Project management in the recent years has assumed an increased degree of complexity that have a direct impact on its outcome. The project management concept focuses primarily on the optimal use of resources available to meet the defined goals and objectives. The process of globalization of economies have resulted in an increasingly competitive and changing work environment led by advances in technology and evolving market needs. “The realignment of global business forces was accompanied by advances in technology that had enormous impact on how business is done’ (Frame, 2002, p3).
Some of the significant impacts have been triggered by the developments in the telecommunications and information technology sector. Geographical boundaries are no longer obstacles in pursuing business goals and objectives. Multi national projects have hence become a reality with virtual teams operating as a unit to meet defined project goals and outcomes. The projects undertaken in this competitive industry structure is largely driven by the need to adopt innovative practices and methods to accommodate a global work culture and collaboration among diverse workforce towards a common goal.
Technologies and innovations are influenced by the need to reduce production costs, accelerate product development and meet consumer expectations (Frame, 2002). Project management assumes increased significance in the new global competitive market environment. Successful project management today depends to a great extent on the project managers’ ability to lead individuals in a global work environment. The challenges posed by the global economic environment and technological innovation have resulted in growing pressures on project manager to achieve the desired project goals and outcomes.
Multinational projects are faced with increasingly challenges that make it difficult for them to achieve the desired goals using conventional project management techniques. “Future advantage will go to those that can stimulate and support inter-unit collaboration to leverage their dispersed resources” (Hansen & Nohria, 2004, p2). Innovation and collaboration are the vital pre-requisites for leading a successful project venture (Capgemini, 2004). Project teams operate within complex conditions that involve working in diverse geographic and cultural environment.
Global project management relies for effective operations and outcomes on the understanding of specific challenges related to working with global project teams, virtual teams, and cross cultural barriers that present limitations in leading collaborative efforts. Multinational projects are hence exposed to numerous challenges that have a direct impact on project outcomes. The role of the project manager is vital in this context since the handling of such issues can only be effective if he has a proper understanding and awareness of the challenges facing the project.
The subsequent sections provide an understanding of the specific challenges and issues facing multinational projects and the measures that can be taken to overcome these challenges. Challenges faced by multinational collaborative projects According to Binder (2007) the level of complexity of multinational projects can be identified through a distinct set of parameters. These include identifying the number of distant locations at which the work on the project is going on.
In earlier days projects were confined to a single room with most of the stakeholders at accessible distance that enabled ease of operation and managing work execution. Face to face meetings in such cases become easier to organize that ensure a healthy interaction of project related information. However, with global projects the team members are located in diverse geographic regions. Collaboration and communication between the team members hence becomes difficult. Communication strategies assume critical significance for ensuring a high level of effectiveness (Binder, 2007).
A key issue facing multinational collaborative projects is the existence of multiple departments or multiple companies that have distinctive roles to play in the completion of the project work (Binder, 2007). The interplay of so many entities requires effective leadership skills to adjust to diverse policies, procedures and organizational cultures (Binder, 2007). This also raises complexities in terms of commercial and contractual obligations that need to be fulfilled by project stakeholders. Another issue identified by Binder (2007) is the diversity in country cultures.
One of the key aspects of working within a global environment is the diversity in cultures, customs and traditions of people from various parts of the globe. Such factors can impose limitations on promoting group thinking and collaborative efforts but on the other hand it can enhance creativity among people. “Motivation is often increased as many people prefer to work in cross-cultural environments because of the rich information exchange” (Binder, 2007, p2). However, as pointed out by Binder this diversity can also lead to conflicts and misunderstandings. Communication assumes a critical role in identifying operational challenges and issues.
The diversity in languages is yet another significant challenge faced by multinational projects. Communication and collaboration between team members speaking different languages present difficulties in exchanging vital project related information (Binder, 2007). Organizations working in global environment adopt a common language like English for communicating. However, the use of the common language is limited in terms of understanding or comprehension by the fluency levels. The geographic dispersion of the project team members indicate operating in different time zones.
This makes it difficult for the team members to communicate and collaborate with each other on project updates (Binder, 2007). Timeliness of information delivery can also be affected resulting in delays that have a negative impact on the project outcomes. Software projects are a good example of multinational collaborative ventures that make use of human resource from various parts of the globe to meet the defined project goals. Application development and interface designers operating from diverse corners of the globe on a project collaborating through virtual communication platforms is a common feature today.
