Thought Leadership in Project Management: with Jonathan H. Avidan, Vice President at AxiomSL

– By Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP, SCM, OMCP

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Jonathan Avidan

Jonathan Avidan, PMP, CSM., currently serves as Vice President at AxiomSL. He has over 13+ years of experience in financial services, banking and insurance, specifically within compliance, regulatory reporting, operations and related technology infrastructure practices. Graduating from Boston University’s Questrom School of Business with a dual major in Operations & Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, Mr. Avidan is a skilled team-builder and disciplined leader, who can manage people, processes and change while developing and maintaining key/strategic relationships.  Currently a MBA candidate for Temple University’s Fox School of Business, he is also an experienced Process Manager proficient in technology and system implementations (SaaS) and multi-million dollar development projects that impact multiple departments or entities within an organization.  He has a track record of analyzing business processes and developing practical solutions that drive efficiency, improve client service, and reduce risk.

Can you tell me what your organization does?

AxiomSL is the global leader in regulatory reporting and risk management solutions for the financial industry, including banks, broker dealers, asset managers and insurance companies. Its unique enterprise data management (EDM) platform delivers data lineage, risk aggregation, analytics, workflow automation, validation and audit functionality.

The AxiomSL platform seamlessly integrates clients’ source data from disparate systems and geographical locations without forcing data conversion. It enriches and validates the data, and runs it through risk and regulatory calculations to produce both internal and external reports. The platform supports disclosures in multiple formats, including XBRL. The unparalleled transparency offered by the high-performance platform gives users the ability to drill down on their data to any level of granularity.

AxiomSL’s platform supports compliance with a wide range of global and local regulations, including Basel III capital and liquidity requirements, the Dodd-Frank Act, FATCA, AEI (CRS), EMIR, COREP/FINREP, CCAR, FDSF, BCBS 239, Solvency II, AIFMD, IFRS 9, central bank disclosures, and both market and credit risk management requirements. The enterprise-wide approach offered by AxiomSL enables clients to leverage their existing data and risk management infrastructure, and reduces implementation costs, time to market and complexity.

How do they use Project Management?

AxiomSL has a Program Management Office (PMO).  Currently, we have a strong team of experienced project managers who are tasked with ensuring the success of the firm’s technology implementation engagements.  At AxiomSL, project management methodologies, specifically those found within the PMBOK, are used to ensure proper configuration and execution of our flagship platform, ControllerView®.

What does a typical day look like for you as a project manager? 

I currently manage five projects for five different banks in the continental United States.  The project management structure within AxiomSL offers flexibility for the PM role since the main resources responsible for execution of each statement of work (SOW) are the Implementation Lead and Implementation Specialists.  In this regard, I am able to allocate 20% of my time per project, every day and each week.  My primary responsibilities are to manage and maintain proper lines of communication while providing status updates to the client, AxiomSL management and other key stakeholders.  As a project manager it is also essential for me to develop and sustain relationships with various decision makers, as well.

I am also responsible for drafting effort estimations, work orders and other organizational process assets that will ensure efficiency and transparency within the project.

What PM tools and techniques that you value the most at your job?

I often find myself balancing the 5 Project Constraints (quality, time, cost, scope, shareholders) during each phase of a project.  Each client requires their own dynamic project constraint framework in which a specific mix at any given time could make or break the project.

Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) are frequently used in order to keep track of the activities associated with each resource over the duration of the engagement.  In addition to the WBS, Gantt charts, MS Project, and various logs are used to maintain consistency, proper communication and order.  Specific logs utilized are for the documentation of risks, issues, action items and scope changes that may arise.  By listing these items in a log from the very beginning of the project, a project manager can ensure that all key stakeholders understand and are aware of the day to day items that can potentially shift the trajectory of the implementation.

My most important technique is communication.  I put a tremendous amount of effort into making sure that all communication lines and open and healthy.  To do this, I create an environment of collaboration and teamwork with a shared paradigm of “one goal”.  When all stakeholders realize that everyone working on the project has the same goal, the engagement becomes more cohesive and collegiate while providing a sense of comradery and professionalism.

How large is your project team and what are their roles?

My project teams are typically comprised of the following roles and responsibilities:

Role Key Responsibilities
Project Manager Responsible for the overall success of the engagement.  Specifically, the PM ensures proper execution of all implementation project activities including but not limited to requirements review, configuration, testing, training, change management.  Responsible for project plan creation, maintenance and upkeep, status tracking, updates and communication, as well as coordination with client stakeholders and other teams or individuals working in conjunction with the AxiomSL implementation team.
Implementation Lead Brings in-depth knowledge in regulatory reporting and work experience with AxiomSL including tracking Federal Reserve report updates, enhancing report functionality, researching reporting requirements, development, configuration, and implementation of regulatory reports.

