CHOW #4– What are the risks in a project managed by a first-time Project Manager?

Rahul Shenoy (Rahul) was thrilled to hear the news that he had been promoted as Project Manager in his organization (“vSAPPERS”). His last project assignment was as a Business Analyst in a very successful SAP implementation project for a client in the U.K. In that project, his organization was a sub-contractor of Capgemini. Along with the news of his promotion, Rahul also came to know that his first project as a PM was going to be for a manufacturing organization in Pune planning to use the same SAP modules as he had worked on earlier for the U.K. customer. Rahul’s employer had taken up end-to-end responsibility for the Pune project. The Pune customer, not being very large, had wanted a simple out-of-the-box implementation of select modules of SAP (estimated at 24 person months over six months). As a result, Rahul’s manager Mohan Rao (based in the organization’s Head Office in Bangalore) considered the project simple enough for a first-time project manager like Rahul. Rahul was transferred to the organization’s Pune office which was just being set-up and Rahul had to form his project team selecting from other staff already located in the Pune office. The Pune customer was being serviced by the SAP office in Mumbai and SAP’s Account Manager Milind Rane was a good friend of Mohan Rao, Rahul’s manager in Bangalore. Rahul was looking forward to the kick-off meeting at the customer’s factory in the coming week accompanied by Milind Rane.

Assuming you are an external risk auditor, identify as many risks as possible in the above description. For any three risks, identify mitigation and contingency actions.

Suggested solution:

  1. Risk that Rahul’s project management competency may be inadequate resulting in impact on all project goals – scope, cost, schedule and quality
  2. Risk that Rahul being new to Indian customers may not be able to handle customer interactions, issues and escalations effectively impacting all project goals

Mitigation:

  • Provide training and orientation to Rahul on project management and things to watch out for in this project specifically
  • Assign a mentor (another PM) who has experience dealing with customers in India
  • Rope in Milind Rane for some initial hand-holding

Contingency:

  • Bring in a Senior PM above Rahul at Pune/Blr
  1. Risk that Rahul may not receive adequate guidance and support since his line manager (Mohan Rao) is remote at Bangalore impacting all project goals

Mitigation:

  • Mohan Rao to set aside specific frequency of interaction with Rahul and team (every week) – as a group and one-on-one
  • Mohan Rao to visit Pune at start and for critical reviews
  • Arrange to have Milind Rane to provide ongoing support to Rahul and customer communication
  • Designate a Pune-based Delivery Manager for day-to-day support for Rahul and team

Contingency:

  • Mohan Rao may himself relocate to Pune for the project duration
  • Project itself may relocate to Blr!
  1. Risk that the Pune infrastructure may be inadequate to support the project resulting in impact on all project goals

Mitigation:

  • At start, assess the Pune infrastructure vis-a-vis project requirements
  • Ensure internal / vendor support arrangements are in place
  • Identify infra mentor / guide in Blr
  • Is DRP/BCP working well between Pune and Blr?

Contingency:

  • Leverage resources available at customer site (can be the DRP?)
  • Transfer / relocate work packages to Blr if there is a major issue
  1. Risk that the implementation of the SAP modules may turn out to be not OOTB resulting in impact on scope and hence on cost & schedule

Mitigation:

  • At start, re-validate with the customer that they have reviewed the functionality (conference room pilot) and are ok with OOTB
  • At start, get SAP / Capgemini to validate OOTB (Milind Rane)

Contingency:

  • Provide a time/effort buffer for minor change items that are bound to come up
  • Change control mechanism agreed with SAP and the customer (SAP to arbitrate)
  1. Risk that adequate people resources may not be available for the project in the Pune center

Mitigation:

  • At start, screen candidates in Pune and select (with tight screening criteria for roles – BA? ABAP programmers? Database folks?)
  • Get SAP involved in team selection
  • Re-locate expert resources from Bangalore
  • Identify a panel of experts from SAP/Blr to assist the Pune team
  • Provide training / orientation to the Pune team
  • Plan on shadow resources

Contingency:

  • Monitor team performance and if needed get expert resources transferred from Blr
  • Transfer complex work / entire project to experts in Blr
  • Seek assistance from SAP

Seek relief from customer (schedule)

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