From Chaos to Success: An Experience of a Lifetime on Citizen Registration Project in                                    P...
intelligent data entry, scanning, image capture, software development, system integration, documentation, masstraining, pr...
agreement was reached to use existing operational processes, responsibility metrics were finalized, completesolution inclu...
full advantage of its experience on this project. The project team, which was built and developed on this project,was used...
What went right?In spite of all the chaos, some achievement was made during Stage 2 in the area of infrastructure setup. T...
In addition, 60% of the population lives in rural areas, Out of which 25% lives in the areas with inadequatecommunication ...
Remember, just delivering good work is not enough, the work must be perceived as Good Work by thestakeholders.Managing Sco...
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From chaos to success

  1. 1. From Chaos to Success: An Experience of a Lifetime on Citizen Registration Project in Pakistan. Author: Sheikh Nisar Ahmed, CEO, MSCL BackgroundWith a current population of 180 million, Pakistan has faced many challenges and problems since its birth in1947. One of the key problems has been the influx of refugees and illegal immigrants . Whatever happenedaround it, whether it’s war in Afghanistan, or revolution in Iran, or change of government in Burma, thedisplaced population always found in Pakistan a safe heaven, got themselves registered as locals and acquiredPakistani ID Cards and Passports. Many of them adopted Pakistan as permanent home. This has placed anadditional burden on Pakistan’s already weak economy and has created many social and security problems.Realizing the seriousness of this problem, The Government of Pakistan (GoP) decided to launch a project ofelectronic registration of the whole population of Pakistan.In 1994, the Ministry of Interior (MoI), GoP visualized a project with a mission to eliminate forgery in theissuance of National ID cards (NICs) and passports, and bring illegal immigration under control. The projectwas conceptualized and scoped as the largest IT project to be handled in the history of Pakistan and wasperceived as a great technical and Project Management challenge. Many countries with better economies andenvironments have still not ventured to take up such projects.The project was initially awarded to IBM Pakistan in September 1996. However with the change of governmentthe contract with IBM was terminated in September 1997 and it was decided that MoI should deliver the project.For this purpose the National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) was established with the objectiveof introducing a new, improved and modernized registration system for the entire population. Culminating,among other things, was the issuance of secured National Identity Cards (NICs) to all adult citizens (70 million)backed by the Citizens National Data Warehouse (NDW).Initially NADRA failed and the project turned into chaos. This chaotic phase lasted for more than two years. Atone stage the project was on the verge of collapse. However, NADRA was reorganized at the right time and theright people were assigned right jobs. Dedicated work with commitment was put in to convert this RED projectto GREEN. The project is now out of chaos. The symptoms of success are visible. The project has becomehighly visible both within and outside Pakistan.This paper discusses project scope, goals and objectives. It also analyzes what went Wrong, what wentRight and Project Management principles that were violated. A discussion on Lessons learnt is alsoincluded. Authentic registration of citizens is the need of the time, those interested in implementingsimilar project in public sector can benefit from this paper. Project Goals and ObjectivesThe overall project goal was to eliminate illegal immigration by timely detection of errors and forgery in theregistration of citizens. To achieve this goal the following objectives were outlined. a. Redefine the processes for citizen registration and issuance of NICs to eliminate registration of aliens. b. Establish facilities and implement systems across the country to register the entire population. c. Create a National Data Warehouse (NDW) ensuring that this NDW can be used for future implementation of modern passport, border control, driving license, taxation and other related applications. d. Issue NICs that can not be tampered with, to all registered adult population. e. Establish nation wide networks that will enable access of NDW to authorized applications and users. f. Train government staff to ensure efficient use of new systems. g. Generate mass awareness among the population on the benefits and importance of getting themselves registered. The Project ScopeThe project entailed logistics of information management and control that were unprecedented for IT projectsever done in Pakistan. It required a complete range of services from voluminous historical data capture to © 2006, Sheikh Nisar Ahmed 1/7
