For most of its 40-plus-year presence in the financial services industry, H&R Block had provided only one service: tax preparation. The introduction of its "Financial Centers" expanded the company's offerings - complementing its standard tax services with retail mortgage and investment products - delivering all three services to its clients from single offices.
H&R Block had very few employees knowledgeable and comfortable with developing new business lines. The organization possessed no formal project management methodologies for complex, cross-functional initiatives. The launch involved the acquisition and integration of additional firms, with corporate cultures and priorities divergent from those of H&R Block.
Planning for each tax season had generally followed an established approach. The Financial Center launch, however, necessitated many nonstandard activities, specifically in the areas of office build out, human resources, associate training, technology, marketing and client service. Internal acceptance and regulatory decisions made outside of the company further complicated the substantial rollout demands.
New to the organization, Yvette quickly oriented herself to the traditional tax season planning critical path, and integrated the tasks incremental with the Financial Center launch into the regular planning process. Approximately 300 associates were involved in the project, and were required to execute tasks beyond those in their traditional area of responsibility. Yvette identified, prioritized, assigned, and tracked progress of tasks; regularly measured and reported progress to all participants and stakeholders; created visibility of issues and ensured their timely resolution.
Additionally, Yvette's in-depth understanding of overall priorities and detailed tactics allowed her to personally represent the general manager's interests in field offices and with third-party vendors.
Despite a late start to an aggressive schedule, Yvette achieved a fast project start-up and an efficient overall coordination effort. About 180 Financial Centers opened nationwide in time for tax season.
Yvette had created a range of structured processes, a variety of user-friendly management tools, and instilled communication practices to successfully coordinate tasks between the central headquarters and the field offices. The project management principles and framework instituted by Yvette remained in place to guide subsequent H&R Block corporate initiatives.