Effective communication at all levels was key to the success of a £60m programme to replace core systems at Britannia Building Society.
Speaking at the Tif conference, Britannia programme manager Mark Gater said the system, which was completed on time and budget at the end of 2003, promises to deliver benefits worth £120m.
"Our golden rule was that you could say anything you want to anybody as long as you believed it was in the best interests of the programme and you treated people with respect," Gater said.
He urged staff to be blunt about the state of the project "however horrible to everybody affected".
Gater described how he had to tell the board that one part of the programme would cost £7m more than planned. His candour paid off. "The feedback was that this resulted in the board being more confident in the programme, not less," he said.
Communication across the business was particularly crucial around what Gater called Britannia's "double big bang", when back- and front-office systems as well as the CRM migration all went live over one weekend.
Practical measures to encourage effective communications included the programme leader having one-to-one meetings with all 200 people on the project. In addition, Britannia held monthly team meetings attended by about 90% of those on the project.
Both the management team and the wider programme teams agreed a code of conduct and metrics to measure their performance.