Transformation in practice: how to make a transformation project successful

In May this year, Hivos and D4D closed the Hivos Project Change, a multi-year transformation trajectory. For D4D, this was a major milestone and finalising the project brings us to reflect on the journey we made with Hivos and how we contributed to this important transformation process. 
What initiated this transformation process and what were the milestones of it?
Hivos’ core application landscape was at its end of life and needed replacement, as well as an engraved vision on IT. In June 2018, Data4Development kickstarted what later turned out to be Project Change! by carrying out an IT scan of the Hivos application landscape. This IT scan resulted in the first milestone: an overview of the current IT situation at that time and a plan for organisation transformation in the fields where transformation was found to be necessary. Throughout all phases of the process, D4D supported Hivos on communication and training of the organisation in order to keep all staff on board of this change process.
The second challenge was to select a system which allowed more strategic project control, in line with accounting and project management requirements. The project was approached as internal change, not as solely IT. The focus was on both moving to a new system as well as on standardisation of processes, with an emphasis on financial management. Change management was a key component. The following outcomes were envisioned:

  • Estimated 5% increase in reporting efficiency through increased project control with an estimated worth up to €3M annually;
  • Simplification of the IT landscape and improved and more consistent internal processes;
  • Shift of focus to information management (allowing for information-based decision making and efficient stakeholder reporting);
  • Cost control leading to stability and business continuity;

Within 3 months, Hivos and D4D succeeded in defining the requirements, executing the selection process and making the finance module of the selected system ready for use. With this quick transition, the finance module could be used from the start of 2019 onwards. D4D’s main role was to translate the requirements from both the finance- and the project management sides to user requirements for the application and setting up the system to meet the defined requirements of the organisation. During this process, D4D supported on defining policies, procedures, roles and responsibilities and processes which the new system and set up required.
The third milestone achieved was migration to and implementation of the project management module of the application. Since it was decided to make this an ongoing process while at the same time carrying out the actual implementation of the projects, this was a delicate process that needed continuous feedback loops with the project managers and finance staff at one hand, while at the other hand keeping the pace of this process in order to reach the deadline set. With over a 100 projects to migrate, implemented in 7 regional hub offices and almost 400 staff in total, this proved to be a real challenge. With consistent communication, tailor-made training and continuous support Hivos and D4D celebrated achieving this milestone, 2 weeks before the deadline in May 2020!
The aftercare of a transformation project is an important last milestone that is easily overlooked. Hivos saw the importance of this last step and we were happy to support the carry-over of the project to the standing organisation during the second half of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.
To summarise, at the end of the project the following business benefits were identified, some of which will be materialised in the coming months after the finalisation of the project:

  • Enabling (project) managers to take control of their projects and monitor accordingly, monitoring on budget versus actuals.
  • Optimised donor reporting for full results and full cost recovery, increasing chances for new funding.
  • Single source of truth: one place where all project information is stored & updated, resulting in more project insights.
  • Less administrative work means more time for project related work.
  • Delivery of an application that meets Hivos’ requirements and facilitates internal goals

We enjoyed the cooperation with Hivos throughout this entire project and we are proud to have supported Hivos on this major transformation. Our main challenge was that transformation is a long-term process, during which it is essential to keep checking in with the organisation. The capacity, responsibilities, procedures, guidelines and processes defined during the project need to be secured and embedded within the organisation. The covid pandemic certainly added to the challenge, which makes us even prouder of the result!