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“Global projects consist of teams formed from multiple countries, continents, and cultures, which crisscross functions, work locale, markets, and products” (Gray & Larson, 2006, 489). Benefits and disadvantages of global projects can be sometimes similar. Benefits can range from obtaining different points of view based on culture, function, religion and time zones. Disadvantages can also be limited based on the same considerations. Team A will provide information regarding the management of global projects, challenges faced, similarities, differences and three trends that will be important in the next decade.
Challenges of Global Teams
Outsourcing and globalization are two opportunities for organizations to have teams made up of members from multiple ethnic and sociopolitical backgrounds. “By and large, project teams succeed or fail based on the strength and diversity of the team and its ability to harness distinctive competencies to achieve team goals” (Chapman, 2008, week 2). Consideration of language, political views and economic status is an important consideration to the success of the project. Gender, religion, age and other cultural beliefs may have a significant impact on team cohesiveness. When planning, a project manager should undrestand the team members’ backgrounds. The backgrounds of the team members may affect the way the project is planned. Some cultures are very sensitive to time and others are not. If the project manager (PM) considers these differences no one will be offended. Additionally, some cultures are more individualistic and ohers are more community oriented. Again if the PM is sensitive to backgrounds team membes will not be offended. An effective project manager will be able to get the most out of their team by undertanding the the differences in ethnic and sociopolitical backgrounds. “Essentially, every project team must fit within its environment and, if a team is working globally, then it must recognize and adjust for the diversity of working in other cultures and business systems and adapt to local systems and norms” (Chapman, 2008, week 2).
Managing a Global Team
“Project teams operate in global environments, and because they do, there are a host of issues that face project managers” (Chapman, 2008, week 1). Project teams are all over the world and face to face interaction is limited. Projects can be conducted via electronics; phone, web conferencing, instant messaging, fax, email and video conferencing. Communication, leadership and direct support from the executives are key factors in running a successful project. Clear roles need to be established by the PM based on individual member skills and understanding of the project goals.
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A core challenge a PM has is to build trust and cohesion with individuals that are not in close proximity. Trust is a key component of successful projects, a team leader needs to clearly assign the tasks necessary and be available for guidance. Outputs should be measured not the process to get to the output. The delivery of the task is important not necessarily how and when the task was completed. Additionally, a project manager should provide regular performance feedback so the team members know where they stand.
Technology enhancements are an effective tool in project management. The rapid expansion of computer technology is producing more work from home careers and more global companies. “Technology will, indeed, revolutionize the management of virtual and traditional project teams to the advantage of project managers and their organizations” (Chapman, 2008 week 6). Project managers no longer have to select team members from the best candidates in the local area, now they can choose from the best candidates in the world. Depending on the type of project, technology will help to improve work performed on projects. Technology enhancements need to be able to support efficiency yet not sacrifice relationships. On a similar note, integrating leadership is another focus; leadership skills need to be able to build relationships and create integrated systems that overcome geographical challenges. The ability of the PM to manage resources, schedule work to be done and manage costs is highly important at all levels of project management.
Some of the latest technology allows for teams to work 24 hours a day due to team members being dispersed around the world in different time zones. (Gray & Larson, 2006) Technology in the future will need to be focused on overcoming the barriers of distance and time. Technology needs to support planning tools and techniques that support creativity and innovation. “As software becomes more sophisticated and user-friendly, more project teams can be virtual” (Chapman, 2008, week 6). Today, project management is successful with clearly defined projects, but not when the scope is broadly defined or the project is subject to changes in scope. (Gray & Larson, 2006)
Trending for future global considerations (this part didn’t make sense) will depend on the functionality of the technology. Technology changes so often that it may be difficult to provide the necessary resources while staying updated. The first trend important for the PM to consider for the next decade is efficiency, excellence and discipline. The PM will have to maximize resources and use those resources efficiently. Therefore, the team members selected by the PM must have multiple characteristics that can be a resource to the project and the company. Project portfolio excellence is a new trend in project management. Selection of the right project is an important aspect of project management especially during tighter economic times. The selection process should use a governance structure that identifies sold benefits. (Hoving, 2007) When a project is selected, it must be executed using a disciplined, consistent and repeatable process. The importance of understanding dependencies and the costs associated with multiple projects is critical. Discipline within a project has changed from tactical to strategic. The present age is faced with increasing global competition, knowledge explosion, rapid innovation, and shortened product life cycles. These trends have lead to the increasing scope of project management and the need for system integration.