Responsible for implementation by taking direction from Solution Architect and following the timelines managed by Project Manager.

Subject Matter Expert Brings extensive experience in designing and implementing enterprise MIS solutions for risk, regulatory, and financial reporting requirements for major financial institutions. Possesses subject matter expertise in U.S. risk and regulatory requirements, and financial reporting.

Responsible for reviewing the functional specs and working with client, Solution Architect and Configuration Specialists to fill in any requirements gaps from regulatory and implementation perspective.

Solution Architect Brings extensive experience in designing and implementing AxiomSL solutions for risk, regulatory, and financial reporting requirements for major financial institutions. Possesses both subject matter expertise in U.S. risk and regulatory requirements and reporting, and in-depth technical knowledge in Axiom software.

Leads the project team in implementation. Responsible for conceptual and functional design of implementation. Reviews the Functional Specs documents to ensure all required functionality is implemented.

IT Specialist The IT Specialist brings deep experience in deployment of AxiomSL software including knowledge of databases and data structures.  Provides support to the implementation team and client staff for testing, performance tuning, installation, database connections and technical support

Project teams can range from 5 to as many as 15 resources.  This depends on the complexity of the implementation coupled with the number of reports requiring on-site configuration.

What type of leadership style do you use to support your team given their diversity, multiple locations and expertise?

I have always believed that a true leader empowers others with the tools and knowledge they need to then become leaders themselves.  Additionally, I feel that a successful leader is able to incorporate “people skills” into their management style – basic things like recognizing the efforts of team members to simply complimenting them for a job well done.  Ultimately, I put a strong emphasis on ensuring that my team members clearly understand their objectives while buying into the corporate vision and mission.  I always try to inspire others while delegating responsibility.  At the same time, I let them do their own work and expecting nothing short of success.

We met in Philadelphia during a Scrum Certification training. Why did your company sponsor your Scrum training?  

AxiomSL PMO feels that software development projects in the banking industry are moving towards a more Agile methodology. The Scrum pattern is one of the more popular methods in which results can be fruitful if implemented properly.

What is the value that your company sees with Scrum for their projects?

AxiomSL is a technology company that implements software on a client site in order to improve the transparency, auditability and filing processes of the bank’s regulatory reports.  One of the reasons AxiomSL is so successful in what we do while maintaining our position as a “best-in-class” provider is our ability to fit into our clients’ existing project management methodologies and software development lifecycle (SDLC) processes.  This means that if one of our clients wants to execute our implementation by using the Waterfall methodology, then we will do it. On the other hand, if the client is Agile and uses Scrum, then we will adapt our implementation to fit within the Scrum pattern (i.e. sprints, backlogs, ceremonies).

In regards to internal projects like new product development, AxiomSL is looking at Scrum as the pattern to deliver these new products more efficiently.  Since these projects would be executed in-house, the organization will have more control as to the type of methodology used.  In the past, more traditional methods like waterfall have been utilized for internal projects.  The results suffer due to the lack of ability to adjust and improve on the fly.  We are hoping to mitigate these challenges with Scrum moving forward.

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What other things have you and your company put in place to make sure Scrum is implemented successfully?

We are in the process of organizing an internal Scrum training for product owners and our development teams.  The main reason for doing this is to raise awareness about Scrum and its benefits.

As a project manager we use a lot of different methodologies, why do you think Scrum is most suitable for your type of projects?

As I mentioned above, AxiomSL harnesses the power of flexibility when accommodating to our clients’ existing project management methodologies.  If Scrum is most suitable to the client, we will need to ensure we have trained resources who are ready to adapt.  This is accomplished through certifications, trainings and communicating internally with different departments in order to get the message out there about Scrum and its ability to streamline and improve the way we do business with our clients.

Connect with Jonathan Avidan: www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanavidan

AxiomSLAxiomSL was awarded The Asian Banker’s 2016 “Best Compliance Risk Technology Implementation of the Year” as well as “Best Implementation at a Sell-side Firm” in the 2016 Sell-side Technology Awards. In addition, AxiomSL was voted Best Reporting System Provider in the 2015 Waters Rankings and was highlighted as a ‘category leader’ by Chartis Research in its 2015 Sell-side Risk Management Technology report. The company’s work has also been recognized through a number of other accolades, including success in the Best Reporting Initiative category of the American Financial Technology Awards and in the Customer Satisfaction section of the Chartis RiskTech100 rankings.

