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There was once a time when managing a project at work was fairly straightforward. Everyone was in the same location, or at most a mere phone call away. You’d set up a Gantt chart (remember those?) of some sort to plot the project schedule and make sure everything was completed on time.
Today, project managers have more complex responsibilities ahead of kicking off any project. Thanks to advances in the way we work, your teammates are more likely to be working across different locations, cultures and time zones, making distributed project management a must. Meanwhile, the humble Gantt chart is no longer adequate – on top of cloud-based and mobile collaboration technologies, you’re also going to need a tool for managing global teams that can track hours, billing rates, project status, owners, deliverables, and deadlines, while making sure that the project doesn’t go over budget.
On average, large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and seven percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted. In addition, the biggest challenge for businesses when it comes to project management is capturing time/costs against projects.
So how can you set up your project for success? In the years that we have spent chatting with customers and improving the tools to help them work, here’s what we found as the non-negotiable factors driving global project management success.
1. Establish a Clear Strategy This may sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many teams don’t set clear goals for the project and how it ties into the overall business direction or roadmap. By some estimates, 30 percent of projects fail due to undefined project goals. Starting a project without a strategy and objectives is like building a house without a foundation – eventually, the project will collapse.
Start by defining the project strategy, the project goals and the objectives no matter whether you are managing global projects or local ones. Break down the tasks and activities to a granular level to help track progress better down the line. Your strategy should also encompass details such as roles and responsibilities, resource allocation, budget breakdown and milestones. A clear and comprehensive strategy allows all stakeholders to know exactly what needs to be done and by when. It ensures that everyone stays on track, preventing scope creep down the line.
2. Be Considerate Of How Time Is Spent Nobody likes to waste time – and nobody wants to be stuck in an inefficient meeting. Make sure that there’s a clear agenda before any team discussion, and be mindful of time zones across distributed teams. Inevitably, the more geographies you need to take account for, the greater the chance is that someone will be working outside of business hours, but aim to limit the number of hours that intrude on your team’s personal time. This is vital when managing global teams.
In addition to the above, make it a point to track all time across all tasks and projects. Knowing exactly where time is being spent will help you manage projects more efficiently. Moreover, it becomes easier to ensure that the costing or the billing processes account for all time spent on projects. To simplify time capture, use project management tools with robust time tracking capabilities. Get features like custom approval workflows and validation rules to ensure the accuracy of the time data.
3. Track All Costs Costs aren’t just in the form of time and materials, but also in project-related expenses such as travel, meals, postage and couriers, and other incidentals. Too often, companies fail to account for these expenses leading to revenue leakage when billing clients. Revenue leakage can also occur if the organization fails to capture time correctly, leading to some tasks such as research and planning to not be accounted for.
When a project is being conducted across multiple regions, currency conversions also need to be taken into account. Make sure there is a tight process for reviewing estimates at the local and overall project levels, so that you don’t leave yourself short-changed. A modern time and billing system becomes necessary to avoid such pitfalls and ensure complete accuracy. These systems can also run analytics and reports to help track revenue and cash flow seamlessly.
4. Match the right skills to the right tasks It’s becoming more accepted to find someone anywhere in the world to work on a project, provided they have the right skills for the job. However, resource allocation can be tricky if you cannot easily view skills against tasks and available resources. Technologies such as the Replicon TimeBill solution can not only review someone’s bandwidth against skills and interests, but even proficiency levels so that teams are highly efficient. It’s also worth exploring whether a similar project has been conducted previously, so that best practices can be applied to the new task.
5. Modernize how you think about the workforce According to Statista, there were almost 59 million freelance workers in the United States alone and that has risen from 53 million in 2014. Moreover, today, it’s most likely you’ll have a combination of remote and geographically dispersed multicultural teams that include full-time and part-time staff, exempt and nonexempt workers, and contractors. With this melting pot of worker types, you’ll need to utilize different communication, collaboration and project management technologies so that everyone is working in sync. You’ll also need to take note of any regulations when hiring – for example, contractors may have stringent wage and hour requirements on meal breaks, overtime pay and time off that need to be taken into account.
Establishing a time tracking system for these different workers can ensure you meet internal audits, wage and hour obligations, while effectively managing global projects. Replicon’s system, for example, can easily track employee types and apply the relevant labor law regulations while calculating pay. It is also easy to set up employee codes for easier calculations while billing clients.
6. Monitor a project’s progress Nothing is more frustrating to a client than hearing about a project going over budget or running into significant delays. However, you can make sure that these uncomfortable conversations can be avoided by providing updates well in advance. Scope creep is a major problem. The 2019 Pulse of the Profession report by PMI noted that 49% of organizations experienced scope creep. That number reduced to 29% among organizations using project management tools.
Use modern tools available to proactively and automatically notify you when a project is running high or lagging behind on a regular basis, so that your internal stakeholders and clients are always in the loop on progress. Receiving these updates automatically also ensures you don’t need to check on the details constantly. For example, Replicon’s solution helps you do all of that in real time by gathering all project information and metrics in a single dashboard for easy visibility. You can even set up custom reports and get notifications as per your needs, making distributed project management easier.
7. Keep to the deadline There are many reasons why a project may miss its deadline – whether it’s an increased or changed scope, or poor communication on deliverables. Identifying a project manager who is in charge of overseeing the critical milestones at the beginning of a project and keeping everyone to a strict schedule can help make sure that activities are delivered on time and on budget as much as possible. Certainly, empowering this person with the right tools to give real-time visibility and insights on activities also goes hand in hand with this success. Distributed project management can also work here as long as everyone is given access to the data they need to meet deadlines.
According to Project Management Institute, 61% of organizations that used project management tools managed to complete projects on time. Look for solutions that help you monitor project progress and give you real-time updates on task and activity status. This will help you know exactly when the project is slowing down and make proactive decisions to bring it back on track.
It’s incredibly challenging to manage a project effectively – and this problem is compounded when you’re working on a project that is global in scope. However, solidifying the project’s strategy and goals upfront, identifying the right individuals for the tasks, and equipping them with the right arsenal of tools – such as time tracking and project management systems – to support the project is key. By coordinating these elements together, global projects will have a greater chance of success – including a higher degree of profitability and better relationships with your customers.