Examples abound of the pace of change and how changes in tactics, technology or strategy tend to represent transcendental moments in a history. Whether the ushering of the jet age against prop planes or the introduction of the internal combustion engine against the horse-drawn carriage, examples of the old guard falling before innovation are legion.
Our industry is no different. We are at the front end of a sea change in what it means to manage a program. And the simple fact is this: What got you here, won’t get you there. The metrics of success are changing and if you do not accept that, then you run the risk of the buggy whip maker.
Here are a couple examples of old approaches that are being edged out as programs evolve.
Cost. Cost control will always be an important measurement of a program’s value to the organization. In the beginning, it was a significant driver of program adoption. In fact, there are still many programs that are solely focused on cost savings. Indeed, one of my favorite parts of my job is helping CW programs craft negotiation strategies. But after a while, such strategies can lose steam. I rarely hear of companies achieving significant year-over-year savings targets without making continued cultural or technological investments. Often, by year three or four, most of the savings targets have been reached and the team begins to stagnate.
In the new world of program management, cost control continues to be important, but it is losing ground to a talent-focused approach. There are still many cost savings techniques and strategies that companies can consider — such as direct sourcing, alumni hiring and data optimization — but they are considered only in conjunction with consequences for talent. The more evolved approach considers the ramifications any cost-savings action would have on your organization and on your company’s value proposition to your supplier partners and the talent they provide.
Supplier engagement. Many of the constructs of today’s managed services program arose from a deep mistrust of our suppliers. I can remember 100% markups for clerical roles and being incredulous when I learned just how unfair many supplier contracts were toward the buying organization. Contracts where being drafted based on the bagels brought on Monday as opposed to the concrete business value being provided – or not being provided as was often the case. At the same time organizational experience and limited available technologies created the opportunity for the managed service provider to be the “Fixer” enforcing process compliance and rationalizing supplier contracts.
In the new era, successful programs drive efficiency for the sake of improved supplier partnerships. In a competitive talent environment there is simply no way to fill all the roles necessary without understanding that a recruiter partner needs to be incented to provide that top tier candidate to your program as opposed to the one down the street. What was once considered anathema — the master supplier — when compared to what was the “accepted” way of doing things — the vendor-neutral program — is now considered and implemented on a regular basis. Such arrangements often make sense in programs where there is less value in casting a wide talent net as opposed to a deep talent relationship.
The list of old vs. new can go on and on — stakeholder compliance vs. stakeholder engagement, process efficiency vs. speed to value, program expansion vs. program scale — how organizations are addressing complex talent challenges is changing. This change will bring about a more nimble, and progressive structure better equipped to address the unknown challenges of tomorrow and building a foundation for lasting change in the future.