A project manager's first global project marks a pivotal time in professional development. A project with global scope offers an exciting opportunity to work with people from many different cultures and skill sets.
However, global projects also come with unique challenges. These can include large physical distances between implementation teams, language barriers, country-specific regulations and other considerations that can negatively affect your project.
To get off to a good start, project managers need to manage the differences between global and co-located projects within these essential elements:
1. Requirements: On a co-located project, there is a single set of project requirements. On global projects, it is common to encounter both global (such as quarterly financial reporting) and country (such as provincial tax) requirements. Failure to consider them can cause painful functional gaps upon implementation. Work with your project leadership team to define a prioritization scheme for both types of requirements. For example, prioritize the country requirements by regulatory mandate, business value and desired need. A prioritization scheme helps you achieve overall balance in meeting the project success criteria.
2. Estimation: A global project typically features added complexity and costs not found with a co-located project. This calls for estimation to include additional effort to manage the previously mentioned requirements, as well as cross-geography coordination. The latter can include things such as team member travel time and global communications. In addition, there can be additional costs, such as import duties on equipment, that can add to the overall estimate. To ensure good estimation, identify global and local estimation components to more accurately account for the additional complexity.
3. Scheduling: Scheduling milestones, effort and resources on global projects is one of the greatest challenges for a project manager. The first thing to remember is to include country-specific scheduling considerations, such as regional holidays and vacations. In addition, always leave room in the schedule for project risks that can arise from unstable governments, new regulations and labor disputes. Finally, be prepared for unexpected surprises from nature, such as snowstorms, floods, volcanic eruptions and other disruptions. If such an event happens, meet with your leadership team to discuss whether to reset the project schedule around the unexpected surprise.
While global projects can present some unique problems, they also can be very rewarding when managed properly -- even if a volcano erupts!
What tips do you have for first-time global project managers?