Saturday, April 5, 2008

LTV at LTC: Project Approval

The first step of the LTV project was to get IT approval and budgeting. In order to get the project used we needed to get the results loaded into the company data warehouse; in order to get that load we needed IT support. At the time we were also planning on having the LTV production system managed by the IT department; fortunately we wound up running the production system ourselves.

LTC had just instituted a strict resource allocation process for IT projects. Each project had to be justified in terms of return on investment based on financial analysis and passed by a committee of representatives of the various branches of the business. On the face of things this is a very straightforwards process but LTV was almost wrecked here.

The first issue was that customer value was a substantial change from the way LTC thought about customers. LTC had been committed to maintaining all their customers and fighting attrition (customers leaving the company) across the board. The idea that some customers were more valuable than others, and in fact some customers cost LTC more than their were worth, was a foreign concept. Because LTV represented a new way of thinking about the business the LTV project could not be valued in the attrition-based results metrics that were approved for use.

The second issue is that the IT project approving committee was composed of representatives from a broad spectrum of departments in LTC. In theory this was to ensure that the projects that were approved would be useful to the entire company. In practice, projects were decided on by committee members that had no IT experience, no experience in the processes of other departments, and not enough time to truly research the issues they were being asked to decide on. What happened was that projects got decided by corporate politics: the person reputation of the executive champion.

It was in getting our initial approval that our executive champion (EC) shone. Our EC had a considerable reputation within the company. It terms of making the ROI cutoff, what we did was to figure out the attrition gain necessary to make the cutoff and the EC promised to delivery that gain. We knew that the LTV system wasn't targeted at reducing attrition per se, but we also knew that if the project was at all successful getting approval after the fact would not be an issue.

The long approval process did have a substantial benefit: the series of meetings made most of the company aware of the LTV project.

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