 

Projectizing Hospitals: Hiring and Retaining Talent in Healthcare Organizations

healthcaretechnology_800_500_s_c1By Dr. Terrence D. Duncan

Healthcare organizations feature a multitude of positions and departments based on the unique specializations.  Whether it is a hospital, assisted living center, or skilled nursing facility, the variety of positions can create a strain on human resources and regular operations management.  The rigorous demands of each position sometimes feature a combination of their essential functions of the position, as well as absorbing some form of other responsibility from other positions in that particular department. As a result, the ability to hire and retain the appropriate talent and building a quality team is essential in managing a healthcare organization.

Turnover is relatively high in the healthcare industry. High turnover results in increased direct and indirect costs. Direct costs could include costs associated with training, recruitment, separation, and litigation. Indirect costs could include lower morale, lower productivity, and negative perceptions of the organization and leadership.  Although these costs ultimately affect the bottom line, these costs also negatively affect the organization’s ability to take care of one of the most important stakeholders: the patient or resident. Ultimately, the human resources management processes also correlate with understanding risk and determining how to mitigate your project and organization against high risk.

As project managers continue to acquire and build talent for their associated process, two Human Resources Management processes come to mind: Develop Project Team and Manage Project Team.  Hiring and retaining talent in healthcare is an operational priority.  Due to some of the current challenges provided through recent legislative changes and federal funding restrictions, it may be difficult to pay or maintain a competitive wage in the industry.  Despite this fact, once you have an associate come to the door, it is necessary to try to remember or employ these tactics in retaining the talent.

Training Does Not Stop at Orientation

One of the most common comments uttered by staff is there is not enough training or they are not sure as to what they are doing.  What leadership must keep in mind is that the most important cargo, the patient, is in the hands of another employee who may not have the adequate training from orientation.  Due to the numerous regulatory requirements from a clinical, legal, safety, and risk perspective, an associate who has been hired on the job may feel overwhelmed by the numerous requirements thrown at him or her during the orientation process.  Unlike some industries where you may have more predictable outcomes occur, healthcare outcomes are unpredictable. Depending on the type of position and healthcare organization where the associate works, the acuity of the patients may present a daily challenge. Residents feature mental health illnesses or dementia creates a highly volatile nature in attempting to provide quality care.

Develop Empathy and Understanding

I recall years ago that I trained several people who reported to me on a regular basis.  I had difficulty in having them to recall some of the information provided in training.  One day, I saw with one of the newer trainees a couple of months later, and she informed me how difficult it was to learn not only one major function of her job but to learn about another set of procedures that were very nuanced. It was at that moment I restructured the entire way to train and provided more accessibility and availability to newer trainees to allow them time to become comfortable in what I required.  Although your day as a manager or leader is packed with an ever-constant to do list, checking on your associates or being available to assist their needs, especially when an associate is relatively new to your organization, is a good way to retain associates because you also develop a rapport with that individual. Turnover sometimes is attributed to a lack of empathy, compassion, and understanding. If you know an aide, tech, or R.N. has limited experience when you hired him/her, not providing that extra one on one is a quick way to allow feelings of resentment and frustration take over to the point where resignation creeps in his or her mind.

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Identify Ongoing Needs Assessment

The healthcare industry is heavily regulated.  Some of their requirements include in-services to take place with regular frequency.  Despite the state or federal mandates requiring ongoing training, each of your associates has a different level of understanding.  If you are in the healthcare industry, you are in the business of customer service and quality of care.  These two objectives are mutually exclusive, and therefore, if you are not providing an ongoing assessment of your team, you subject your organization and patients to poor outcomes.  In the course of your monitoring associate performance, remember you are generally responsible for their overall performance.

Leadership is an ever-changing process. The challenge is not only recognizing the statistical numbers that are present in key metrics, it is the ability to analyze the human element associated with such stats.  Empathy, compassion, understanding, and communication are areas that are not easily available by a means of a spreadsheet, as well as some customer satisfaction surveys. Sometimes your ability to become intuitive to your current operational environment could pay dividends with improved operational efficiency, improving patient satisfaction outcomes, and addressing the needs of one of your key stakeholders: your associates.

Dr. Terrence D. Duncan: Author of The Four Fits of Holistic Growth (2016), a book that focuses on personal development and self-motivation. By encouraging readers to think outside the box, The Four Fits provides 16 axioms or foundations along with 15 interactive worksheets.

Connect with Dr. Terrence D. Duncan on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-terrence-duncan-8045064a  

Follow on Twitter: @drtduncan