Join Bob McGannon for an in-depth discussion in this video Effective use of tools, part of Managing International Projects.
- If I wanted to drive a nail into a piece of wood, I wouldn't get a screwdriver, I would get a hammer. Different tools achieve different results. It's the same with the tools for managing an international project. Without the right tools, it is unlikely that I'll be able to get the job done. There's a vast array of tools available to project managers to help you keep track of project tasks, risks, issues, and change requests. Choosing the right tool is key to achieving the desired outcome.
There are a number of things we should look for when selecting the right tools. Setup time. How long will it take for users to install the tool? How long will it take for users to set up the tool to enable it to be used? Tools that are time consuming to get up and running can frustrate users and result in intermittent, rather than consistent, use. Ease of use. How easy is it for individual team members to use? How easy is it to share information between your team members? Tools that are not easy to use will be bypassed by team members, leaving you with incomplete or inconsistent information.
Process driven. Does the tool match the behaviors and actions of the team? You may have a process that is highly technical, and requires three or four different sign-off stages. Once you have attained those technical sign-offs, the technical component is then certified for use. However, you may be using a tool that allows for only one sign-off for each component. This mismatch between the team needs and what the tool is capable of achieving can cause issues. You can still use the tool, but there may be some restructuring of workflow or the use of a workaround.
If you're not careful, this may lead to disempowerment of some members of the team. Efficiency. Does its use result in efficiency, or is entry of data into the system, or analysis of data from the system, creating more work for the team than it is saving? Infrastructure. Does everybody in the team have the right infrastructure to support the tools? It's important to ensure that the team has the right hardware, software, network access, and bandwidth the support the effective use of your tools.
Time differences. Can the tool handle data being entered from multiple time zones? If the tool you select cannot handle input of information from different time zones, it's apt to cause problems. For example, you might have a change request being approved before it's even been submitted. Can the tool handle entries in different currencies? You'll need to establish a common currency just as you'll establish a common language for the project. However, you may have to manage other currencies and currency value fluctuations for forecasting and status reporting purposes.
Trackability and traceability. Does the tool allow you to track or trace items? A requirement needs to be verified during testing. Your tool should allow you to trace a requirement from identification, through the testing, and final verification, and where these activities took place, because a function may need to be tested in different countries for different reasons, such as conformance with local labor laws. By using this checklist, you can find the right tool for the job, and you won't find yourself trying to hammer in a screw.
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- Communicating across borders
- Bridging time zones and language gaps
- Finding and nurturing management "champions"
- Evaluating your communication style
- Keeping international projects on track