Legacy ERP systems consolidation and modernization efforts can often reveal a great deal about the ways and means of program management excellence.
Take Royal Vopak — the world’s leading provider of tank storage systems. The company embarked on a program to modernize its global finance systems to significantly strengthen how it generates business value and insights, and exert stricter operational controls. Vopak was also looking to optimize the cost of business finance and move toward a global shared services center. To move forward, the company made a strategic decision to hire us to implement an Oracle Cloud single finance and procurement ERP environment.
Just as we were getting into the most critical phase of the project — with imminent go-lives in the Netherlands and Belgium (and post user acceptance testing in Australia and system integration testing in Singapore) — the COVID-19 pandemic struck, causing sudden unforeseen disruption.
The global lockdowns that ensued tested our ability to effectively deliver projects and programs worldwide, particularly those for which seamless global mobility sat at the very heart of delivery strategy. Some projects and programs adapted quickly and effectively — by switching to remote working — while others were substantially delayed or cancelled.
The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of global programs and surfaced multidimensional questions:
The rapid and large-scale ban on travel caused significant disruption to ongoing projects that relied heavily on global mobility. This requirement demanded immediate changes to how the program was set up. The need to reset processes to govern delivery for projects especially in regional centers in Asia required significant changes to ways of working to remain effective. A shift in the level of collaboration and governance was needed.
We quickly transitioned to Google Hangouts, operated by experts in process towers. Moreover, we measured goals with “beginning of play/end of play” scheduled daily reviews for tracking. These daily reviews ensured seamless transition of critical tasks from one geography to another across different time zones.
Establishing governance with clear realigned roles and responsibilities was core to our response plan. Given the dispersed nature of our teams (including client personnel), reassignment of roles was needed to address time-zone differences. We effectively leveraged a network of change agents — handpicked ambassadors from the business who advocate, propagate and help in assimilation of change — to communicate updates/actions and maintain team morale. We also digitized all vital materials e.g., training, testing, etc.) to support a more remote approach, and capability centers (global and/or regional) were established and operated by experts, mirroring local time zones. An open feedback loop for corrections and remediation ensured that corrective actions were quickly identified and actioned.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the susceptibility of our global program management to unforeseen Black Swan events. Although each organization may adapt differently, actions can be taken to enable effective project delivery. Our efforts reveal the following best practices:
If and when something resembling business normalcy returns, it’s likely that our ways of working will be changed forever — as will the way that projects are delivered. This means that the role of program leader will similarly need to adapt to this new way of working.
This article was written by Marc Veul, global program manager for Royal Vopak’s MOVES transformation program and Sachin Jain, Cognizant global program manager responsible for the delivery of the finance transformation under MOVES program.