  2. 2. intelligent data entry, scanning, image capture, software development, system integration, documentation, masstraining, procurement, process re-engineering to project management services.Initially the project envisaged the establishment of Computer Centers at 113 districts for registration of citizensand NIC distribution, Card Production Centers (CPCs) in 18 Divisional head quarters, Regional ComputerCenters (RCCs) in four Provincial Headquarters, National Computer Center in Islamabad for housing the NDW.A project management approach, which will ensure timely and effective implementation of this project, wasrequired. The scope included implementation of networking and related systems across the country.Figure -1 below depicts the infrastructure to be created.Figure – 1: Infrastructure to be created across the country. The Project StagesThe whole project (i.e. work already done and work to be done) can be presented as three Staged project. Seefigure 2 below. TIMEFigure - 2: The project lifecycle depicting three stages of the projectStage 1: “Project definition”In March 1996 GoP invited IBM Pakistan to define the project inline with defined goals and objectives andpresent solution. IBM submitted the proposal in May 1996. The proposal was accepted as a proprietary solution.After initial Project Assurance and Risk Assessment by IBM Global Services, IBM submitted the contract inJune 1996.The contract was accepted and signed on 12th September 1996 as a single sourced, withoutfollowing GoP’s tendering process. This was considered a big success for IBM Pakistan’s marketing unit.IBM appointed the Project Manager who created a project organization within one month. We call this stage a“Project Definition” Phase because during this stage detailed project plan including all subsidiary plans wereprepared, project framework was confirmed, most of the project management processes were defined, © 2006, Sheikh Nisar Ahmed 2/7
  3. 3. agreement was reached to use existing operational processes, responsibility metrics were finalized, completesolution including process model, database model and network model were defined and pilot tested. In otherwords all work necessary to define a project in detail was accomplished by IBM and accepted by the Client.The IBM project team adopted its proven “Managing the Implementation of the Total Project M(MITP)”methodology for managing this project. The project initiation was very well planned and effective. Theproject was soon visible to all concerned and tremendous interest was generated among stakeholders.The project sponsor was no less than the Prime Minister of the country. Her commitment was driving the client(i.e. GoP) organization to support this project. The opponents of the project had no option but to keep quiet.Initial milestones were achieved within schedule and within budget. It seemed the project was heading towardsgreat success.The government changed in November 1997. The new government stalled most on-going projects, includingthis project. IBM managed to meet new Interior Minister after great difficulty. In the first meeting it wasobvious that the project had lost the sponsorship. The IBM project manager reported the fact to IBM Systemresponsible for managing IBM Global Services projects worldwide. The System turned the project status fromGREEN to RED. The project assurance and risk assessment sessions were repeated. As a part of riskcontainment, IBM requested GoP to reconfirm its commitment to this project. GoP first asked IBM to suspendall work on this project and then started renegotiating the scope, terms and conditions. IBM Marketing (the sameteam involved till contracting) took over the renegotiations from the project team. Fearing that refusal to acceptGoP’s position will result in the termination of the contract, IBM accepted almost all changes asked by theClient without price increase. For almost two months there was a complete breakdown of communicationbetween the performing organization (i.e. IBM Project Team) and the Client (i.e. GoP Team). In the mean timeministry of Legal Affairs started looking at the contract. Ultimately GoP terminated the contract in November1997. The reasons given for termination were: a. The contract was awarded bypassing GoP tendering process without any valid reasons. b. The sensitive asset like the National Data Warehouse cannot be handed over to a foreign entity like IBM. c. The project as defined by IBM required new legislation and constitutional changes which were not possible within time allocated.IBM, after legal review, accepted the termination without invoking the Dispute Resolution clause. With thistermination the Stage –1 of the project ended.What went wrong:IBM did not perform formal stakeholder analysis, primarily because the contracting phase was led by marketing.The Project Manager’s appointment was delayed till signing of the contract. A tough delivery schedule andother constraints did not allow the Project Manager to challenge and correct the over