DHL Bangladesh: Managing HeadquartersSubsidiary Relations
By Hemant Merchant Masud Chand
This case revolves around Nurul Rahman, a DHL Bangladesh (DHLB) manager who must recommend which of the two human resource information systems (HRISs) DHLB should adopt to alleviate the escalating workload on its human resources (HR) department. The choice between these systems is difficult: the HRIS favored by regional headquarters is significantly more expensive and likely unsuited to DHLB’s unique needs, whereas the HRIS favored by DHLB—although likely effective—seems to be incapable of meeting headquarters’ strong preference for streamlining human resource systems across disparate Asian subsidiaries. Rahman must carefully balance conflicting stakeholder interests and do so against the backdrop of a politically powerful headquarters that can “make or break” managerial careers. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
ate in October 2001, Nurul Rahman, special assistant to the vice president of human resources (HR) at DHL Bangladesh (DHLB), contemplated his options regarding adoption of a human resource information system (HRIS) that the firm’s regional headquarters (HQ) in Singapore had proposed. The HRIS would computerize various human resource management routines and provide a much-needed infrastructure to DHLB’s HR depart-
ment, which had difficulty coping with the organization’s rapid growth. Yet, the proposed HRIS was an expensive initiative that DHLB seemed reluctant to adopt not only due to its uncertain payoffs, but also because its implementation would solely be DHLB’s responsibility. The charge of making an initial recommendation fell on Rahman, who knew his counsel would be heeded by his boss, Mr. Saha, a DHLB veteran who would almost certainly endorse Rah-
This case received the Honorable Mention case award at the 2007 Administrative Sciences Association of Canada conference. The authors do not intend to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a managerial situation, and may have disguised certain names and other identifying information to protect confidentiality. However, all essential facts and relationships remain unchanged. Instructors can request a copy of the teaching note for this case directly from Dr. Hemant Merchant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correspondence to: Hemant Merchant, Florida Atlantic University, Department of Management & International Business, 2912 College Avenue, Davie, FL 33314, 954-236-1631 (phone), 954-236-1298 (fax), email@example.com.
Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. • DOI: 10.1002/tie.20195
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man’s recommendation to the Board. Rahman was also aware of the likely political fallout of a “wrong” choice. In reaching a decision, Rahman had to balance the claims of various stakeholders, particularly DHLB and its regional HQ, which had often expressed a strong preference for streamlining HR systems across its Asian subsidiaries. Was the HRIS recommended by Singapore appropriate for DHLB? If so, where could DHLB find resources for the initiative’s adoption? If not, what modifications would be needed to augment the HRIS’s suitability for DHLB? Rahman had less than a week to make a recommendation. Rahman leaned back in his chair and replayed the events leading up to the decision he had to make: The responsibility of making a recommendation on such a crucial project weighed heavily on my shoulders. While the HRIS decision was important enough in itself, the long, drawn-out process it involved made it even more sensitive. One just had to consider vital stakeholder interests as well as the effect of another corporate struggle on the already overworked HR staff at DHLB.
Although DHLB’s organizational structure enabled the firm to grow with Bangladesh’s anticipated expansion, the company’s various departments had not grown evenly. The overall executive authority for DHLB rested...