Project management process challenges: Lessons from SBI, M&M, & NCDEX

Project management process is usually riddled with challenges. Use these insights from India’s largest enterprises to effectively manage your projects.

The CIO’s immediate responsibility is to meet the organization’s expectations, and this can best be done by judiciously employing the facilities that IT offers. Big business houses often face a tough task whenever they seek to implement a plan. The magnitude of such a challenge is reflected in the fact that bigger houses and institutions face similar challenges in the project management process.

These challenges range from cultural i.e. change management to process to technology- related. A case in point is the country’s largest bank, State Bank of India that has a vast network of about 1,600 branches and 25,000 ATMs. Given such a business spread, any enterprise that involves project management process is a complex one to manage.

To effectively overcome these challenges and meet the business objectives, during its core banking project implementation for project management process, SBI followed a 3C philosophy. S.K. Magoo, GM, Core Banking, State Bank of India recalls, “As the first step, we defined the project objectives clearly. We ensured that the project assured the user Comfort, Convenience, and reduced Cost of transaction processing.” As a result, the management regularly reviewed the entire project process to ensure that these objectives were met with.”

Every project has its own management and process-related challenges. The following are some of the project management process challenges faced by CIOs and how the decision makers overcame them.

A complex project

In 2008, when ERP harmonization project Harmony was conceptualized by Mahindra Group, the top challenges faced by the core IT team included the complexity and the magnitude of the project (the group had over a hundred companies running different ERP applications) and the economic downturn.

Under this project, the organization also created a common IT infrastructure across the group. K.V. Krishnamurthy, Head of IT corporate center at M&M says, “The project management process started with establishment of the President’s Council which governed the project management process and ensured that the project had flexibility and scalability throughout the implementation life cycle.

Post Harmony, the Group’s SAP ERP platform today has close to 14,000 users from 100 cities on a single consolidated instance with 40-plus harmonized processes. The initial planning, policies, and appropriate job allocation made sure that project management process delivered results despite tough economic landscape.

A massive venture

Back in mid-2000, SBI undertook a massive project that was soon to be reckoned as the world’s largest core banking implementation. To be completed in a span of five years, the project management process included migrating approximately 1.4 crore customer accounts held at the bank’s 14,600 branches and its affiliate banks to the core banking platform.

The project also included consolidating the bank’s 40 terabytes of distributed database to a centralized database and automating all processes. SBI’s SK Magoo says, “The project was riddled with several challenges and the work required a lot of patience and persuasion on the part of the project management team. One of the things that helped it in this endeavor was the organization’s ongoing e-learning initiative that helped the employees to adjust to the change process quickly.”

Uptime and impact

When the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) decided to shift its datacenter from one location in Mumbai to another, its IT leadership knew how complex a live datacenter migration project can be. The task just got tougher as the team had to deal with a large multi-provider network that connected the datacenter to its users. The shift was difficult as it had to be accomplished within 24 hours. Being in the financial sector, network downtime was impermissible for NCDEX.

With over 400 servers and 200 network links, there was a major risk involved in moving of the physical storage. Backup restoration was time consuming too. With so much riding on the team’s performance, Nirmalendu Jajodia, Chief of Technology and Operations at NCDEX opted for a phase-wise implementation. “The initial scenario planning was done upfront and was incorporated during the process,” he says. “They also had help from a senior business- level guiding committee to steer the project in the right direction.”

A centralized approach

These were other important challenges faced by SBI during the process of implementation and management of its core banking project. This included complying with the laws with respect to human resource management processes, transaction handling policies, etc.

The bank met these challenges by moving to centralized architecture by consolidating databases and standardizing processes for effective management controls, security, and compliance. These objectives were factored in throughout the project management process.

Global operations

For large corporations with global business operations, managing the expectations and needs of employees across various geographies is an important project implementation process challenge, says K.V. Krishnamurthy. Mahindras have invested in document and work flow management solution to ensure coordination and collaboration amongst the employees and partners from diverse time zones and cultures.

On a lighter note, Jajodia of NCDEX suggests that the IT office could use multiple wall clocks that show the current time at different markets that the company operates in. If accompanied with holiday calendars and weather charts across those geographies, such array on the wall can help the CIO to streamline his project management process better.


 (This feature is based on a panel discussion organized at an industry event in Mumbai in September 2011)

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