commitments. In spite ofvery sound processes used, the risk assessment was conducted by experts coming from IBM headquarters withno exposure to Pakistani public sector environment. The whole contracting process, including business casepreparation, project qualification, costing and budgeting were handled by the marketing team. Instead of usingthem as a tool to develop a risk free plan; well-defined IBM Project Management processes were rushed throughto complete the formality. At that time IBM Pakistan was a small IBM unit. It was functionally organized withmarketing and finance controlling the whole business. The project organization, specially created to handle thisproject was scattered. The Project Manager was not empowered to take all decisions. He was dependent ondecision makers in Headquarters in Dubai, Paris and Johannesburg.At the Client end, no impact analysis was performed to assess what termination of the project contract wouldmean in financial and business terms. Such an analysis would have saved the project from termination and thusprevented loss to the taxpayers.The termination of this project resulted in loss of significant revenue to IBM Pakistan. However actual loss wasrestricted to less than half million US $, which was the spent cost of the project when terminated . The biggerloser was the Client i.e. government and people of Pakistan. The project, which was to be completed in 2001,would now be completed in 2006 at a much higher cost.What went right?The project offered a great learning opportunity to both IBM and the Client. The Client did not adopt any posttermination learning process and failed to gain benefits of experience. On the other hand, IBM Global Serviceswent through a major learning process, refined its business strategy for the Middle East region, and thus took © 2006, Sheikh Nisar Ahmed 3/7
  4. 4. full advantage of its experience on this project. The project team, which was built and developed on this project,was used on other IBM projects and in Middle East, Europe and Australia. This resulted in cost reduction and,thus, business gains for IBM Global services. Such timely actions by Project Management supported by well-defined PM processes minimized the loss to IBM.Another major benefit to emerge from the experience was that GoP was convinced that the project was neededand was do-able. Although the contract with IBM had been terminated, the project was kept alive and wasreinitiated through NADRA. Without the experience gained in this Stage, clarity in the requirements of theproject would not have been possible.Stage 2: “The Chaos”GoP established National Database Organization (NDO) in March 1998 within MoI. This organization was laternamed as National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) in March 2000. NADRA was conceived as ahuge organization of more than 3000 personnel headed by a General from armed forces. The top managementalso came from armed forces, most of them IT literate but with no experience of modern project management.NADRA was a rigid functional organization. All work that was planned was to be carried out as operationalwork. NADRA managers had no clue of project management. Project planning was restricted to schedulepreparation. Project baselines, even schedules were not protected, and Change Management was missing. Noquality plan was put in place. No accurate performance evaluation and progress measurement processes existed.There was focus on procurement and infrastructure setup, but no proper budget allocation process was put inplace. Instead “Learning from Vendors Bids” approach was adopted. Thus each Request for Proposal (RFP) wasrepeated several times. As a result key solution providers lost confidence in NADRA’s bidding process. Barringinitial bids, most of the bid responses were non serious. This chaotic phase lasted almost two years. The projectfaced many upheavals; it faced budget overruns, schedule slippage and mismanagement in almost all projectactivities.As the project failed to deliver, stakeholders in the government lost interest and withdrew their support. Theproject was labeled as “white elephant”. The project had high visibility. Approximately data for 64 millioncitizens was received for registration and 20 million applications for issuance of NICs. When they were notdelivered what was promised, opposition to the project became more vocal. The project was almost on theverge of collapse.Pakistan once again experienced a change in the government. The new government decided to continue allprojects, which were in the national interest. In spite of its initial failure, the NADRA project was categorized asa project of national importance. GoP decided to continue with the project but with new management. In October 2002, a major change in NADRA management was directed and a new chairman with full supportfrom GoP was appointed. With this appointment Stage 2 ended and project entered Stage 3.What went wrong?NADRA of Stage 2 was a Rigid Functional Organization; all powers were with the departmental