This is the second in a three-part series of interviews with Mark Crist, Chief Delivery Officer, 1218 Global. The series explores the critically important client/consultant relationship and how to properly balance resources, maintain open communication, and deliver successful implementation and upgrade results.
Mark’s career began on a dual track of Human Resources and Information Systems at The Stroh Brewery Company in Detroit, Michigan. Starting with the company as a Programmer/Analyst, Mark quickly grew through the ranks to the position of Vice President, Human Resources and then Vice President, Information Systems and Services. In 2000, Mark became Vice President, Information Systems at Staffmark in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Mark helped steer the organization through the replacement of its aging legacy systems to the newly released PeopleSoft Staffing Solution. It was during the course of this project that Mark met and worked alongside many of the core team of individuals who make up Regents Consulting Group and 1218 Global.
Mark began his consulting career at Crestone International in 2004. He joined Newbury Consulting Group in 2006, focusing on project management and delivery and also leading many large project implementations and upgrades. In addition to direct project management, he also functioned as the head of implementation services overseeing pre-sales implementation strategy, coordinating new project and team startups, and providing on-going project team guidance at multiple clients. In 2011, Mark co-founded Regents Consulting Group and in 2014, advanced to Chief Delivery Officer, 1218 Global.
What would an ideal client do to staff up for a new project?
For me, the ideal client is prepared. They plan ahead. It’s wonderful to meet with a client who has done that. You can sit down and have a good discussion about the percentage of time that is needed from their resources for the different phases of the project. For the client to say “Yes, you told us about that during all the planning and negotiating leading up to the final Statement of Work and we have taken that to heart. We have provided backfill for the people who will be participating heavily in the project and we have resources dedicated to supporting the project as required, start to finish.” It’s quite a statement of support.
Different phases of a project require varying levels of client resources and skillsets. There are certain resources from Day One of the project that will have to be dedicated for the life of the project. We go through different phases in terms of defining the project, designing it, building it, configuring it, testing it and deploying it. As we go through these different phases, the requirements from the business users fluctuate. Typically, there is a spike at the beginning of the project as we’re laying out and understanding the requirements, and then designing the solutions. During this time, we need to be closely paired with the business users. When we get into our build phase, their project time commitment goes down significantly because we’re off building what needs to be built. When we come back into testing, they also have to come back and recommit their time. I’ve worked with clients who not only had a dedicated Project Manager but also had dedicated Functional Leads. These are people whose day jobs have been taken over by others, so they can be fully dedicated to the project. Those are the projects that typically run the best because now you have the client’s support and you’ve got the commitment of time from the people you need.
For us, the client’s Project Manager can provide a single point of contact for both the business as well as for us. As an example, we’ve recently worked on a Human Resources Time and Labor installation with a large client. Their corresponding functional Time and Labor person was a dedicated resource for us who is also the client’s one point of contact. If there are questions that this person can’t answer, they know where to go to get the answers. They are the trusted person within the client’s organization who is charged with carrying the project forward. Their decisions matter and they carry weight. This keeps us from having to go back through three or four levels of approval. These are the projects we love because we know that everything will be focused on getting the job done.
For those companies who don’t free up adequate resources or fall short of making accommodations to commit people’s time to the project, things become difficult. The time lapse between point A and point B becomes elongated because people can’t spend the necessary time to work with us. It’s not a matter of us burning more hours to get the project done since we can’t really move ahead without that resource’s assistance. It’s about providing the resources necessary to keep the project moving forward.
In terms of launching a project, management buy-in is really important. It’s kind of an overused term, but it is a key element for a successful project. The truth is, there are companies where a director may get in their mind that they’re going to do a project, but senior management at the VP and President level may not have bought into it. Any break in that buy-in tends to create all sorts of problems. If the client’s executive management is there on Day One for the project kick-off, it is a great message to the team. You know they’re interested, and they’re involved. They have all the people who will be involved with the project in the room. One client I remember had 250 people at the Kick-Off Meeting, and their message was clear. “This is the most important thing we are taking on as a company. You are to focus on the project and get it done.” That company got decisions made quickly and it was a wonderful experience for everyone involved in the project, from approval to completion. There was a clear executive-level commitment to the project and everybody knew it.
To get in touch with Mark, feel free to send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org