The key issues facing effective project management have been identified as communication, leadership and managerial practices. These issues assume a new proportion with team members working in geographically dispersed locations. Advancing technology has enabled professionals across various geographical locations to come together and work on a project in a virtual environment. Achieving team cohesiveness and understanding within a virtual setup is not an easy task. This becomes a more challenging task when the team members are from diverse cultures and background.
Desired outcomes and successful team efforts requires the right balance between individual skills, knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and problem solving approach (Andriopoulos & Dawson, 2009). Effective collaboration and communication strategies are the key strategies used to improve the understanding between team members. Strategies to overcome these challenges “Like all effective work groups, project teams are most effective when goals, roles and responsibilities are clearly understood, in sync, and fully committed to” (Black, 2003, p7).
There are various strategies and approaches adopted by the IT project managers to ensure improved coordination and understanding between team members in a virtual setting for successful project execution. Such approaches include brainstorming and enhanced collaboration for improved team cohesiveness and guiding project objectives. Brainstorming sessions involve an open forum or discussion among the team members allowing individuals to interact and exchange ideas, suggestions related to the project execution and development.
“Organizations today operate at a global level to leverage the favorable economic conditions that come with high technological advancements in connectivity” (Kurhekar & Ghoshal, 2010). Technology and tools may have eased the ability to work remotely on projects but the success of such ventures can only be ensured through effective management and control over the execution of tasks and objectives. The role of the team manager assumes critical dimensions in view of project planning, supervision, control and execution.
This requires able leadership that facilitates communication, motivates team members and promotes team cohesive approach. Project management concept embraces the execution of tasks in pre-planned phases that includes design, development and execution. The distinctive phases of operation are meant to improve planning and management of project execution. The project manager assumes a vital role in deciding the outcomes of the project work. Project managers need to be very organized with due planning and defining of methods and procedures to overcome the diverse problems.
The team needs to have the right communication tools with the right kind of infrastructure like internet connectivity to support the tools. Frequent communication between diverse virtual teams will make them a unit as in each and every step of daily project activities they will be needing each other’s assistance. Any hindrances on the part of one team member like hardware issues, miscommunication can stall a project and will have a ripple effect on the entire team. The project managers need to display true leadership qualities in combining the virtual teams and minimizing the obstacles or barriers to effective and fast work.
Conclusion The effectiveness of managing projects is determined by the ability to identify distinctive goals and objectives, direct course of action, execute plans in an orderly manner, resolve problems in time, manage teams, and implement steps to mitigate risks. The project manager realizes the significance of skilled personnel in the team to enhance productivity and ensure smooth flow of operations through creative managerial approach and innovative means of achieving work objectives.
Effective communication can help in motivating team members, reduce resistance, and pursue project goals and objectives with a coordinated approach. A diverse workforce can be worked up to its distinctive advantages through adequate training, improved understanding of cultures, building a simplified communication strategy that takes into account social and culture differences, and focuses on strengths of a creative team of employees. Discuss the risk management process and its interactions with the project management process. Introduction
Risk Management has an extremely important role to play in project management. In today’s ever changing dynamic world there cannot be a single project which does not have any risk associated with it. Top management of companies with loads of experience under their belt is fully aware of the fact and the degree of risks associated with a project. Therefore the need of a systematic and methodical team driven by competent industry experienced people are chosen who are dynamic enough to take the right step of managing project risk as they proceed towards development and implementation of a project.
The project management process needs to closely interact with the risk management process as the risk management process is required at each and every step of the project management. Right from the inception of a project, the project managers need to plan the project process, the project documentation as well as the project team, the time frame involved in completing the project and the cost associated with it.
Combined together it is a comprehensive planning for a project where the basic resources are combined with careful planning, covering of risks, ability to foresee the risks associated with it and at the same time closely interact with the project management process to ensure a smooth delivery of the project within stipulated time frame and stipulated budget. “I think risk can be stewarded and managed by good planning and analysis, but in the end it is often the gut feeling of a project manager that turns a project in the right direction and overcome risk” (Barkley, 2004, p xvii).
Barkley has tried to emphasize the fact that apart from standard practices taken by project managers, a successful project manager always relies on their instincts and go by that. In the given situation a project manager who is on the project through its inception to its ultimate destination always tries to see through the problems and tries to give solutions based on instincts coming from practical business experience, knowledge and the seamless effort of having a group function together.
For a successful project, the team members who are the people and the paper which are the documents related to the project is equally important. The team members need to be experienced, knowledgeable to carry through the work and most importantly need to be a good team person who can work in a group. These qualities are required in order to build a team for a project. Careful Planning in Project Management and risks associated with it At the beginning of a project life cycle, the project manager should always go through a careful and strategic planning.
