Managing and Planning Global Projects

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Any global projects, for it to succeed, calls for concerted planning which takes into account the multiple locations, different languages, conflicting time-zones and other variants. This wholesome approach does not mean any serious alteration in project management methodology but certain adjustments to be made for these additional factors. This complexity inherent in a project of global nature makes it tougher to manage when compared with local projects.

When it comes to global project management, irrespective of the methodology deployed, these key factors (language, location and time) must be given due weight while project planning.

There is no denying that locally available project teams, which are advantageously placed as team members, can personally meet and work through the project plans more cohesively. When project teams are located in one place, frequent meetings can easily be organized but when multiple locations are involved, personal meetings are not feasible. Advanced technological capabilities such as teleconferencing or webinars or such similar facilities will have to be employed.

If the team members of a global project are situated in different countries, then it is obvious that communications have to take place in different languages. Even if only English knowing team members are selected and English is used as a common language, a thorough understanding of the English language, adequate fluency, proficiency with technical terminology, reasonably expansive vocabulary will be necessary for all members. Global project teams must identify and arrange for suitable language translation and preferably engage multi-lingual staff in various locations.

Multiple time-zones will mean conflicting working hours and pose difficulties for regular project team interaction. Different time-zones will inevitably upset effective coordination among team members and can impose serious restrictions for chalking out time tables for project work progression resulting in delays.

Cultural differences have both merits and disadvantages. While it may provide an opportunity to know the diversity of various cultures and lead to healthy exchange of ideas, it may also result in misunderstanding and confusion; adversely affecting the project work. Effective collaborative working and joint decision-making facilities are critically important for the speedy implementation of any project and for this purpose it will be helpful if all members share a common perception and similar mental wavelength.

Yet another key factor is proper organizing without which the best of projects can go awry. Proper organization calls for uniform corporate policy, ongoing project control, financial management, standards and contracts. It is advisable that all these things are clearly laid down prior to commencement of project work.

The project structure for global projects must be distinctly different from local projects -although like all projects, it is essential to identify and allocate both human and monetary resources for global projects.

Time should be set aside for team-building activities ideally in a single location to build healthy personal rapport and effective working relationships. Agreed working practices including methods for maintaining channels of information flow must be discussed and finalized.

It will be necessary to establish acceptable tools and time charts for communication and collaboration. It must be agreed that whatever the means of communication the exchange of information or instruction must be translated into a written summary to ensure absolute clarity.

Also read my article Managing Globally Distributed Project Team