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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Linnebjerg

How to execute 15.000 project tasks in 60+ countries and know if you are actually on track ...

If you have never tried to manage a global development and roll out program before, the mere thought of managing the development and implementation of completely new country- and group websites for a global enterprise would seem very scary.

Actually it is not as difficult as it sounds, and planning to "eat the cow in slices" is going to help you aim for success.

The following advice is based on my experience from a position as program manager at a global industrial manufacturing company, developing and implementing a completely new front end web solution for all countries and the global dot-com websites - in total more than 50 mio webpages.

So how do you attack this kind of animal? - Reading and learning about program management taught me a lot of concepts, but applying these to practical situations was always very demanding and eventually only a smaller percentage of the actual framework were useful as effective planning and control functions, so basing the approach on such a framework is probably going to be a steep learning exercise or an administrative nightmare - or both.

If you do most of what is described below, you will be able to stay on top of the situation and secure progress, transparency and alignment across large volume, task-intensive programs:

Document roles and responsibilities. Draw the program organizational diagrams.

Typically a large program consists of several organizational units:

- Owner/Sponsor team: the board of the initiative typically senior management.

- Receiving organization: often the end-user organization of a program initiative.

- Internal development organization: typically the company's own is organization.

- External development organization: matching expert supplier to provide technology.

- Internal implementation organization: the team responsible for rolling out the solution

- External implementation organization: country team supporting localization

- Program core team: the program and project managers and PMO team

Design and break down a cook-book for the roll out activities. A cook-book is really like a recipe: the ingredients and the sequence of completing the objective - in this case also broken down into a number of phases that each represent a number of activities and timeboxed to 1 calendar month to make it easy to follow up and close phases at month end across all implementations.

Create a high-level timeplan consisting of the target countries or target recipient groups paired with the cook-book phases. in this way you will have a great overview of the total roll out and an easy way to communicate and align with stakeholders across the program. The best tool for creating this kind of plans is Microsoft Project - it has all that is needed for scheduling and updating complex timeplans.

Select a Kanban based agile tool for task planning and execution of the cook-book tasks - JIRA or Microsoft Azure Devops are great for this purpose, but there are also a lot of other tools out there for this purpose. If you are in a large enterprise though, typically Research and Development or Software Development departments have the tools running already and can support in on-boarding of the team. Build a template in the tool based on the cook-book and assign the tasks to monthly sprints/timeboxes as well as to the teams/individuals who need to execute the tasks.

Align and get buy In of the local assignments with managers across the involved organizations/countries, as the implementation will put workload on the assignees. Assign coordinator roles to countries grouped by language, timezone, management cluster or other relevant dimensions. The coordinators will be responsible for a number of roll out projects/cook-books along with the target organizations.

Once the solution that needs to be rolled out is ready, start scheduling kick off meetings with coordinators and leads from receiving organizations. In the kick off the approach the tools and the high level plan is shared. The prepared country plans are initiated in the Kanban tool and the first sprints are started. Assignees will receive emails regarding the agreed assignments and are ready to start contributing.

Roll out Project Manager scheduled core team standups with all coordinators twice a week and roll out coordinators schedule standups with country leads twice a week. In these meetings status and progress is discussed and risk and issues are registered for follow up. Any necessary training of participants at receiving organizations/countries is defined and scheduled in cooperation between coordinators and country leads.

Once weekly program core team meets to discuss systemic issues and revise approach and country plans/cook-book and a weekly report is rolled up in the Kanban tool through the built in configurable dashboard functions, to secure transparency and navigation for the team. Progress is tracked as burn down and risks and issues are registered on work items to secure overview and actionable intelligence.

After a few weeks the teams are familiar with the approach and start to settle into the new way of working. This phase is a steady implementation state, where focus is on securing weekly progress and sign off of milestones, monthly progress and closure of sprints and quarterly reviews and revisions of approach.

If the cook-book is designed well, it also contains the steps to close down and sign off at the end of the implementation and hypercare periods. And disengaging including service transition passes smoothly.

The success of such an approach is the meticulous definition of the cook-book, the availability and proficiency in tool, a well structured program team and a well prepared and executed on-boarding of the extended team. And of course the quality of the solution is an important aspect of the impact of the roll out on the target organization. In this program solution was being developed at the same time as roll out was being executed, commencing with minimal viable solution and adding new features and functions quarterly and eventually ending up delivering a full scope at the end of the roll out - a complication that is probably the case in a substantial amount of roll out programs.

Key learnings for me as a program manager has been the level of transparency and control achievable with a well broken down and timeboxed approach - an approach that I will surely implement again if I get such an enormous amount of tasks on my plate.

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