By Linky van der Merwe
This is the story from the project manager, Sakhile Malinga, about a national roll-out of a support contract for contact centre technology in a massive tele-communications company. The objective was to build the support function for all the Call Centres. An outcome was the creation of a National Operational Centre (NOC).
The complexity lay in the fact that it was aligned with software renewals. It had to be completed in a limited time-frame with fixed dates, when support had to be taken over by a new company. The project team consisted of a large sub-contractor component who were responsible to provide resources in the Regional centres that were taken over. It was difficult to manage various stakeholders, different entities and people with different agendas.
The company that had to take over the support contract, was a fairly small enterprise, therefore the project was quite transformational for them. At the same time they were trying to achieve operational efficiency for the customer.
Existing technical resources that were assigned to the project, needed to skill up. In addition more skilled resources, responsible for technical infrastructure, had to come on board and all had to work together as one team.
Good Management of Resources, Stakeholders and Time
Project resourcing worked out well, despite the difficulty to secure the right people. The stakeholder management was done professionally, especially with C-level stakeholders.
Although the timeline was fixed and deadlines were tight, the project launched on time. The budget that was quoted in the local currency, had to be fixed to compensate for possible loss due to fluctuations in the exchange rate.
The project also created opportunities for staff to grow. One of the new Call Centre Agents who was trained to become a technical support agent, used to be a cleaner at the company. Obviously she showed potential and was given the opportunity to move into the new role. The company also helped to pay for her children’s school fees and today one of her children is studying for a degree at University.
The project budget was affected by a drastic drop in the value of the local currency. The project manager needed to raise a change request to compensate for that. The financial manager initially declined to consider the adjustment of the budget. Only after escalation to the CEO, was it agreed to the latest exchange rate instead of the original quoted exchange rate which could have resulted in negative cash flows.
The project manager was quite young at the time and had to manage project managers from vendors and coordinate all their efforts. Yet he realised that stakeholder and communications management was vital in making it a successful project. It also had to be done at the right level.
When problems arose, it was his ability to engage at the right level that helped him to resolve those problems. It’s important to understand the power and interest level of respective stakeholders. When it comes to your project, understand what is in it for them and how they would benefit.
When a project budget includes making provision for imports that would be dependent on exchange rates, it’s vital to make provision for possible exchange rate changes as a drop in value of the local currency could lead to a deficit or loss on the project.
This experience taught Sakhile to look at a project in a more objective way, rather than subjective. When a project ends, you still want to be friends and retain good relationships with people.
Project Vision and Leadership
Start with the end in mind. What is the best service that you can provide to the client as the outcome of the project? Focus on achieving this outcome.
Project team members need to buy into the end vision, it’s bigger than them. A project manager needs to provide leadership and create a strong project vision. The project team needs a sense of what the business objective is and drive this benefit. That will keep the team more motivated.
In conclusion, it’s good to remember: “Any-one can sign-up to die for a cause, but they won’t die for a leader”.
About Sakhile Malinga:
He started as a Programmer in Cobol working on Mainframe projects. He also worked as a systems analyst, then moved into project management. He spent 10 years of his career in IT Business enterprises.
Sakhile may be contacted at Sakhile@malinga.co.za.