By Andreas Tremel
September 24 – Project management is often associated with the IT industry and software development, but it is also vital in other fields, such as the finance industry. In fact, some project management methods and aspects might seem very familiar to those working in financial services, e.g. risk management or portfolio management. More and more banks and companies in the finance industry are increasingly looking for good project managers or are adopting project management methodologies, especially because implementing project management strategies can help you avoid costly project delays and failures and increase your return on investment.
Staying focused on how best to execute project management methodologies is often hard, especially when being under time, budget and legal constraints. So, let’s take a look at 5 project management lessons that are worth incorporating into the finance industry:
- Think like a project manager
A financial manager is often an expert in his field who can not only create and oversee financial reports and strategies, but also manage risky investments extremely well. However, besides the ‘technical’ aspect, a project also needs a manager who has the necessary soft skills to lead the team and ultimately the organization to success. Projects are inherently people driven, and so is finance. The numbers are important, but it is the people you have to deal with. Adopting the right project management methods can help you increase efficiency organization-wide, from integration management to trade financing to customer management.
- Plan ahead
You need a plan with a clear objective to be able to complete a project successfully. The project plan also has to include all the tasks and necessary steps you have to finish in order to reach your goals. The next step is to create a budget and schedule, as well as a thorough risk analysis. Financial managers are highly familiar with risk management, but there are other risks than just financial risks that have to be identified beforehand. If that is not possible, then you need to have a game plan on how to mitigate these risks and changes.
- Stay flexible
The world is moving at a quicker pace than ever before, and as a result so does the finance industry. The economy, stock markets, as well as laws and regulations can change quickly, which is why it is important to be as flexible as possible. Careful planning is important, but you never know when markets might take a tumble because of external influences, so you need to be prepared for every possible scenario.
Financial institutions provide services to clients (private and corporate) and thus, are not just dependent on the market and the economy, but also on client demands. After the global economic crisis in 2008, financial institutions are under a lot of pressure and have a lot of constraints imposed upon them. In times of financial insecurity, clients demand that their banks handle their assets more effectively and efficiently. Financial institutions have to be able to adapt to these changing demands if they want to succeed against the extremely strong competition, particularly if you are a smaller institution. To reiterate: having a plan is good, but it is even better to have alternative plans at the ready.
- Standardize and improve processes
There is a lot of potential to standardize processes in the finance industry, because the services offered are often similar, even if clients and their demands might differ. You can use methods such as Six Sigma, Lean or Agile to improve and streamline processes. Standardizing processes can increase efficiency and productivity and thus, provide clients with faster and better productivity, which creates more value for the organization. Conversely, inefficient processes waste time and cause unnecessary costs, which can be detrimental to your institution’s reputation. In times of economic insecurity and public distrust towards banks, having a negative reputation can be fatal.
It is also important to remember that any change and improvement you implement has to happen incrementally. The people in your organization will need time to get used to and adapt to changes. Instead of overhauling the system entirely, make small changes within it. Get feedback from your employees to see what works and what does not. If you impose something upon them without their support, you risk that they may refuse to accept the change and instead keep doing what they are used to, even if it is not the best productive.
- Take advantage of technology
Make use of technology to improve processes, communication and collaboration within your organization and with clients and other stakeholders. In finance, a process might need several steps to be approved (e.g. lending process), which is why it is vital that communication is effective as possible. You can use technology to make these approval processes more efficient. Financial institutions also have to deal with a lot of documents and forms, so it can get chaotic and complex very quickly. A suitable documentation software can bring order into the chaos and help you keep an overview over all the important documents. It can also be used as a repository to make knowledge accessible for those who need it in the future.
Andreas Tremel is CEO of InLoox, a project management software company.