by Waseem Hussain

7 Key Success Factors for Your IT Project in India

Feb 09, 20154 mins
EnterpriseIT SkillsIT Strategy

While outsourcing to India is a good idea, one needs to address the inevitable additional workload with preemptive measures. Here's how better business analysis, narrative use cases and cross-cultural competence that is specific to India can help you succeed.

Managing an IT project in India rarely comes easy. I’ve observed that project teams carry extra workload for micro-management of about 30 minutes each day. This seems to be an understated assumption. Outsourcing managers confirmed to me just recently that working with India in the first year will be pure investment with no cost benefit.

This is not to say that outsourcing to India was wrong! But due diligence usually does not account for the nitty-gritty work that you will face once outsourcing begins.

When I was preparing public talks and cross-cultural training sessions on this subject (drop me a line for handouts) I revisited the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide). It emphasizes that good project management relies on well-defined processes. Without that, good practice will not be repeatable but wasted and lost to oblivion.

Each of the PMBOK’s five process groups and 10 knowledge areas are relevant to making your IT project in India a success, just like PRINCE2, IPMA Competence Baseline or Scrum (see “Why India Loves Scrum“).

In addition to the PMBOK’s contents, there are seven key factors for successful IT projects in India:

1) Contextual Business Analysis India’s proper industrialization started only about 15 years ago. For a national economy to industrialize you need 50 to 75 years. Keep this in mind if you are looking to optimize your processes or drive organizational change by outsourcing to India. That India has less industrial heritage to build upon is not necessarily a shortcoming but can be an opportunity. Its IT sector is capable of delivering what you are seeking. But while you determine business needs and solutions, do not forget to provide contextual information. After all, you will be doing that from a mature economy’s point of view. (Tip: Illustrate and emphasize the “why” at least as much as the “what.”)

2) Explicit Requirements We inevitably communicate between the lines even in technical documents. But we must not rely on the reader to understand our implicit information because he or she may not be able to relate to them based on their every day life. A maturing economy tries to achieve the unknown, the mature one tries to preserve it. (Tip: Let your partner in India tell you what is not 100 percent unambiguous. After reworking, your document will have 1.5 times the volume. More work, but also more clarity.)

3) Narrative Use Cases Take the example of automated teller machines (ATMs). People in mature economies have a process-oriented relationship with ATMs: card -> PIN -> money -> goodbye. But ask people in India’s suburban and rural areas and many will tell you that they imagine a bank employee sitting behind the machine, handing cash over to you. (Tip: Narrate the user’s environment, motives and expectations vividly.)

4) Inclusive Documentation For the same reasons as in points one to three, your documentation will have 1.5 times its regular volume after review by a dark horse. (Tip: Whenever you catch yourself thinking “Well, that should be clear anyway”, check for comprehension.)

5) Express Expectations 

Do you use the subjunctive form to show you are respectful? Does your seemingly polite “could,” “should” or “would” not deliver desired results? That’s because you are inquiring for possibilities only. Interestingly, your team in India appreciates being told what you expect from them. (Tip: Say “our expectation towards you is …” As long as your tone is humanly kind you can expect good results and a happy team.)

6) Stringent Roles and Responsibilities Generally speaking, India still is a society that adheres to seniority, authority and hierarchy. Teams avoid trespassing organizational boundaries, showing respect for the other’s area of influence, expertise or designation. (Tip: In your Human Resources Management and Communications Management plan, demarcate roles and responsibilities more stringently. Interestingly, you may even hear a sigh of relief from teams in the west.)

7) Cross-Cultural Competence Knowing India’s mythology, culture and values and how these can be beneficially leveraged in modern business life is an indispensable skill. (See “Why Your Team in India Won’t Say ‘No’.”) There is empiric evidence that inter-culturally trained project managers and teams significantly contribute to project success. (Tip: Get yourself, as well as client and vendor teams, properly trained to work cross-culturally with particular focus on India.)