Management Information System implementation for a logistics company
The world’s leading postal and logistics company wanted to improve their decision-making by providing complete, correct, and timely support information. Their chosen solution was to develop an Executive Information System (EIS) by developing their first data warehouse in the Asia pacific region. The project had been ongoing for three years without measurable progress. Many versions of the requirements had been developed based on the input across the region. However, no major agreement could be reached nor a clear project schedule defined. The senior executives were aware the importance of having accurate and complete information to support organisational decision-making and therefore I was assigned to rectify the situation and bring the project back on track.
To develop our Executive Information System (EIS), we needed to overcome many challenges:
- Each country had their local conditions and varied priorities . For example, some wanted to improve their operational efficiency first whilst others wanted to focus on customer retention. A lot of unnecessary time was spent on these arguments, instead of working as a team to move forward.
- There was inconsistent data definition due to the way data was interpreted and used in each business unit. view There was no organisational. Different business units had their own view on the data. The meaning of the data and subsequently the reports were unclear and this led to poor project momentum.
- It was wrongly assumed that the executive decision-making process could be clearly defined and unified across the region. Much time was wasted on trying to hit moving targets. Before one could agree on what to build, the business needs had moved on and we were going around in circles.
I had to re-establish the project priorities with the key stakeholders. It was agreed the top priority was the retention of existing customers. Once this was agreed I was able to realign the project deliverables with our top priority. In order to form a firm foundation for the system/project development and gain key project stakeholders buy-in a data dictionary was built to clearly define data source, ownership, update mechanisms, etc.
The key remaining issue was being able to rollout the project fast and efficiently, so that it wouldn’t change again before it was finished. A progressive deployment approach was most appropriate for the situation. Thus, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur were selected as pilot sites due to volume and complexity concerns.
A prototype was quickly developed to work with the stakeholders of the pilot sites. When they saw the preliminary results of their own operational data for the first time they were impressed. This led to many constructive suggestions with regard to the data warehouse and the roll out. This was iterative in nature and I guess nowadays this approach would be called ‘agile’.
The pilot was delivered in one year. The rest of the deployments were successful and mostly completed in the next two years. As expected, more improvements were made along with each deployment.
This was clearly a complex project. Nevertheless, what held us back was not exactly the technical problems, it was how we reconciled the different views and priorities of the various stakeholders to move forward. This reinforces my view that the key qualities for a project manager are both leadership and communication.
There is no doubt that regional projects have a challenge of their own. It is due to the conflicting priorities of an HQ with, not only, its regional offices in total, but with each of its regional offices, in particular. With such a geographical spread, even in this digital world, leadership and communication are essential.