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Contributed Articles for June 2011
Multi-country Project Rollout Challenges
by Vijay R Kulkarni, PMP
Multi-country Software Project Rollout Challenges

Each project, by nature, is challenging. However, when you come across of multi country rollout of a software project/ program, following aspects need due care and attention, right from planning till closure phases, to be on time and on budget:

1.    Appreciate Cultural Differences: With multi country project implementation and rollout, you are bound to have teams from various geographies, cultures and business etiquettes. As a Project Manager, one must appreciate, understand and plan for such differences.

Example: USA or European clients are more open and appreciate if you tell the FACT or TRUTH about project delays, whereas, Japanese client may NOT easily digest ABSOLUTE NO upfront. It may be treated as RUDE behavior.

2.    Plan Sufficient Time for Requirement Gathering and Confirmations: With requirement gathering spanning across multiple languages business users, the time spent by project team in collecting, collating and confirming the requirements can increase multi-fold. If sufficient buffer is NOT envisioned by a Project Manager initially, then either complete requirement gathering may NOT happen, OR the client may get frustrated as project team members may rush to conclusions to adhere to schedule

Example: While working on an ERP (SAP) project in China and Japan region, I was responsible for Supply Chain Management (Order Fulfillment) process requirement gathering. We had Sales and Marketing Managers who were able to understand ONLY Japanese while Sales/ Marketing Executives knowing ONLY Chinese language. Thus, for a comparatively straight forward business process of Domestic Vs Export Sales, we had to invest 2 FULL days as against normal 0.5 days, if all the participants were able to communicate in ONE Language – English. This led us, to work on 3 consecutive weekends to meet the schedule.

3.    Give Adequate Importance to End User Training Manual Creation: Project documentation and that too end user training manual, is generally given last priority in many project environments, however, in multi country implementation and rollout projects, this activity MUST be accorded with HIGH priority WBS item. Business scenario wise documentation preparation in ENGLISH and then converting the same into appropriate business user languages, as well as getting feedback from users and making appropriate changes MUST be on-going activity right from Implementation and Testing phases of a software project.

4.    Focus on Change Management right from Beginning of Project: By nature, human beings have resistance for a change, be it professional or personal. With cultural diversity, language communication issues and complete change to Best in Class ERP suite like SAP, users may get feeling of losing their importance and flexibility. If this “feeling” is NOT properly addresses through Group Communication mailers or Business Unit wise meetings, users may simply REFUSE the system which may turn into project failure

Let’s understand about Data migration, go-live and post go-live support phases challenges in our subsequent threads.

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