The second trend for the next decade is the integration of technology as a project management tool. Virtual teams are becoming more common and provide opportunity to tap into skilled resources from various distances. With the increase cost of economic resources, projects will have to be affordable to the company as well as the consumer. Virtual teams provide the reduction in gas usage, operating an office, and promote a cleaner environment. Resources for virtual teams can provide cost reduction for the consumer while protecting the environment for all. Open source software product can also provide an opportunity to setup and operate fully functional tools without a large upfront cost for software. Open source software is low cost and will allow team members to send out a proposal for review, comment and approval, instead of a linear fashion that might be the current flow of information. When updates are made, the changes could be tracked and available for the entire team to review immediately.
The third trend for the next decade will focus on risk management. Risk management can be expected to receive more attention and will focus on the identification, assessment, and response with a developed methodology in order to manage project risks at the task level. (Gray & Larson, 2006) The IT industry has attained some success by developing a standardized approach to PM practices, tools and techniques. As computers, cell phones and other electronic devices become second nature to global societies; the marketing strategies and projects will adapt to attract those consumers. The trend for standardized practices has developed in response to the need for organizations to purposefully deliver projects successfully and consistently. (Svetlana, 2006) Quality and efficiency seem to be a major focus for the future of project managemnt.
Similarities and Differences
Projects have similarities and differences between domestic and global project management. Global and domestic project management is similar because a project cannot succeed if there are poor relationships between team members. The PM must be able to monitor the project closely and control different dimensions such as cost, quality and integration. Differences are sometimes are sometimes similar and the distinctions can leave company leaders looking for contingency plans. “Global projects, like domestic projects, should always have a contingency fund and time padding, as nothing ever truly goes according to plan” (Chapman, 2008, week 5).
One similarity of a project is the general flow of information. Each project will run through similar phases of initiation, planning, execution, audit and closure. Domestic and global projects must take into consideration time, language, political, legal, security and cultural issues. Sensitivity to team backgrounds may be required from the PM, while team building may be necessary to ensure team members are aware of expectations and that the rules and regulations are appropriately followed.
The specifics fo a project can change when on a global scale. Cultural beliefs along with business ethics can vary between countries. In the United States the Project Management Institute is more well known than in other countries. Many countries recognize and use the IPMA more than in the U.S. In the United kingdom, the PRINCE2 process/certification is commonly used. Both the IPMA and PRINCE2 are not used as much in the U.S. and among other countries. Although domestic projects spread over a country many projects pose similar challenges to global projects, they do have some differences. For example, global projects may encounter different laws, import/export issues, security, exchange raes, wider time differences, travel costs, and international treaties between countries.
Competitive Versus Cooperative Alliances
Competition and cooperation alliances can both yield benefits to an organization. With the emergence of a ‘global’ economy comes the need for new and creative strategies for succeeding in the marketplace. When organizations are setup to compete often creativity, ingenuity and an urgency to perform is ignited. Assumptions are made that competitors attempt to outdo one another; however, companies rely on competition to keep the market fresh and profit levels high. Industries have found it increasingly difficult for one firm to possess the resources necessary to be able to continually test, develop, and implement innovative products and services in order to dominate an industry. Therefore, leaders in today’s business environment often must look outside their own company for ways to expand, grow and thrive. (Neilsen, 2002) A downfall of competition is that resources can be wasted on similar work.
Cooperation may be as simple as building purchasing coalitions, sharing risks, pooling knowledge or setting industry standards. In cooperative alliances the industry will recognize the common need for products and services and work with one another to increase or maintain demand. Cooperative alliances between organizations can offer the best and brightest working relationships to come up with solutions. Benefits gained are; access to restricted markets, saving on economies of scale, speeding up developments of new technologies and overcoming uncertainties. A downfall of cooperative alliances is the need for negotiation, which can slow down the cooperative process.
In conclusion, the trend for global project management has escalated with new and innovative technologies. This new approach to business involves strategic partnerships between employers, employees, suppliers, customers and even adversaries. In order to be successful these relationships must be built upon shared outcomes and purpose, honest communication, and trust. While these components may not be easy to implement, given the barriers of geography, culture and business differences, the advantages in pooled knowledge, shared resources and collective accountabilities can enhance the vitality and financial health of all involved. Global project management can also help bring the consumer more goods made of better quality at competitive pricing.