Essentially a bad planning would mean involvement of a huge risk as the project proceeds, therefore risk management at the very inception is an important component to minimize it by thinking ahead of time at the planning stage. To achieve this, the project managers along with the team members need to have a constant communication, discussion, meetings to come to a conclusion with the desired direction of the project. All logistics required for the project needs to be analyzed with a practical view to ensure feasibility of work keeping in mind the costs associated with it and the company profitability.
The project team along with the project manager can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the chosen process and whether such a move could hamper work progress at the next stage or level. A lot of factors are considered which can be technical in nature, can be related to human resource or customer support. The team members needs to be upright, they need to communicate intensively with the other team members and periodic or daily meetings and group discussions should take place as a regular part of project process.
The factor that team members are sharing their respective views on the risk management section which closely interacts with the day to day working of the project makes it an effective tool which needs to be carried throughout the life cycle of the project. In this manner the risk management process will closely interact and follow the project management process. Communication is a very important component of project management process. The success or failure of a team depends on the quality and frequency of communication between team members.
There cannot be any alternative to effective communication between team members like regular face to face communication. However with the increasing dynamism of the industrial world it can always be possible for an organization to have multiple collaborations with people at a huge physical distance from each other. In such a situation, communication gets severely affected. Under such circumstances the project manager should be able to devise ways and means by which team members will be able to communicate even though they are long distance.
This is possible through internet technology and voice over methods in which people can communicate with each other beyond boundaries. There are numerous ways in which two or more geographically dispersed team can communicate like voice over net telephony like skype, Microsoft Communicator. It is possible to hold video conferencing tools to enable the teams to communicate with each other and maintain close interactions with respect to the project management process as well as covering the risks evolved during the process.
In order to effectively manage risks, the project manager needs to see to it that the team members are fully aware of their job, they possess the right technical knowledge, have the team spirit and can work in groups. The project life cycle can be built around by having the right management tools and techniques by which they can manage the project process, have effective planning strategies in queue, and have adequate risk measurement and management techniques in place project control techniques.
All these factors greatly influence the project management process right from conception, planning, implementation and phasing out of work. For the entire project life cycle, there cannot be a single moment where risk management does not come into the picture. Throughout the project life cycle, the project manager needs to foresee or analyze the risks and the possible solutions for it. This is only possible when the project manager has carefully planned the operations and knows exactly where they might encounter a problem.
The problem can range from bad planning, faulty technical design, de-motivation of workers, poor allocation of resources, bad communication resulting in project time loss, human resource problems arising from unfavorable working conditions, bad payment rate or delay in payment. All these factors need to be carefully and meticulously sorted out, anticipated at the beginning or while working to come to a solution before the problem goes out of hand. Manpower dealing is an art and so is risk management.
Since teams depend on their people and the methodology of working with the people and around the people, the people factor can never be ignored. Thus the teams need to be self motivated enough to carry out their day-to-day activities and shoulder the responsibility of the project. This would mean that the project manager has the backing of the entire project team and essentially there are multiple persons who are equally concerned and can share their views all the time.
De-motivation of team members lead to serious dent in the project management process leading to risk factor concerns where the employees may be off the hook and might not give cent percent in their job. This means that the project would go hay wire as the work force is too ill motivated to work and as a result the quality as well as the time for the project work would be jeopardized. Therefore installing a sense of confidence in the company and the project in hand with proper work culture and industry standard incentives makes the workers motivated enough to carry on with the project.
This result in better work deliverables, constant interaction and participation of the team members, culturally strong and motivated work force. Proper training is also a must so that the work force are skilled, technically as well as communication wise and also equally trained in a multi cultural and multi ethnic environment so that they can adjust to all kinds of cultural environments. Paper work also plays an important role in project management and managing the risks associated with it. A project management cannot proceed without proper documentation.
The project documentation is a bible to the project as it forms the entire constitution of the project. The major to the last details of the project can be found in the documentation and this becomes the most important paperwork for any project. The project managers and team members have a copy of the documentation and they keep a note of it and add to the main document. This also helps the project managers and the team members to evaluate the risks associated with the project and ways to manage it. The project documentation itself is an extremely useful tool to manage risks. How?