head. Therewas little emphasis on project management and the role of project manager was non-existent. NADRAconsidered itself as a system integrator, not a project management body. Tasks involving large volumes wereinitiated without pilots and without ensuring that quality control processes were in place.Because of a lack of definition of roles and responsibilities and documentation, the accurate performanceevaluation and accountability was not possible. Progress measurement was not possible as no accurate processwas adopted for this. Nobody actually knew how much project has progressed. Whatever was achieved, failedto meet even basic quality standards. There was no communication between IBM and NADRA. This deprivedNADRA of the advantage of IBM‘s experience on this project.Because of NADRA’s inability to manage the project, the control fell in the hands of subcontractors andexternal consultants, who had their own vested interests. This led to the division of a single well-defined projectinto 5 ill-defined sub projects with no effective central organization to manage the integration of this complexproject. The stakeholders in GoP lost confidence in NADRA’s ability to deliver and the project became a badreference. © 2006, Sheikh Nisar Ahmed 4/7
  5. 5. What went right?In spite of all the chaos, some achievement was made during Stage 2 in the area of infrastructure setup. TheNational Center at Headquarters in Islamabad was setup. The completely automated central NIC productionfacility was created, thanks to some good work done by a select group of subcontractors. NADRA offices weresetup in all four provincial capitals with modern facilities. Facilities for mass Data Entry and Scanning werecreated. A nationwide physical network was established. This infrastructure was effectively used during Stage3.Stage 3: “The Turnaround”The new chairman brought with him experience of managing complex projects. He understood both thetechnical and management aspects of this huge project. Initially he spent time in understanding the pastmistakes, their causes and impacts. He changed the nature of NADRA organization from rigid functional tobalanced matrix. Project Management skills were acquired through re-hiring and training. New, strong projectteams with well-defined roles and responsibilities were built. Subcontractors with good record of delivering onthis project in the first two Stages were involved. Processes for team building and Project Human Resourcemanagement were implemented with focus on performance evaluation. Efforts were made to ensure that onlygood performers were rewarded.A basic change in the overall project strategy was made. The Central Data Warehouse strategy was adopted instead of Distributed Databases. In stead of “Form Filling”, it was decided to facilitate applicants to directlyprovide data to the system.More importantly, the project got the sponsor no less than President, the most powerful person in the country.For the first time the whole adult population of the country (i.e. approximately 70 million) was accepted asstakeholder and project plan was adjusted accordingly. Swift Registration Centers (SRCs) were establishedthrough out the country where applicants could personally come and provide the required information, includingtheir signatures, fingerprints and photographs directly to the system. A Customer Relationship Management(CRM) system was implemented where the applicants could see the status of their applications includingreasons for which the processing could not be completed. The applicants could also register the complaintsusing this system. The CRM was further supplemented by Call Centers in three major cities covering most ofthe urban population. A MIS was implemented which took direct input from operational systems. This helpedthe management in enforcing effective control over operations.All these resulted in a great turnaround. The project is now on the road to success. The successful completion ofthis project will result in the National Data Warehouse, which will be used by not only registration andimmigration authorities but also by the taxation department, police, issuance of driving licenses, land revenue,election commission and other government departments. This development is likely to lead Pakistan towardsGood Governance. Though long journey but seems achievable now as a result of this Turnaround.Current StatusThe careful progress analysis based on initial scope, indicates that the project is 90% complete. Most of theinfrastructure is ready. Out of an adult population of around 70 million, around 50 million have been registereddigitally. Registration of the entire population is expected to be completed by the end of 2006. Errors incitizens’ data have been corrected and the NDW can now be used for other applications like Passport (MRP),Immigration, Taxation, and Driving License etc. The Complaint Management System supported by CRM isnow working and helping NADRA to regain the lost confidence of stakeholders. NICs are being delivered toapplicants on time. At the end of stage 2 no body in GoP wanted to own this project. Now many will feel proudif their name is associated with this project.Future Challenges:The project is not over yet. It still faces unique challenges and risks. The project needs continuous support fromGoP. The greatest risk is continuity of sponsorship. A change in government or a change in priorities at the toplevel will have an impact on this project. Riding on its success, NADRA is over committing and initiating newprojects, most of these are unaligned with NADRA’s original mission. This distracts management focus fromthe core project. © 2006, Sheikh Nisar Ahmed 5/7
