Not too long ago, if you asked any professional services organization to tell you how they managed client proj…
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 by 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. 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 that can track hours, billing rates, project status, owners, deliverables, and deadlines. While making sure that the project doesn’t go over budget.
But despite all the tools at our disposal, it seems that projects are still more often than not bound to fail. 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 I’ve spent chatting with customers and improving the tools to help them work, here’s what I see as the non-negotiable factors driving global project management success.
1. Set a clear strategy and goals. 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.
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 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 intrudes on your team’s personal time.
3. Add up all costs, including expenses and currency conversions. 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. 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.
4. Match the right skills to the right tasks. It’s becoming more accepted for find someone anywhere in the world to work on a project, provided they have the right skills for the job. Technologies such as the RepliconPSM solution can 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. There are almost 54 million freelance workers in the United States alone, and it’s most likely you’ll have a combination of remote and geographically dispersed 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, and effectively manage client projects.
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. Again, there are 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 ensure you don’t need to check on the details constantly.
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.
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.