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Table of Contents

NON-STANDARDISATION OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROCESSES: A CASE STUDY OF ERICSSON SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA - Part 3

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1.2 BACKGROUND OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM

Ericsson has a large footprint in Africa and must be careful not to have disjointed processes and procedures. Having such processes and procedures can cause disparity among employees and customers in multiple countries; they can perceive the project organisation as disorganised and unprofessional. Musch (2005:36) employed by Equant in Wellington, New Zealand, faced a similar challenge and found that with standardisation and consolidation, their Project Office was able to be more efficient in successful delivery of projects: “We also realised that we needed to globalise our approach and consolidate resources to ensure the maximum optimisation of time and effort, because our processes varied from country to country and region to region. Consolidated efforts would allow us to deliver to industry standards and our customer’s expectations. The Project Management Centre of Excellence gave us the mechanism to formalise the manner and processes necessary to conduct projects consistently around the globe using the repeatable and reusable concept”. It is vital for customers and employees to be confident and know for certain that the ways of work processes and procedures are similar across sub-Saharan Africa, so as to build trust and be efficient. While the basic requirements in terms of Project Management processes and procedures stay the same, the mentioned processes have to be adapted to accommodate each country’s cultural diversity, demographics, maturity and politics. Jones (2008:100-102) discusses in more detailed way some of the challenges faced in Africa, such as language, interpretation of intentions by understanding local laws in emerging markets. Citing Ms Roberts (in Jedd 2007:66) from an interview, “… it is better to seek to understand before being understood”. This philosophy will go a long way during process analysis and application. Employees change assignments continuously and move from one country to another relevant to expertise required for those particular customer’s needs. It is for this reason that the need exists to simplify and standardise Project Management processes and procedures, while minimising the risk of jeopardising the project outcome due to misinterpretation. This will ensure a smooth transition for any employee, minimising the impact of country-specific requirements, yet contributing positively to the overall success and efficiency of project execution. Having the same ways of working across Africa means that time, which is a precious commodity, can be spent on essential and sustainable revenue-generating activities.

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1.2.1 Research problem statement

Based on the above described background, the research problem statement, which pertains to this dissertation, reads as follows:

‘Non-standardisation of Project Management processes influencing successful project execution.’

1.3 BACKGROUND OF THE RESEARCH QUESTION

Concept similar to the one cited by Rowland Fisher Lexon Consulting (2003-2006: Online) is used within Ericsson, where the blue print and base requirements of core project management process adherence are made available by the organisation’s head office. It is then up to each market unit to effectively adapt, implement and maintain these processes to best suit the local environment. In an attempt to manage project activities within forty three countries, four Project Offices in sub-Saharan Africa should align themselves. The need arises to investigate the most efficient manner, in which processes within these standalone Project Offices can be standardised, aligned, re-engineered, implemented and audited.

Early in 2006 a central functions team was created on the basis of the market unit’s head office in South Africa to ensure adherence to the blue print core project management processes. The central functions team was responsible for the market unit planning and control functions, which include facilitating multiple workshops with key stakeholders. These locally adapted processes and procedures were then implemented and continuously audited at the regional level, which afterwards have been annually audited by representatives from Ericsson head office in Sweden to ensure compliance with the core requirements. In support of the market unit planning and control function, each of the Project Offices has a representative to assist with analysis, implementation and auditing functions. These representatives are based in Nigerian, South African, Kenyan and Senegalese offices and they report all activities and coordinate their efforts with the lead from the central functions team. According to Walker, D., Walker, T. and Schmitz (2003:20), the importance of having local representation, while maintaining a centralised approach, is vital. Representatives based in each Project Office have integral knowledge of local conditions, which contributes to the overall success of the change program.

The proposed research intends to investigate what appropriate and the most effective steps should be taken by the market unit to achieve the required results of eradicating non-standardisation. By doing so, all current processes and procedures used in each standalone Project Office must be analysed in order to establish if any particular office has ‘best practice’ processes that can be re-used in process re-engineering and standardisation as a whole. Once the analysis is performed, a clear process map can be drawn to indicate what is required to create structured business process re-engineering suitable for the Project Offices in sub-Saharan Africa.

1.3.1 The research question

The primal research question pertaining to this investigation is as follows:

‘What is required to standardise project management processes within disjointed Project Offices in sub-Saharan Africa to optimise project efficiency?’

1.3.2 Primal and Sub-Research questions

The sub-research questions stated below will form investigative themes within the questionnaire to be designed (data capturing instrument). Within each theme a series of investigative questions will be put.

In this dissertation, in support of the primal research question, the following sub-research questions are posed:

  • What are the current processes utilised in each standalone Project Office?
  • Which of these processes can be seen as ‘best practice’?
  • Can gaps be identified and eliminated between the current position and the desired position?
  • Is there buy-in from top management and support from local drivers to influence the process change?

1.4 KEY RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

The key objectives of this research are:

  • To achieve operational excellence within four Project Offices in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • To ensure standardisation of Project Management processes.

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1.5 SUMMARY

This chapter provided an orientation to the research investigation to be carried out within an organisation in the telecommunications industry. The problem statement was provided together with the primal research and sub-research questions to be answered by the investigation, and the objectives to be attained by the study.

The next chapter will cover an appropriate literature review aligned to the primal and sub-research questions. This information will serve as a basis for chapter 3, the research methodology and design to be employed for the data capturing in order to answer the posed research questions. Chapter 4 will comprise the analysis of the captured summated data from the selected research sample. Chapter 5 will provide a summary of the study, the main conclusions that can be drawn, and recommendations for the organisation that serves as case study for this research investigation.

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