  6. 6. In addition, 60% of the population lives in rural areas, Out of which 25% lives in the areas with inadequatecommunication facilities. Registering this population will be a daunting task. Another challenge would be toregister more than 3 million Pakistanis living overseas in more than 50 countries.One of the basic aims of the project is to eliminate corruption. In a society riddled with the corrupt practices theproject is bound to face resistance. As use of NDW expands in departments like Taxation, Police andImmigration this resistance will increase. NADRA must be prepared to face such challenges. Also, it mustensure that the organization is protected from corrupt practices penetrating within its own ranks.NADRA management is under tremendous pressure to recruit employees recommended by people in power. Toremain an effective organization NADRA must stick to its merit based HR practices.Post Mortem and Lessons Learnt:Different organizations have different views of the project. Since NADRA views this project from the day thenew NADRA management took over, for them it is a great success. The finance department in GoP is looking attotal cost incurred. So for them the project has overspent heavily. For IBM, the project could not be completedsuccessfully and it was terminated without any compensation paid, so it is a failed project. For many vendorsand subcontractors this was a profitable project as they managed to complete their part and got paid. Howeveras project managers, we will analyze project as a whole i.e. all three stages combined for the purpose ofpost mortem and lesson learning. We will discuss the events and facts first and then lessons learnt aresummarized immediately after the discussion.Stakeholders Analysis: A project of this size fails for multiple reasons. However, the most importantreason for the failure at stage 1 was poor stakeholder analysis by IBM. Too much attention was given to thestakeholders who would award the contract and provide the budget. Just winning the support of the PrimeMinister in power was not enough. It was important to win support of those in opposition and the governmentfield staff to be involved in the implementation of the project. The Ministry of Legal Affairs and Armed Forces,the key influencers, were not identified as stakeholders and ignored during contracting process. The reason forthis poor analysis was that whole contracting process was led by IBM Pakistan Marketing whose view of theproject did not go beyond contracting. When the government changed, all those not involved till now suddenlyoccupied the positions of decision-making. The new decision makers in GoP had no interest in the project andrefused to provide support.Lesson: Never ignore those who can negatively impact progress on the project. Turn resistance into support asearly in the lifecycle as possible.The Project Manager - Appointment and Authority: In Stage 1, IBM Marketing led the project till thecontract was finalized. Formal project manager appointment was announced after signing of the contract. Verytough schedule was committed. The project manager was required to act in rush and deliver, leaving no roomfor reviewing initial work. The initial project risk assessment took almost all input from people involved inmarketing. The ownership of the project budget was with the CFO. The procurement was heavily dependent ontime consuming operational processes, which failed to address the uniqueness of this project. The IBM projectmanager had to work within these processes, which were mostly tuned to handle routine operations.In Stage 3 i.e. the Turnaround phase the new NADRA management reviewed all work done thus far on theproject, revised processes and defined a new organization suitable for project work. They could do this becausethe previous NADRA management was a failure and was also perceived as a failure by key stakeholders as wellas project sponsor. In stage 1 i.e. the IBM Phase, work done prior to the appointment of the project managerwas rated and perceived as a great work. It was thus difficult for the project manager to challenge this “greatwork”.Lesson: The project manager must review the work already done before taking over project responsibility. Seekclarifications and resolve issues. On large projects, operational processes must be customized to suit projectrequirements. The Project Manager must be involved in initial risk assessment and agree to risk containmentstrategy. If not, then Project Manager must perform an initial risk assessment, understand project risks and riskcategory. This should be the precondition to accepting project responsibility. It is at this stage you could beblamed as being bureaucratic, rigid and even a business killer. Don’t worry. If you are convinced what you aredoing is right, be firm. What is at stake at this stage is your assignment. But if you give in to pressure, you areputting both your job and reputation at stake. © 2006, Sheikh Nisar Ahmed 6/7
