Sustainable value in the knowledge economy

Whenever Mary Adams comments on Crossderry (thanks, Mary), I always make a point to work through my Google Reader inventory of her posts (here also).  She posted briefly (here) on Jay Deragon’s post (here) and comment thread — including some from McKinsey reps — wondering how valuable McKinsey’s “Premium” offering is.

I dropped the “Premium” subscription myself a few years ago, but I do return to mckinsey.quarterly.com pretty regularly.   However, I’ve seen certain articles that stand out — in the way that McKinsey consulting stands out — by being on point, detailed, yet well-written and digestible (unlike some of the academic work Jay refers to).  I know I’m missing something, but I’m not sure its worth $150/year.

In such cases, it would be nice to have the option to buy a single article (like HBR… hint, hint).  Not sure of the price point, but I could see myself making a $5-$10 “impulse” buy for the right piece.

Culture-Driven Complexity

Peter Thomas’s recent comment (here) and his post on developing an international BI strategy (here), reminded me that I had forgotten to post on some interesting dimensions of project and project complexity.  Or at least they’re interesting to me…

This PDF outlines some of the complexity that culture introduces to managing global projects.   It’s nothing revolutionary, but I’ve always liked two aspects of these slides:

  1. One slide outlines the cultural dilemnas well: “How does an India-based SAP project manager talk to a Manhattan-based marketing analyst?”
  2. Another reminds us that we need to remember that we’re individuals, not stereotypes… and yes, I’m the Paul R. on that slide.

Podcast interview on global and virtual teams

Thanks for Bas de Baar for proposing this chat on global and virtual teams and for the honor of his first audio interview.  The link to Bas’s post is here.

A little background… Bas and I had a great conversation on the topics as a warm-up for the interview.  Unfortunately, as we started to transition to the formal discussion, some Skype gremlins hit.  Fortunately, Bas had forwarded the questions — and I had bothered to prep a bit — so the recording ended up sounding coherent.  I guess that the “6 P’s” and a bit of risk response planning do work!

Of course, the interview was supposed to be 10 minutes and it is just over 20.  Hmmm… I wonder if I was confirming this PM myth.  Maybe you should think of it as a “gold-plating special”,  just perfect for you insomniacs!

Remote Development — Tips for Managing Projects

Bas has an excellent list of tips for managing projects that include remote development teams (here).  The list itself is useful, but I particularly like how he built it.  Bas leveraged the comments from another post (here) to create this meta-tipsheet.  Below are a few of the ideas that we use quite a bit at SAP:

4. If possible, visit your offshore team during the development phase and make an effort to blend in.
5. Identify a leader you are going to be communicating with regularly and make him responsible for all updates and reports so there is no miscommunication.

SAP has an exchange program with our global delivery and global development groups based in remote locations (especially India). Also, we’ve developed a strong, independent PMO in our global delivery organization in SAP Consulting. They’re mature enough to be regular contributors of remote delivery content for our ASAP methodology (overview page here, NOTE: requires registration to service.sap.com).

7. Whichever way you choose for your communication, always support verbal communication with written correspondence.
10. The bigger the better is the rule when getting projects made offshore.

#7 applies to most projects, but never forget it for remote teams.  Tip #10 is very perceptive, as it notes “small projects are usually going to get you distracted workers who will be looking for their next assignment even while they work for you.”  Also, being “stingy” with work by doling it out piecemeal usually only attracts second-tier resources or desperate firms.

Gen-X and the Corporate World

From an interesting post by Tamara Erickson (here); the remarkable section is the comments.  Wow, Tammy’s post generated some serious discontent, albeit few answers.  To that end, I’ve found a couple of approaches that at least promote engagement:

  • Intrapreneurship works wonders for Gen X-ers so inclined. I have several very bright colleagues in my group who just aren’t happy being “grinders”. In other words, they’re keen on creating and innovating a new process, product, etc., but they want to move on to the next “start-up”. Many would leave or become less productive if they didn’t get a chance to cut their teeth anew.
  • Successful corporate X-ers seem to know themselves well.  I’ve used some of the personality inventories — MBTI, True Colors, etc. — to at least start the conversation about to work effectively among diverse colleagues. This approach often unlocks a great strength of the generation — flexibility — which is critical for my group, which works across time zones, cultures, functions, etc.

