#LF2010 How to Assemble the Right Project Team
Pulte Financial Services has managed to become the wholly-owned subsidiary of the absolute largest home builder in the U.S., so we’d say there’s at least one thing they’re doing right.

Falling in line with the focus on teamwork in the keynote speech given by Laserfiche’s (news, site) CEO and President Nien-Ling Wacker at this year’s Empower 2010, Christy Richardson, Pulte’s very own Director of Web Systems, schooled us on how it all starts with putting together the right project team.

Let’s start with a big project like—surprise, surprise—choosing the right Enterprise Content Management provider.

“Projects like ECM need to be strategic at the Executive level,” began Richardson. She laid out a corporate strategy as a starting point:

  1. Define project sponsor & key stakeholders
  2. Define project vision, scope and objective(s)
  3. Define a project team (internal and vendors) and structure for quick decision making. Pulte's structure looks like this:

TOP: Executive Level

These head honchos get together at least once a month to resolve rare issues

MIDDLE: Steering Level

Key stakeholders / business people live here. They resolve what the Project Level cannot, and if any of the issues are too complex or make them uncomfortable, the responsibility falls to the Executive Level.

BOTTOM: Project Level

The majority of the decisions are made here. This level includes Project Managers, IT folk, Vendors, Representatives, etc. Very hands-on and always involved.

Richardson stressed the importance of handling issues at the right level several times during her presentation. She explained that 30-70% of projects fail in some important way, most often because of technical incompetency, lack of user input, change of scope, etc. Defining your mission and dream team is essential to do before  you dive in.

The ECM Selection Process

Once you get the right people together, Richardson encourages following a methodology. For Pulte, that meant defining needs.

“Know your needs rather than bells and whistles,” Richardson urged, echoing a similar discussion lead by Web CMS analyst Tony White and Scott Liewehr of Onesta at last year’s Gilbane Group conference.

“Often, the reality of the situation is that we identify the solutions before the problem,” Liewehr stated in June, citing the speed at which solutions are being flung into the pool as the culprit causing rash decisions. "It's a classic case of ready, fire, aim."

So. Walk before you run. Get your essentials together, translate them into an RFP or RFI, and then you can start shopping.  

Cast a Wide Net

In January of 2009, Pulte Financial kicked off an ECM Strategic Initiative by sending out RFIs to ten different companies including, Hyland Software, EMC, ImageNow, BlitzDocs and, of course, Laserfiche.

"Save cost for last," Richardson advised after an audience member pointed out the severe difference in pricing among Pulte's choices.

Her final tips:

  • Requirement definitions are critical
  • Sort out a clear vision and objectives
  • Implement processes, not software
  • Partner wisely
  • Focus on small milestones and phases
  • Quick decision making is key
  • Make sure you have a competent, committed team

"It's tempting to want to do it all at once,"  she said in closing. "But smaller milestones and phases mitigate risk."