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The Cooper review survival guide

Columnist
— 1 minute read
The motto 'be prepared' has informed the actions of the Boy Scout movement since it was coined by Robert Baden-Powell in 1907. Sequential's Adrian Johnstone thinks this is good advice for industry executives as the Cooper review unfolds.
Ther
e are a plethora of initiatives underway, all aiming to stabilise the retirement savings industry, restore member and investor confidence and build a roadmap for the future. Of these, the one that looms largest is the Cooper review.

It carries the broadest scope and the greatest potential to shape the direction of the retirement savings landscape for future generations. Policy makers, industry associations and major firms are all trying to anticipate what is likely to change, with current thinking being that recommendations for change will be deep and broad reaching.

In many ways the timing of the Cooper review is ideal. Member and investor engagement is higher than ever. Both sides of politics agree some form of change is required and executives across the value chain are engaged in active debate.

Conversely, however, the ability of the industry to sustain wholesale change may well be at its lowest point in many years. Businesses have shed staff in an attempt to preserve shareholder value, most are operating under severe capital constraints, and the general appetite for additional compliance workload is minimal at best.

What we know for sure is that change is coming and inaction is not a viable proposition.

If history has taught us anything, it is that periods of prolonged change, such as we are facing with the Cooper review, increase uncertainty. Executives should look to harness the current high level of member and investor engagement to establish a constructive dialogue and focus effort on initiatives that build a strong platform for change.   

Understanding the state of current projects and operating processes is an important part of this preparation. Use a structured review process to ensure existing project investment, both physical and financial, is aligned to strategic goals and positioned to realise maximum benefit.

Also contemplate assessing internal delivery capacity and capability.

Many businesses have reduced headcount, yet the pressure to achieve more with fewer resources is high. In addition, access to internal specialist skills and the ability of many organisations to achieve the scale needed to drive significant change are at the lowest level in years.

This may result in a need to engage contract resources at a time when demand and therefore cost is high.

Increasingly the application of specialised project delivery techniques in areas such as risk management, dependency identification, stakeholder communication and benefit realisation are being proven as invaluable to the effective implementation of change.

Executives should assess whether internal delivery frameworks have evolved in line with shifting business demands.

Accommodating rapid change implementation and presenting metrics that measure performance against key schedule, value, expenditure, and benefit indicators for all projects at an enterprise-wide level have become more critical in the current commercial landscape.

They enable more effective prioritisation and increased agility in decision making as businesses strive to forge a competitive advantage.

Greater focus on cost containment has resulted in many organisations turning to the tighter controls afforded by a project structure to increase transparency on spending.

This has highlighted the need to extend beyond the traditional levers of time, cost and scope.

It is an ideal time to update internal frameworks to incorporate more mature measures around key business drivers such as technical complexity, time to market, the level of innovation required, and the level of operational change necessary for successful implementation.

Now is not the time to sit still and wait for change to arrive. Be prepared: prepared to adapt and prepared to act.

Adrian Johnstone, Sequential Project Services managing director 

 

The Cooper review survival guide
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