I have at least sympathy, if not empathy, for Gen-X’s corporate struggles.  By traditional demography, I’m a Boomer (born 1961); however, culturally and psychologically I relate much more to Gen-X.  Which, of course, makes sense considering my cohort was what Douglas Coupland was writing about.  Besides, can someone who was age eight for Woodstock really be much of Boomer?

What doesn’t work is trying to slavishly follow the path of the Boomers. I’ve seen too many 30-40 somethings saying things like “I want to be at position ‘X’ by the time I am age ‘Y’…”  Given the demographic constraints at the top — at least today — this approach has rarely led to satisfying work or life outcomes.

SAP, India, and Innovation — this article understates the impact

It isn’t that this article by Navi Radjou of Forrester is wrong (here), but it misses at least three areas in which SAP leverages India’s talent and mind-set  Sure, what Ranjan and the SAP India team have done (and are doing) is impressive, but the impact of India and a globally adaptive approach are far more widespread:

  • Solution Development: I won’t belabor this, but many key parts of the SAP solution portfolio are developed in India.  The various SAP Labs sites in India moved quickly from coding functions, to designing modules, to delivering entire solutions.
  • Global Services Delivery: Jan Grasshof’s team is much more than a simple “me-too” outsourcing shop.  I was in Bangalore last week and saw the sophistication and speed with which they could bring value to the table.   A great example — coincidentially with Nokia, also in Navi’s article — was when SAP Global Delivery both supply chain expertise and rapid prototyping to accelerate an implementation. 
  • Management Development: My organization’s management program includes one week in Bangalore, a measure of how integrated a global mindset has become in our way of working.  SAP sends executives and managers half-way around the world so they can feel, taste, and touch what this new business world is all about.  We also have exchange programs — even within projects — to ensure better, more consistent communications and understanding among our various teams.

Status of women in China…observations

This is a follow up on a conversation I had with someone about the improving status and respect for women in China.  I made a note to myself to pay more attention while I was here, so here goes…

I’m attending the Asia-Pacific + Japan PMO summit here in Shanghai — BTW, I can get to WP for the moment — and my Chinese counterpart is a woman.  FWIW, a few observations about her and women in the SAP China organization:

  1. She’s the only woman in the room — at least five other countries or market units are represented.
  2. She is the highest-ranking person from APJ attending the meeting (the leader of the China organization introduced the meeting).  Her role is more like mine — a broader span of control than strictly “PMO.”  She owns delivery operations activities as well (e.g., resource management, financial reporting); luckily for her she doesn’t have the . 
  3. The China organization has several other prominent women — on my last visit I met with an equal number of men and women. 

Doesn’t exactly fit the stereotype, eh?

Delivering Global Projects

Craig Borysowich’s post on special considerations for international projects (here) IDs some important factors.   Also, I have to like a guy who went for the Modigliani image (see here).  Here is his list and my comments:

Impact of Distance — The extreme distance between “home base” and the customer site can be extremely costly to the project.  Make sure there is enough money in the budget to cover the level of effort that is required to travel and live in the customer environment (including the costs of whatever trips home are to be provided for the members of the project team).

This point gets glossed over when budgeting, it is critical to have co-location early in the project, but some projects try to economize by cutting out early travel, which compromises team and trust building.  An early investment in co-location will also allow remote collaboration techniques — calls, Webex, videocon, etc. — to be more effective.

Make sure that the number of resources required to do the job has been estimated realistically. With projects that are operating out of home base, it may be possible to conduct a site acceptance test, for example, with two people working for two weeks. If anything unexpected were to occur in this scenario, it would be relatively easy to bring in back up personnel.

Our experience is that many projects try to manage globally-delivered projects with the same amount of project management resources.  This strategy ends up being penny-wise and pound-foolish, often to the extreme.  The cost arbitrage for technical and business resources has trade-offs in efficiency (which Craig notes). Continue reading

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