The competencies required to successfully migrate service delivery functions of global companies to emerging economies. By Steve Smith and Shane Thatcher
Global companies that leverage technology infrastructures when seeking to achieve profit-driven results for their shareholders are turning to low-cost economies in increasing numbers, to places like India and the Philippines. Facilitating the migration of functions that support service delivery to these countries, including back-office and front-office operations, may include strategic partnerships, outsourcing entire operations or the development of proprietary capacities.
In the global company there will probably be many internal organisations or groups, such as technology, finance, operations and business groups, each with a stake. In addition, horizontal differentiation in each group, premised on geography and specialisation prevalent in global companies, requires additional effort. Further complicating the challenges will be the possibility of the involvement of stakeholders, vendors and others external to the company. When determining the best “project-management solution”, the project manager is probably going to be confronted with the problem of how to transcend internal politics between these groups and develop a strategy most likely to get the job done. Certain skill sets will be required to achieve optimum results.
The question that a company should probably ask is, who can best facilitate the required outcome: a project manager, a leader, or a manager? Or are these one and the same? The answer is that attributes of all the above are required.
With global projects, a plethora of issues must be considered. Traditional paradigms decreed that a project manager with the required technical (project management) competencies was paramount to project success. But this may no longer be all that is required. Hence, the emergence of the multi-disciplinary and multi-skilled global project manager.
The cultural and communications differences alone confronted in global projects require skills that may not be required in local projects. The cultural differences between companies and divisions in a company can further complicate matters. The ability to communicate and to use effective mediums warrants careful consideration.
A capacity and willingness to be flexible and accommodate meetings and communications in and between time zones is necessary. A project manager must be able to facilitate meetings in the early and late hours, for long durations outside business hours, and potentially with internal and external stakeholders and service providers.
Project managers are expected to be general managers and leaders: motivating, inspiring and influencing line and matrix-based participants. The objectives of general managers are often the same as those allocated to the project manager, albeit for a limited or defined period. In this regard, project managers and general managers can be considered leaders. But do traditional project managers or general managers have the leadership competencies required? An effective leader must be able to inspire others, create synergy through engagement and generate production, without coercion.
The competencies required to deliver large-scale global (technology-based) projects are similar to those required in general management and leadership roles. The skills required are well beyond those necessary for local and regional projects or those undertaken within the same time zones and cultural boundaries. The challenge for companies is how to develop the required competencies while managing large-scale global projects and retaining talent. The successful delivery of a large-scale global project, while meeting stakeholder expectations, implies that project management, in a technical sense, includes attributes more commonly associated with general management and leadership.
How not to
How not to bring things to a head
The prize for maximising efficiency goes to the British drinks giant Diageo. It is working on plans to cut the time needed to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. In a bid to revive declining sales, the makers of Ireland’s national tipple are testing a new pouring system which they say will slash the waiting time on a pint to 15-25 seconds from two minutes.
The new technique uses ultrasound to release bubbles in the stout to form the characteristic white head instantly, all but eliminating waiting time. News of the move came after Diageo’s half-year results showed a 1% dip in overall Guinness volume, with a 4% fall in the Irish republic.
“A two-minute pour is not relevant to our customers today,” the company’s chief executive, Paul Walsh, said. But Ireland’s Guinness drinkers are expected to be less than impressed and, like the banks, Diageo might well discover that nothing alienates customers more than cost-cuts and efficiency drives. For more than two centuries since Arthur Guinness founded his brewery at Dublin’s St James Gate drinkers have been accustomed to waiting for their stout.
How not to pay too much inheritance tax
Runners up for the most outlandish R&D were Joel Slemrod of the University of Michigan Business School and Wojciech Kopczuk of the University of British Columbia. In their paper, “Dying to save taxes: Evidence from estate tax returns on death elasticity” (National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. W8158, March, 2001 ), they found that people find a way of postponing their death if doing so will qualify them for a lower rate on the inheritance tax.
“Although we cannot rule out that what we have uncovered is ex-post doctoring of the reported date of death, the fact that we find that postponement, rather than acceleration, of death is more likely to occur suggests that this phenomenon is at last partly a real (albeit timing) response to taxation,” the authors say.
How not to disturb a murderer’s sleep
The customer satisfaction award goes to Mission Medium Security Institution in British Columbia. One of its inmates, a convicted murderer, claims he was deprived of sleep because noisy guards woke him hundreds of times during the “graveyard hour”. He is suing the Canadian Government for $C3.1 million ($A3.7 million).
David Wild contends that he has suffered emotional distress, dizziness and neurological damage while imprisoned at Mission Medium Security Institution in British Columbia, where, he says, the prison’s “inhumane” head-count policy has caused him to lose a full night’s sleep 509 times over five years.
Wild alleges that he was awakened 312 times between 3:30am and 5:30am, when he was in the midst of his deepest REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. In a statement of claim in the Federal Court of Canada, Wild says that prison guards acted “thoughtlessly and carelessly” by rattling door knobs, stomping down stairs, turning on lights and talking loudly.
The Slithershanks* File
Slithershanks did not like the idea of death. The hours are too long and the health cover is terrible. Plus promotion opportunities are strictly limited. Nevertheless, he had to admit that it is the ultimate limitation to scenario planning and, as a solution, he decided to introduce himself to “boundaryless” behavior. This is not a description of the English cricket team, it is former GE boss Jack Welch’s method of managing people, described in his book, Jack:
“We began grading managers on their degree of boundaryless behavior. Every manager in the company was rated high, medium or low based on their peers evaluations and later the views of their superiors. An empty circle next to the person’s name meant they had to change fast or leave.”
Now that Jack has been mentioned as having had an intimate connection with a certain former Harvard Business Review editor and he is involved in divorce proceedings it seems he has discovered some boundaryless behavior in other spheres after his retirement.