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EChoupal: Session Justification and IT Projects Evaluation

Who are the key stakeholders in the ITC’s initiative to implement the Coupal project? Briefly justify your claim by explaining what’s at stake for them.

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It can be argued that the major stakeholders in the implementation of the ITC’s Coupal program are the rural farmers and the staff of the company. For a long time, the farmers and residents of the Dahod village have practiced farming as their main economic activity. The farmers engage in massive cultivation and production of soybeans, which is the dominant crop exported from India. When harvesting is completed, it is sold at the local markets commonly referred to as a couple. This culture has been practiced for decades by these rural communities. However, the efficiency of the coupled system of commerce had depreciated and farmers experienced a lot of challenges in conducting transactions in the village markets.

The farmers in Bhopal were faced with a myriad of challenges which included having to transport their products over long distances (30-50km) so as to reach the nearest mandi, waiting until an official from the government valued their produce before bidding could commence, and the process of weighing as well as transporting produce to the market was cumbersome for the farmers. Farmers also incurred a lot of losses during the weighing of their produce due to the crude equipment and scales used to measure the products. It is estimated that on an average day, more than a thousand farmers could be seen trying to get their products into the mandi. Once inside they were faced with other challenges, which are common in village markets such as theft and the perishable nature of their products. However, congestion in the market was the most significant impediment. The development of eChoupal by the staff of ITC helped to alleviate the suffering and losses incurred by farmers during the harvesting season. It also provided a channel through which information about the price of commodities, weather conditions, and access to credit could be communicated directly to the farmers in real-time.

On the other hand, the ITC Company was also significantly affected by the inefficiencies of the village markets. The company had established a good reputation and relationships with its farmers for more than 100 years in which it had been in existence. The challenges faced by the farmers continued to be felt along the supply chain, which adversely affected the performance of the ITC Company. Delays in the delivery of products to the market and transportation to the manufacturing plants significantly affected the revenues earned by the farmers and the organization. Late payments to farmers did not encourage increased production. The pricing of the product was another factor that affected the company and farmers at the market.

As a result, the International Business Division (IBD) of ITC was tasked with the responsibility of developing a solution to these challenges. The soybean and other products derived from it accounted for about 67% of the company’s exports. This meant that the supply chain challenges significantly had an impact on the profit of the organization. The company conducted a study on the coupled system and also relied on the farmers’ experiences in the market. It is from this survey that the Coupal concept was conceived. The concept was built on the traditional structures of sharing information within the couple markets. However, this concept was improved to include the use of information technology systems such as computers.

The case states that ITC eChoupal was a success so far. What classic mistakes did ITC avoid in implementing the couple? Use lessons from the Nelson article on Classic Mistakes to build your case.

The new eChoupal system which was developed by the ITC Company has been considered to be very successful. This is because it was able to avoid various classical mistakes, which hampered the development and success of IT innovations in other programs. For an IT project to be successful, there are several factors that have to be considered and avoided. They include insufficient estimations and scheduling of projects, poor management of stakeholders, poor risk management and planning, and lack of a clear identification of the scope of the project among others. The ITC Company was able to avoid insufficient estimations and scheduling by conducting a comprehensive review of their supply chain system, and also relying on the experience of farmers who carry out transactions at the choupal.

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The company was also keen to involve all the stakeholders in the development of the project. The organization had already established good relationships with the farmers who deliver their produce to the firm. The company also asked the IBD department that was directly dealing with the exportation of soybeans to take charge of developing the new system since they understood the dynamics of the couple better. The organization carried out a survey of the rural markets paying close attention to the challenges that the project would face on the ground. This enabled them to come up with solutions such as the use of solar-powered computers in areas not serviced by electricity. The company also made a critical review of the costs to be incurred and made sure that the project had enough funding.

It is argued that the most significant factor that contributed to the success of the eChoupal is its deep foundation on trust. The system was essentially a channel used to improve human interaction, which was the catalyst that influenced the local couples in the villages. Through these initiatives, the eChuopal has been successful.

What have you learned from this article about IT implementations that will help you in your future involvement in IT projects?

It is general knowledge that most large-scale IT projects fail due to factors that are not associated with technical feasibility or reliability. It should also be noted that the sound implementation of technology and the management of transformation procedures can significantly increase the probability of success. For a project to be successful, it needs team-work and acceptance of diverse beliefs so as to implement the best practices for change. It is prudent that all stakeholders should be involved in the development and implementation of IT projects. However, stakeholders should ensure that they remain within their designated roles.

The success of a good IT project depends on various factors such as researching and planning for the project among others. This helps the team mandated with the task of developing the solution to establish the critical areas that need to be addressed, and also reveals other challenges that may be experienced in the course of implementing the project. The ITC Company was particularly successful in this area since it conducted various surveys of its supply chain system, and also sought the experience of the farmers from the rural chuopals. A comprehensive understanding of the problem helps the design team to identify the critical areas that need more attention.

The article also emphasizes that building strong relationships with the customers and suppliers of a business is essential for all organizations. During the development of new IT systems, information from external sources is critical in the identification of areas that need to be improved. If the organization does not enjoy cordial relations with its suppliers and consumers, they may not be willing to volunteer valuable information. The IT project managers should learn from the critical mistakes observed in other projects which have failed. They should ensure that the same mistakes are not replicated so as to enhance the probability of success.

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