When Al Lucchese arrived several months ago as the new CEO of netNumina, a Cambridge, Mass.-based e-biz integrator, he carried with him two essential tools—a bucket of cold water to douse the companys insupportable sales projections, and a concrete methodology for future forecasts.
"Like many companies in our space, netNumina was still experiencing a false euphoria about the state of the market," says Lucchese, a former operations exec at Whittman-Hart. The 2001 sales forecast was scaled back from 105 percent growth to a more attainable 42 percent growth objective.
That was the easy part. Lucchese also put procedural changes in place, which will ultimately decide whether netNumina survives the lingering industry meltdown. Specifically, Lucchese instituted a new meeting schedule that allows for "a natural progression in decision making and forecasting."
At 8 a.m. every Monday morning, the schedule kicks off with a business development review. The review scrolls through defined action plans for each ongoing project, new project with an existing client and new prospect. That "project pipeline management" process, which has a rolling 13-week horizon, encompasses resource allocation, proposal generation and pricing reviews, among other key factors. It examines how netNumina is qualifying opportunities to make sure that no proposal sails through without undergoing a thorough price review. The meeting is chaired by the VP of sales and is attended by all members of the client-facing leadership team.
Then, at 10 a.m., the "delivery leadership"—the CFO and the directors of project management, quality assurance, engineering, professional services and interactive—meet to plot resource allocation along this 13-week pipeline. This one-hour meeting reviews hiring needs, utilization percentages and other metrics to ensure that the company has enough resources to meet its defined commitments.
Then, at 1 p.m., Lucchese gets into the act, meeting with the sales VP to discuss the top 10 projects and get clued in on what happened at the morning business development conference.
And finally, at 3 p.m., Lucchese hosts an operational staff meeting, which includes the sales chief, the CFO, the director of New York operations, the VPs of strategy and professional services, and the director of human resources. Here, Lucchese gets the big picture. What is the impact of the project pipeline on the financial health and well-being of the company—its balance sheet performance, receivables, and so on?
"I dont think a lot of the venture-backed consultancies that appeared on the scene in the mid-1990s have that level of operational discipline," insists Lucchese. Of course, he notes, having a repeatable process to drive that discipline is of no lasting value if a company doesnt stick to it religiously. That, he adds, is a function of corporate culture and attitude.