Our client was a not-for-profit organization – an Industry Funding Organization (IFO) – representing and servicing leading retail, information technology and consumer electronics companies in the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Program Plan as per the Waste Diversion Act. This plan required brand owners, first importers, franchisors, and assemblers to pay fees for electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) sold in Ontario. The collected fees are then used by the IFO to operate the WEEE program.
The IFO was facing an urgent need to increase its organizational capacity and flexibility to accommodate a planned major increase in product volumes and increasing diversification of stakeholders, and enable it to meet evolving policy and reporting requirements, including a possible need to harmonize with other Canadian WEEE programs.
Within this context, the IFO needed to ensure prudent and effective financial management, including strong financial controls, and effective financial tracking and reporting. The strategic use of IT was seen as important for the IFO to manage its growing and increasingly complex business into the future. IT services had been outsourced to a 3rd party provider, but the external service provider was not able to address the longer-term requirements and it was regarded essential that the IFO should bring its core financial and performance measurement functions in-house.
The main reasons for undertaking the project were therefore:
- Risk – significant identifiable risk arising from the current state of the organization’s information systems
- Business knowledge – a lack of access to basic information needed to manage the business and measure results
- Financial control – existing financial processes would soon become inadequate to manage a business of this size and complexity
- Removing conflicts of interest – the IFO was dependent on a third party service provider that was also acting as business consultant to the organization
- Confidentiality – the IFO needed to ensure data security and confidentiality of brand/market share information
- Capacity – the IFO was not confident of having the capacity meet its existing mandate, let alone address the expected growth with its current IT base
- Flexibility – the IFO was operating in a rapidly changing environment and lacked the IT support to respond in a timely way to developments
- Opportunity – the IFO was missing opportunities to make improvements in its business processes, or contribute to national harmonization because of poor or insufficient information
Business plan/business case and project charter pertaining to the design of a robust and comprehensive Enterprise Information System to meet the IFO core requirements for program oversight and business management. The ultimate objective was:
- Delivery of the maximum mandated waste diversion at the lowest possible costs
- Monitoring and measurement of the effectiveness of each business process, forming the base for continuous improvement and risk reduction
- Effective financial control and management processes suitable for an organization of this size and complexity
- Full, transparent and understandable reporting of the activity and business objectives of the IFO, and benchmarking of performance against key performance indicators, while ensuring data security and confidentiality
- Control over the integrity, accuracy, reliability, flexibility, scalability and auditability of business data
- The ability to trace all data and allow for harmonization with other provincial WEEE Program systems
- Providing ready access by specified individuals to “real time” business data
- Providing a sound IT infrastructure on which to build the IFO’s business processes for the next 5 to 10 years
The main challenges we faced in conducting this project related to:
- Complexity – relating to the overall business process and required solution
- Timing – short-term needs conflicted with complex long-term requirements; it was often difficult to secure the input of key stakeholders who were occupied with immediate and urgent demands on their time
- Access and authority – the project team and client had limited authority over stakeholders whose input and expertise were necessary to the project, such as the existing service provider’s staff and the IFO’s Board of Directors
- Budget – the need to match project spending with the rate setting schedule frequently resulted in severe pressures on the budget, which needed to be carefully managed
- Potential conflicts of interest – the many stakeholders involved in this project had their own concerns and vested interests which sometimes affected their willingness to co-operate with the project team or allocate the time and input required of them
- Uncertainty of business vision and weak evidence base – as a newly formed organization, the IFO had little prior experience of the business and a lack of proven shortcomings of current systems; these factors made it more difficult to develop and justify a proposed alternative
- Lack of precedents – the IFO was operating in a newly evolving industry sector with few established best practices on which to draw
- Volatility of influences – the business was subject to volatile and increasingly complex legislative and policy influences, which we needed to continually monitor and address in developing our recommendations
- Reviewed organizational documentation and conducted one-on-one interviews with key stakeholders to develop a strategic understanding of the business context.
- Defined the strategic business requirements, including the key components of the system (Finance/Materials/Process, etc.) and the interrelationships between them.
- Defined an enterprise technology vision and staged priorities for three years ahead.
- Identified and shortlisted software options and the likely extent of customization required to meet strategic business requirements.
- Developed a business case for the proposed solution and estimated project costs.
- Developed an implementation plan for the proposed solution and identified change management issues and recommendations.
The Art and Science Difference
The project involved major challenges over and above the technical aspects of system development, which required a delicate balance of art and science skills. We needed to understand and address a range of organizational and people-related issues. For example:
- The need to identify and understand a range of complex business issues of which the client still had relatively little experience and which were not fully documented. This required knowledge and understanding of the industry context, but also an astute strategic awareness and high level of business acumen.
- The concerns and interests of a range of external stakeholders and how to secure their involvement and commitment to the project despite having little vested interest in its goals. This required the development of a detailed stakeholder management plan, but also strategic awareness and excellent interpersonal and communication skills to build effective working relationships.
- The need for delicate and precise planning and monitoring of the project timeline and budget to avoid resource conflicts for the client and other key stakeholders.
- The need to understand the political and policy environment within which the client was operating and its implications for the project and the required solution.
At the conclusion of the project, the key success factors had been achieved and the client was highly satisfied with the project solution and the value added by Schroeder & Schroeder. As a result of the work completed and the follow up IT implementation projects, the IFO was in a position to secure, at an early stage of its existence, a high level of control over the business and had the ability to use data to inform continuous business improvement. This was expected to result in substantial financial savings as well as qualitative benefits for the IFO and its key stakeholders including:
- Improved data quality and reliability
- Improved ease and flexibility of data entry and an associated reduction in costs.
- Significantly reduced business risks
- Improved efficiency and business performance.
- A clear business vision and a roadmap for achieving it.
- Improved potential for harmonization of the WEEE program across Canada.