Three Tips to Managing Across the Globe

So you're managing people and projects around the world. It's not easy, and it seems to be the norm these days. I've worked with global projects for the past 15 years, and here are three of my tips to making them successful.

Define Clear, System-Based Milestones

One of the biggest problems with global projects is knowing who depends on what piece. Sometimes pieces of the system are interrelated, without the project manager understanding how. If you and your project team define clear handoffs that are based on pieces of the system under development, you have a much better chance of knowing if you're all on schedule or not.

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Too often, I see major milestones such as "Requirements Complete" or the ubiquitous "Code Complete." I don't think I've ever seen a project that met a "Requirements Complete" milestone, but I have seen projects where the requirements could be baselined, or where the most important requirements were defined enough to continue the project's work.

Since I tend to work in more Agile ways (even on global projects), I rarely define a milestone such as "Requirements Complete." Instead, I have milestones such as "Initial Requirements for such-and-such scenario (or user type) Defined."

Sometimes, I forgo requirements-based milestone, especially if the project teams are implementing by feature. In that case, I'll define milestones, such as "Feature 1 Complete." Once we have any features complete, system testing can start, even if it's not much of the system.

The value to implementing by feature is that as the project manager, I learn very early in the project if people are having trouble. If it takes longer than we expected to implement (or test) Feature 1, I have to review the rest of the schedule to see what I want to discuss with the project team.

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