the other and explains who folks should contact for approval or resources.
To expedite conflict resolution with an issue-review log:
- Hold issue-review meetings with stakeholders
- Encourage active communication, be it in person, via a call, or through chat. Many issues arise because team members work in silos. Passive forms of communication can exacerbate this problem (e.g., only members of the same team are CC’ed on an email that’s also relevant to other departments, an email gets buried in a chain and never receives a reply, etc.).
- As a leader, be transparent about areas where you can improve. This encourages others to do the same.
Conclusion: lasting benefits of cross-functional projects
Steering your project to a successful finish entails:
- Leveraging various types of review meetings (e.g., peer-to-peer, project, and portfolio).
- Establishing a vendor-management process:
- Designate a team member to manage each vendor.
- Set KPIs and performance-review meetings to evaluate vendors.
- Ensure the vendor service agreement contains a process for escalating issues.
- Maintaining an issue-review log to facilitate transparency and resolve conflicts.
Achieving your project’s goal is sure to add more value to your company than your original objective estimates. Because cross-functional work also builds trust across the organization, which results in these lasting benefits:
- Accelerates IT's ability to get work done. New relationships give IT a deeper understanding of the company structure. Additionally, the knowledge and bonds gained from this effort streamline IT’s access to resources.
- Lowers the barrier between IT and the C-suite. By boosting IT's credibility as a strategic business partner and technology driver, it’s easier to attain approval for projects going forward.
- 'Rebrands' IT as an approachable collaborator. Through cross-functional work, IT shakes the image of just being “people you have to deal with.” As a result, IT will be asked to participate in more cross-functional projects, further strengthening its role as a valued business partner.
We hope you found this article series on cross-functional projects valuable. If you still have any questions or concerns around our first two topics: Attaining Support for Your Next Project and How to Handle a Launch, please don't hesitate to reach out to us.
Seabeck Systems is an IT consultancy that provides proven strategies, clear processes, and actionable roadmaps for Fortune 1000 leaders who feel overwhelmed with complex data demands. As a full-stack provider, we implement the systemic change necessary to convert business objectives into action. We'd love to help you get started.