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Advancing Badger Engagement Program - Leading ABE to a Touchdown

"We engaged Skyline to provide program leadership for ABE to act as the catalyst, to help us be more focused, and lead us to a successful Go-Live. Skyline’s program manager provided additional leadership and experience that was critical for us to effectively hit our goals."

Kari Myrland
Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association
Chief Information Officer

Business Situation

The University of Wisconsin Foundation (UWF), a higher education philanthropic organization supporting the University of Wisconsin‐Madison, engaged Skyline for management and leadership expertise of their enterprise‐wide Advancing Badger Engagement (ABE) Program. The ABE Program was previously initiated and had grown considerably in scope, leading to additional challenges for the team. The program and team also needed to accommodate an ongoing merger between the University of Wisconsin Foundation (UWF) and the Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA), which successfully merged into the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA). As with most enterprise‐wide initiatives, an additional need for the team was to implement the new functionality in parallel to current operations, while choosing the best timeframe to minimize impact to campus users prior to the start of the Fall semester. Skyline provided knowledgeable management and experienced program leadership to the Program Management Office responsible for the ABE program at the UWF. The ABE program was a cross‐enterprise effort enabling the transition from multiple legacy and auxiliary systems to industry‐leading Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) and accounting systems. It was augmented with a client‐facing portal, reporting and business intelligence (BI), a robust data warehouse, improved help center capabilities, and a new hosting partner. Skyline’s program leadership role was extended to include facilitation of the Program Management Office (PMO). Skyline provided management and leadership of several project tracks, coaching of several leaders, active engagement in overall organizational change, and initiation of an Agile/Scrum methodology as well as Portfolio and Product Management for the stabilization period.

 

Solution

Skyline’s program manager initiated a multi‐phase plan including Assimilation, Assessment and Planning, Execution, Implementation, and Stabilization. These steps were especially important due to in‐progress activities and recent program leadership changes.

Manager Assimilation and Immersion
The first phase of the program management plan regarded rapid on‐boarding and immersion. A ‘manager assimilation’ plan was created and implemented for focused individual and team sessions to determine gaps, needs, and wants of various program leaders, executives, and stakeholders. Assimilation also quickly established the new program manager’s leadership style, approach, commitment, and qualifications.

Assessment, Planning, and Kickoff
Skyline’s program manager leveraged input from the assimilation sessions to conduct more in‐depth assessment of current and previous effort. The assessment determined a need for an overall program leadership model to leverage existing leadership and experience while providing effective empowerment and delegation at the program level. Sixteen existing and new project and leadership roles were established to provide appropriate focus within the program team, with an additional existing level of leadership aligned with functional and business areas. The PMO was then transitioned for more emphasis on decision‐making, escalation, and overall guidance. Planning was improved to leverage the leadership roles, therefore enabling project‐level ownership within the program team. Each project was assessed to determine the best methodology and approach for planning and execution, leading to a blend of traditional ‘waterfall’ methods as well as Agile/Scrum methods for some teams. Weekly meetings with leaders were initiated to improve overall communications with continued emphasis on the program leadership level and roles. Status reports were revised to include more frequent and consistent updates, and greater transparency and accountability. Building on the re‐focused program leadership and planning, Skyline’s program manager facilitated feasibility and assessment sessions to determine the target for Go‐Live. A program‐wide ‘Kickoff’ was held with appropriate communications to announce the Go‐Live target across the organization.

Execution
Following the Kickoff, the overall leadership was transitioned toward more emphasis on project management fundamentals. Detailed project plans were updated including additional focus on overall quality assurance and more focus on test runs for legacy system data conversion. Weekly program leadership meetings and status reporting were transitioned to have more focus on progress tracking and risk identification. The Go‐Live target was refined to a specific period, with renewed emphasis on hitting the date.

Implementation
As Go‐Live approached, the Skyline program manager transitioned the overall velocity from a weekly to daily cadence. Detailed planning to support the accelerated pace was coordinated with the primary vendor and program leadership. A ‘soft launch’ was included in the planning to deliver production‐ready functionality ahead of the required Go‐Live date. To re‐enforce the delegation‐empowerment model, the program manager implemented a revised ‘hub and spoke’ model with program management at the hub, and spoke ownership aligned with project and other tracks. Key spoke‐based teams and the primary vendor were co‐located in a large conference room to enable dynamic communications and collaboration. Daily status meetings were held to drive closure of milestones; surface and address issues and risks; celebrate and recognize accomplishments; and encourage, inspire, and motivate the leaders. A football metaphor was utilized – with days related to yards as the team approached the goal line – to track progress and reinforce team commitment. Based on actual progress and PMO agreement, a ‘Touchdown’ was successfully announced on the planned Go‐Live date.

Stabilization
Following the Go‐Live, Skyline’s program manager continued to lead and facilitate daily status meetings for one additional week. Relevant milestones were closed and the transition to operational areas continued. The stabilization period will continue as‐required to help assure acceptance, fine‐tuning of business processes and policies, and appropriate closure of legacy systems.

Result

Overall, the ABE Program was highly successful, bringing together all business and technical areas to plan, execute, and implement the significant improvements across the organization. Active engagement and commitment by program leaders, guidance from the PMO, and executive support helped ensure the program’s tremendous success.