The answer lies in the fact that it contains all the communication the company has with the client along with the project specifications, the signing of the specifications by the company and the client. This can be of immense help in covering up the company in case any problem arises, where the project metrics are defined and a clear picture of the handling of the project and its requirements are mentioned along with client approval. Maximum of these cases involving technical projects goes into risk as the specifications discussed and finalized at the time of project agreement goes into a different specification all together.
The documentation saves the company from incurring loss and helps them to fight litigations if any. The current status of the project in the project life cycle remains one of the most important parts of the project as it gives the current position, the evaluation of the project whether it is running on time, the quality of the work done till date, how much further time is required for completion and whether it is in conformity with the scheduled time of project completion.
If not then how much risks are associated with it and what are the methods and procedures which can be incorporated to correct it and bring the work back to the scheduled time. The top management along with the project manager should have a clear view of the project’s current status and whether it is on the right track, whether the current resources are utilized for it and is it meeting the standard industry procedures to confirm quality of the project.
Risk can be categorized broadly as macro risks, which means that risks involving a larger population or handling of huge operations involving a mass while micro risks can be identified as on a case o case basis or an event to event basis. Project risk management is more on the micro side as a case by case risk management is done. However projects involving a huge infrastructure and into mass dealings needs a macro risk management with regular standard industry practices being followed at a macro level. The basic idea of risk management in the project management process is to identify risks as the projects are planned and progress is made.
This makes way for a smoother work with the risk factors being managed or taken care of. However with bad planning or poor foresightedness, the project can land up into rough weather. In such a circumstance the project manager and the team members need to take stock of the project, identify the problem areas, devise ways in which the problem can be solved in a certain amount of time, how much resource and energy will be required to bring the project back on track by meeting all the risk element and make it in a state where it can be managed and implemented to the client.
The handling of the risk or the management of the risk needs competent people who need to learn from their mistakes and ensure that the same thing does not get repeated putting the project into jeopardy. There are experienced people who have encountered such a problem and will take proactive steps to ensure that the risk does not resurface or happen at the first place. They use all their experience to stop such an event occurring.
However there can be unforeseen contingencies and the best way to avoid it or minimize it is to think before time or have the daily or periodic meeting with the team to have a full assessment of the situation. The natural instincts and practical aspect or the gut feeling that such an event might occur prompts the project manager to take proactive steps to handle the situation with firmest hands. The close interactions with the entire project management process only is the deciding factor based on which the project risk management can be done.
Without having close interactions with the normal project management process in each and every step, it would be an uphill or an extremely difficult task to foresee risk. It cannot be a prediction without a base and for this closely monitoring project performance on a daily basis and having regular group discussions, meetings, and conferences helps the project manager and team to closely work together in a well structured knit to face the issues, foresee the risks and enable the management to tackle it with relative ease.
Just imagine a situation where there is no interaction between actual project works and hence project management, then one cannot expect the project manager and project team, however highly experienced they might be to come up with answers and have the ability to foresee risks in the project. This is only possible when the entire mechanism is closely studied. Conclusion Business is not a theoretical lesson from where one can predict its path or its nature.
It is a purely practical science where the art of managing it lies at ground zero and how a top down approach conjured by all the facts can make a project to be successful or not successful. All resources including manpower, finance, technical specifications, knowledge based project features, marketing, production, quality checks, deliverables, implementation makes it a complete cycle running into months and years and a careful time to time or daily check is the need of the hour for conformity of the project status to be on time with the desired industry quality or the desired output of the project.
All these supported by proper project documentation will mean that the project risk management has interacted well with the project management process to make it a successful one. Reference: 1. Andriopoulous, C. & Dawson, P. 2009, Managing change, creativity & innovation, Sage publications. 2. Barkley, B. 2004, Project risk management, McGraw Hill Publications. 3. Binder, J. 2007, Global project management – communication, collaboration, and management across borders, Gower publishing limited. 4. Black, Ron 2003, The complete idiot’s guide to project management with Microsoft Project 2003, Alpha Books.
5. Bradley, L. & Beyerlein, S. 2008, The Handbook of High-Performance Virtual Teams: A Toolkit for Collaborating Across Boundaries, John Wiley and Sons. 6. Capgemini 2004, Collaborative business experience, Capgemini Report. 7. Dinsmore, P. C. & Brewin, J. C. 2006, The AMA handbook of project management, 2nd edition, AMACOM. 8. Frame, D. J. 2002, The new project management – tools for an age of rapid change, complexity and other business realities, Jossey Bass Publications. 9. Hansen, M. T. & Nohria, N. 2004, How to build collaborative advantage, MIT