How To Manage a Video On Demand Deployment In Africa (In Just...

How To Manage a Video On Demand Deployment In Africa (In Just 60 Days)


Pulling together a multi-player project within tight timelines is challenging enough, but doing it across borders could prove truly daunting. Under these circumstances, flawless project execution depends on strong leadership and military precision in operations.

Because our own projects involve end-to-end solutions, no component of the overall project can be left isolated in a silo. There has to be complete transparency across all divisions, and every team must be accountable for meeting expectations.

Having successfully implemented a number of projects within tight timelines into Africa, we’ve learned several key lessons about effective project management across the continent:

Communication should not be taken for granted

Communications technologies such as video conferencing can perform erratically, call quality can be poor, and scheduled video conferences can be delayed repeatedly before all are present and connected. This can seriously delay planning and approvals processes.

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In addition, many stakeholders across Africa are not first language English speakers. The language barrier can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication. It is important to follow any meetings or calls with contact reports to summarise and clarify what was discussed.

Keeping it collaborative

When multiple moving parts are involved, there has to be a central point of management and communication. This means a strong, hands-on leader and centralised project management tools.

In our case, we have found productivity software to be a lifesaver. It allows all stakeholders – including clients – to log in and view progress and delays, and to communicate with each-other using instant messaging.

Using carrots and sticks

In most projects, there are areas that depend on client action in order for the whole project to progress. Getting a client to take the necessary action within the required time frame can be challenging.

We have found a ‘carrot and stick’ approach is effective: Having diplomatically encouraged the client to take the required action, we then indicate the expected delays in delivery as a result of non-action. Often, clients are not aware of the overall impact of delays from their side.

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Daily touchpoints are critical

Once a week meetings are not enough. To successfully implement a complex project within a demanding timeline, meetings should be held daily, where every department is held accountable for meeting expectations.

Everything should be documented down to the smallest detail, since a small delay in one area could impact the overall project.

Pan-African projects are different

Just because you have successfully implemented similar projects in South Africa, don’t assume you can replicate and roll out in the same way across the border.

Pan-Africa has unique infrastructural and business challenges, and you should expect the unexpected. Forex challenges can impact your turnaround on invoicing; border delays can seriously affect project timelines, and local legislation could affect implementations.

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Be flexible

By managing every aspect of the project daily, building flexibility and possible delays into the project plan, and learning from each unexpected challenge, you can position yourself to reset your expectations on the fly and overcome new hurdles, and still meet client expectations on deadline.

Leigh Watson
Leigh Watson is the Executive Head: Project Management Office, Discover Digital. Leigh started her career in Advertising in Johannesburg after completing her Humanities Degree in 1999 with a specialisation in Organisational Psychology. With a keen interest in efficient, fast paced organisational processes and production deadline management, she moved to London to direct a large team in the Corporate Publishing Industry, working at a Conde Nast WPP owned Company, with a focus on high volume FMCG Accounts producing monthly and quarterly magazines.