Project Management in the Global Village

The world, as we know it, has changed dramatically in the past thirty years. The technological revolution, modernization of various countries, the internet and social networking have expanded the reach of both companies and individuals alike.

Nowadays, the notion of remote offices and remote workers has become a staple aspect of many corporations internal configurations. Whether the choice to accommodate remote access is one of cost or simple logistics, the fact remains that it is now a common theme across all types of organizations. Invariably, anyone working within the technology spaces, especially those in the software sector, will often be part of groups that span both domestic and global geographies.

With that being said, what exactly does this do in respect to managing large, disparate groups that can cross both geographic and cultural boundaries? How does the modern-day project/program manager handle situations where their resource pool may be either co-located for certain individuals while also being dispersed for others? How does a good project/program manager ensure that he/she is still able to stay on top of all aspects of their particular area and ensure that harmony and collaboration exists for all members of the team?

The first question is ask is the following: does any of this make the current notion of a project/program manager obsolete?

The answer, as some might already have guessed, is a resounding ‘NO‘.

If anything, the need for an effective project/program manager is required now more than ever, considering the disparate nature of project development. By their very nature, project/program managers are meant to be the proverbial herders of cats. The individuals that maintain the communication channels and ensure all individuals involved in any project are kept up to date and well informed. Being that large geographic boundaries need to be crossed in the modern world, this is not merely a ‘nice-to-have’ concept, it is an absolute essential.

So what tools and techniques can the staple project/program manager utilize in order to ensure that the communication channels are being handled effectively? Fortunately, with the modern world, come modern technologies that can be leveraged:

  • Blogs, wikis, social networks and shared workspaces – Group environments existing online (either internally or externally) are now a common meme for most in the industry. By leveraging some of these environments, individuals that are part of a common project can post status updates, share documents and engage in dialog, all within cyberspace. The added benefit is that one can always reference these conversations afterwards since they will be always available and show a running history of the dialog.
  • Email – Since its advent, email has become THE defacto communication mechanism within the industry. By leveraging common email lists or controlled email trees, the project/program manager can be in the thick of the communications. Note that email can become cumbersome in its absolute sense due to over usage in a company. So utilizing filters and common mailbox spaces will help ensure that important exchanges are not buried amidst the regular ‘noise’.
  • Online Meeting Software – Several different versions of this type of software exist: WebEx, LiveMeeting or GotoMeeting. All essentially function in a similar way: it allows disparately located individual to be able to see the same content online in real-time. A wonderful added benefit of many of these software offerings is that many also support WebCam content display. So individuals on a common conference can actually see each other, which adds a more personal level of interaction during the meeting.
  • Instant Messengers – These can be in the form of regular messenger mechanisms like Yahoo Instant Messenger or MSN Messenger. Or they can be evolved into more elaborate systems like twitter communications or chatter messages and posts on things like FaceBook or Salesforce.

One thing to note: it is sometimes tempting to ‘overload’ the communication stream by attempting to leverage too many of these tools at the same time. This can be detrimental to the overall project since it will lead to confusion and information overload. It’s best to investigate which tools and techniques fit the situation overall and make it a focal effort to utilize just those tools. This will ensure that individuals on the project are fully cognizant of exactly which communication streams to monitor and how to effectively engage in dialog with their peers.