The Practice of project management in new product development : A study of Microfinance Institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa
Microfinance is the provision of credit/loans to poor individuals for the purpose of income generation. The Sub-Saharan African region which is among the poorest areas in the world is thought to be one of the regions where the microfinance industry is dynamic and growing in terms of acceptance and patronage. Even though microfinance in the Sub-Saharan Africa region has received a lot of research attention, most have focused largely on the financial performance whilst there is no available information on project management practices in new product development.Since project management is considered to be an effective means of managing new product development, the purpose of this work was to investigate the practice of project management in new product development in microfinance institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa and to assess which project management methods, and tools and techniques are used.A case study was adopted and a semi-structured interview through telephone/Skype was conducted on eight senior management staff from different microfinance institutions. The respondents comprised five Non-governmental organizations, two Non-Bank financial institutions and one Commercial Bank, operating in Angola, Gambia, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia and Kenya.The empirical findings were that six of the microfinance institutions are involved in new product development whilst two of the institutions which are Non-governmental organizations are not. The main product that is developed by these microfinance institutions is credits/loans. The reason for new products development was to meet clients’ needs even though competition and the need to be innovative was also a factor.This research also shows that the six microfinance institutions that are into new product development organize product development through projects. Project management is the means through which new products are developed. In addition, projects are managed either solely by each microfinance institution or done in collaboration with other institutions.A further indication based on project management steps suggests a flexible practice of project management in developing new products as project management steps are not tightly followed. The project management methods that are used in developing new products in all these institutions was the in house method as all the respondents considered it an effective way because this method is adapted to their institutional structure.In addition, the commonly used tool and technique among all the institutions was the progress reports which contained necessary information for monitoring and evaluating of the projects.
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