Senior Project Managers often face the burden of managing multiple projects in multiple locations, quite often in different time zones.
However with the correct tools and processes in place this may not be as difficult as it may first appear. There are a number of important attributes to managing a project which can be even more of a challenge when a number of locations are in question. We examine a number of the key areas:
Communication is an important aspect of any management process and this is also the case when it comes to managing a project. When managing a number of projects, communication is needed with a number of stakeholders on each individual project. The ideal means of communication would be to meet with people on each of the projects frequently in person, however this is not always possible when a location barrier is in play, mainly due to cost and time management limitations.
It may be possible to hold regular meetings online (via Skype, for example), to keep in touch with what plans are in place in particular locations, ultimately making cost savings and allowing more time to be allocated by the project manager.
When liaising with colleagues that are not based in the same office there is often a tendency for email overload which can lead to information overload by all parties. There is also the possibility of misunderstanding or misinterpreting the text in an email. This can cause problems in relation to time taken to ascertain the correct information as well as the time consumed with constantly reading and replying to emails. If you are using emails to communicate in this context they should be kept short, concise and to a minimum!
When managing projects in a number of locations, you also have to manage the resources on the projects in terms of personnel. It can be difficult to plan hours for people that are located in a different office as there is often:
- Poor visibility and lack of communication on days off.
- Uncertainty about when certain people may be out of the office and not available to work on the project.
- Misunderstanding regarding the hours that they may be available to work for a specific project.
Purchasing & Expenses:
Although budgets are set at the start of any project and will be reviewed during progress, it is often impossible to get a real time view of spending when projects are spread out over multiple locations. When the project manager does not have real time visibility on all expenses it can cause certain aspects of, or indeed the full budget to be overstretched. This will ultimately effect the deliverability of the project on time and on budget.
Every project manager has to report to someone on the current position of their projects, a task which may be difficult and time consuming when trying to gather information from each of the individual projects. Project management software can dramatically simplify this process as all projects, or part thereof with any criteria such as manager, location or even current stage, can be reported on automatically, in real time. These reports can then be emailed or shared with colleagues or supervisory figures.