One of the greatest challenges of any corporate merger is uniting two distinct corporate cultures and adjusting them to adhere to the same corporate policies, code of conduct and operations. When Wachovia merged with First Union National Bank in 2001, the new company of 90,000-plus employees, which included more than 600 project managers, quickly found that it had diverging methodologies for project management. Subsequent mergers, such as those with SouthTrust and Prudential Securities, added to the myriad project management practices within the new company. The integration of information technology systems and corporate culture alignment brought the largest hurdles, with dozens of IT systems needing to be integrated seamlessly in a way that would not disrupt client service. Additionally, as a national financial services institution, Wachovia faced demands to comply with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) regulations. The company knew that establishing a common, consistent project management methodology would help mitigate risk, increase compliance and enable more efficient project execution.
Agreeing to a common project management methodology and core set of tools meant that Wachovia would adhere to its corporate mission, implement a successful merger, and meet other business priorities: maintaining revenue growth, customer loyalty, increasing expense efficiency and upholding a high level of employee engagement and corporate governance. That was the charter the cross-functional team, which included line-of-business leaders, project managers and HR professionals, set out to accomplish in July 2004.
Wachovia learning and development professionals conducted an initial needs assessment to determine the best solution for tackling this project. The company determined that a comprehensive project management training program was critical to streamline differing project ideologies. Establishing a standard project management methodology, corporate job descriptions, career maps and process tools would align and encourage a parallel corporate culture. The operations and technology areas of Wachovia were identified as having the primary business need to start this work, with projects such as IT system conversions and upgrades, support for future IT system implementations and other merger-related activities.
“We understood our challenges, but needed a partner to help us work through them,” explained Jimmy Phillips, senior learning manager with Wachovia. “We weren’t looking to work with a vendor, and we have developed a true partner relationship with ESI, which has served both organizations well.” ESI International worked with Wachovia’s learning professionals to develop a plan to overcome the cultural and learning challenges, customizing training to help institutionalize a consistent project management methodology.
Initially, Wachovia enrolled project managers in the basic project management training course to establish baseline knowledge and common language. Over the next three years, the course selection was expanded to include training for employees at all levels, including vice presidents, directors and managers, who oversee large project initiatives. Courses made available to Wachovia’s employees include financial management, requirements management, business analysis, leadership and communications, quality control, data recovery, data modeling, rapid assessment and recovery of troubled projects, and scheduling and cost control. The program for 2006 will include more than 25 courses.
“Results to date have been encouraging,” said Mark Greenhalgh, learning strategist with Wachovia. Observations indicate behavior changes on the job have begun to occur. Employees are beginning to express that the training is helping in their day-to-day work and their professional development. “In addition, the post-course surveys indicate participants gave ESI International instructors a 9.5 average satisfaction rating,” Greenhalgh said.
Hard-dollar savings also have been documented. Wachovia saved more than $200,000 in the first three years of the ESI relationship by streamlining the number of contractors and vendors used to provide the training. Those savings have grown to nearly $350,000 year to date. In 2006, Wachovia will begin to measure job application of the training and identify process improvements that have resulted. The intent is for the data to show enough of a business case to merit deploying the project management training program company-wide.
Janet Thompson is vice president and a senior learning manager for operating services at Wachovia National Bank. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.