Survive the Horrors to Find More Effective Project Management

by Lucido Group

Navigating the landscape of Treasury and Risk Management System (TRMS) projects can often resemble a journey through a nightmarish realm, where the specters of bad project management haunt every corner. In this white paper, we delve into the horrors of ineffective project management, highlighting red flags, and offering practical solutions to exorcise these demons and steer towards project success.

Night of the Living Dead

TRMS play an integral role in financial institutions and corporates across every sector. It has been this way for decades, and the underlying technologies have not changed. So why are implementations and upgrades so fraught? Why do clients compare managing these projects unfavorably with getting shipping containers unstuck from canals? The problem was neatly summed up by Justice Potter Stewart when speaking about another type of obscenity. An effective Project Manager (PM) is so hard to find that most people cannot adequately describe what they do well; they just know it when they see it.

Over our collective experience in the industry, we have engaged in numerous projects with diverse PMs and methodologies. In this paper, we cover prevalent red flags observed in TRMS and banking system projects, and propose actionable safeguards to mitigate the risks of ineffective project management.

The Silence of the Lambs

There is often debate around whether a PM needs a deep understanding of the system, or the client’s business, to excel in their role. While not deemed essential, it can clearly be beneficial. At the very least, the PM must demonstrate an interest and willingness to learn. For instance, we encountered a project where the PM’s lack of engagement made it impossible for them to effectively monitor progress. They struggled to comprehend the information communicated to them, resorting to marking tasks as complete based solely on elapsed time. This led to inaccuracies, with some some deliverables reported as finished when they had barely begun. Unsurprisingly, that project needed to be rebooted with a new PM at the helm. Timely performance tracking and monitoring are imperative for PMs, as failure to address setbacks promptly can result in project failure.

When establishing project governance controls, ensure mechanisms are in place to validate the accuracy of PM-provided metrics.

What We Do in the Shadows

In a notable instance, we were involved in a sizable project with a publicly announced go-live date. The PM became fixated on hitting this deadline at all costs. At the end of each status update meeting, more effort was dedicated to adjusting dependencies and shortening future task estimates to preserve the go-live date, than was spent gathering the updates. Predictably, this approach led to project failure—failure on a scale akin to making headlines in the Financial Times. While every project necessitates a trade-off between time, budget, and quality, imposing a fixed go-live date severely constrains the PM’s options. Making compromises is inevitable, but the priority should lie in adjusting project scope and managing risks when timelines are inflexible. It is crucial to maintain a comprehensive risk register and clearly outline mitigation strategies for each risk.

When risks materialize, transparently communicate agreed-upon plans to stakeholders and execute them diligently.

Don’t Look Now

Another issue arises from disregarding the expertise present within the project team. Initially, every organization embarking on a system implementation aims to adhere to “best practices” and say they will adjust business processes to align with the new system’s core functions. However, as the project advances, the extensive flexibility and configurability of these systems often lead to the implementation of customizations to accommodate the most resistant users. Such deviations typically result from inadequate change management practices, or a failure to comprehensively document business requirements and design from the outset. Consequently, the project scope begins to creep, accountability diminishes, and timelines inevitably shift. While stakeholders may hesitate to raise change requests, these mechanisms are essential safeguards for all parties involved and the project’s overall success.

Establish robust documentation and change management procedures before initiating the project.


A PM’s leadership and management style can profoundly impact project success. While some projects may appear successful when managed with strict authority, we have witnessed instances of outright bullying behavior that left team members with scars despite the project meeting time and budget constraints. Conversely, adopting a hands-off approach risks losing control, leading to project chaos. Effective PMs strike a balance by defining clear roles and responsibilities; making decisive decisions without micromanaging. Equally, team members must respect the PM’s authority, treating them as their de facto line manager for the period of the project. This balance between accountability and role clarity fosters a more positive outcome.

Ignore soft skills at your peril. Establish clear roles and responsibilities, and empower team members to make their own decisions.

Let the Right One In

It is understandable if, after reading this, you are inclined to believe that every TRMS project is destined for failure, regardless of the PM’s proficiency. Scope creep, inadequate risk management, communication breakdowns, and a lack of accountability are unfortunately all too common; however, effective project management can make a difference.

  • Implementing governance mechanisms like steering committees, project charters, and regular progress reviews can help enforce accountability, oversight, and alignment with organizational goals.
  • Embracing agile project management methodologies, which prioritize iterative development, adaptive planning, and continuous stakeholder engagement, can foster flexibility, responsiveness, and value delivery.
  • Project management tools and technologies such as Jira can streamline communication, enhance visibility, and facilitate informed decision-making.
  • Finally, fostering a culture of continuous improvement through post-implementation reviews, lessons learned sessions, and knowledge-sharing forums is essential for identifying areas of enhancement and optimizing project outcomes over time.

The Invitation

That said, the persistence of underlying issues in these systems, rooted in legacy technologies, remains a significant challenge. Built primarily in the 80s and 90s, these TRMS (and C/ETRMs, for that matter) have retained their core code despite years of technological evolution. A cottage industry of service providers has emerged to extend and customize these products, while the core remains ensnared in a tangle of legacy code, feared for its potential to disrupt functionality if altered.

It is no surprise that even minor upgrades can span years.

This predicament underscores the necessity for our industry to transition towards a multi-tenant SaaS platform, leveraging microservices, where upgrades will be akin to the seamless rollout of smartphone apps. Until then, if you require assistance in navigating these challenges, please do not hesitate to reach out.