  7. 7. Remember, just delivering good work is not enough, the work must be perceived as Good Work by thestakeholders.Managing Scope Change: In stage 1 IBM accepted demands for scope changes (increases) withoutrenegotiating the price. This created doubt about the fairness of the price quoted earlier and strengthened theview of the opponents of the project. This was a fixed priced contract. With country’s average inflation rate of10% at that time the project organization had less money for more work.Lesson: Changes to all three baselines (Budget, Scope and Schedule) must be managed, negotiated and acceptedby the project organization. Project Manager must act as a custodian of project baselines especially budget. Anyundue concession given to the client must be supported through Management Reserve.”Project Sponsorship: During Stage 1, IBM could achieve initial milestones with ease because the projectcould find sponsor of right level. In spite of excellent initial project work, IBM failed later primarily becauseproject lost sponsor. During stage 3, one of the reasons for the turnaround was sponsor’s commitment andsupport to the project.Lesson: Every project must have a Sponsor who would own and defend the project. No fun in wasting time andresources on the project, that fails to find the Sponsor.Project Visibility: While it is advisable that your project is visible, but this may not be true in case of publicsector projects in countries like Pakistan. Almost all large projects have support and face resistance. As a projectprogresses, it experiences schedule slippage and overspending and the resistance becomes stronger and vocal.The higher is the project visibility the stronger is the resistance. This is exactly what happened with the NADRAproject in first two stages. This distracts project management from core project activities to expectationmanagement, issues handling and other non-performing activities. In Turnaround phase the new NADRAmanagement handled project visibility part intelligently. Only required information was shared outside projectorganization. It was ensured that public announcements were made after achieving the key Milestones.Lesson: While managing large public sector projects, avoid your temptation to be visible and media coverage.Fame will automatically come with the success of the project.Influence of the organizational culture and structure: In the 90s IBM Global Services in Europe and USAwas well organized to manage services business through projects. However in the Middle East and Africa mostof the business focus was on Product marketing and related after sales support services. The marketing andfinance functions enjoyed more power. The project management support for this project came fromheadquarters mostly located in Europe. Most of the input to headquarter project management processes camefrom Marketing and Finance functions of these countries. This resulted in poor contracting, and risk assessmentnot only on this project but many others in this region. In Stage 3, NADRA organization came closer toBalanced Matrix structure. This reorganization had significant role in turning around this failing project tosuccess.Lesson: If you want to be successful in project based business, you must reorganize and move from a Functionalto a Projectized organization structure. The reorganization may be in stages. You must create the project culturethrough implementation of project management processes.Accuracy in performance evaluation of team members: One of the reasons for failure in Stage 2 was thelack of a performance evaluation process. Annual PE was just a formality. Managers were casual whileperforming evaluations. This gave employees the impression that their hard work will not help them in careergrowth. Even during stage 1, in spite of very sound and accurate Career Planning and Performance Planningprocesses in place, when the marketing team was awarded for closing the contract, the symptoms of unrestamongst the project delivery team were clearly visible. This was because; by this time the team was aware of thelapses and omissions in the contract. Project Manager had to make extra efforts to manage team morale.Lesson: Performance Evaluation is a strong tool in the hands of the project managers. By using this tool withaccuracy, honesty and care, the success of a project can be ensured. When in doubt, postpone the award, butnever award a poor performer. © 2006, Sheikh Nisar Ahmed 7/7