Global projects

how to manage them successfully?

Assistant Professor of Project Management Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC


Globalization and the free market philosophy, the forces that shaped our present economy, are creating new customer demands and needs, thereby challenging organizations to raise their performance. It is logical that the ensuing competition is compelling organizations to develop products and services faster, cheaper, and better in order to maintain or increase competitive advantage in the global market place. Further, these global forces are impacting the way we manage projects. However, history shows that globalization and the free market philosophy are not new; what has changed is the availability of advanced technology systems and their extensive application for managing projects effectively.

With a steep decline in communication and Internet access costs, information technology and access to virtual world networks are encouraging organizations to shift toward decentralized and networked structures. With the ever-expanding use of the World Wide Web, organizations realize advantages in time management, travel costs, and communications speed (Lee-Kelly, 2006). Further, organizations are in a position to use talented people from almost anywhere in the world at a lower cost. Employing virtual teams to manage business has become an important option because organizations are able to overcome the barriers of time and geographical location (Lipnack & Stamps, 1999). Be it a product, service, or result, virtual global teams are routinely employed for managing projects.

Global outsourcing is also becoming a common business practice. Recent studies (Means, 2005; Field, 2002; Erickson & Ranganathan, 2006) show that U.S. corporations are spending billions of dollars annually in offshore outsourcing of IT services, and many U.S. organizations are sending a significant portion of their IT development work to offshore providers. This is occurring primarily due to the significant cost differential between offshore and onshore providers. This business practice is not limited either to the IT industry or U.S. alone.

In this global environment of intense competition, to realize and sustain competitive advantage, organizations must place importance on how they practice project management. Specifically, it is critical, in the context of global projects and geographically dispersed project teams, to integrate information technology (IT) tools and knowledge management concepts in dealing with project risk and complexity with a focus on improving efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation.

A literature review provides ample evidence of research interest in global projects. There are a few studies identifying enablers and barriers of global projects (Grosse, 2002; Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999; Lientz & Rea, 2003; Sarker & Sahay, 2002; Nidiffer & Dolan, 2005; Dodson, 1998) and their successful implementation, but the interaction of enablers and barriers and how well their relationships to one another could be used to improve project performance is an area that has not been addressed. The purpose of this research effort is to develop a model for improving the performance of global projects using the underlying relations among the important enablers and barriers of global projects.

This study begins with the premise that global projects and global virtual teams are inextricably linked. The focus of this study is to understand how enablers and barriers of global projects inter-relate. Using these inter-relationships, a model is developed to analyze the roles and responsibilities of the project manager and the team to successfully manage global projects. In this paper, as a first step, enablers and barriers of global projects are identified using a literature review. Second, the research methodology for collecting data to develop underlying relations among these factors and their level of impact on project success is presented. Then the structural linkages between these factors are identified, analyzed, and discussed. The analysis of these linkages will determine individual and team roles in project success from the research's and practitioner's perspectives. Finally, we will present limitations of the study and suggested opportunities for future research efforts.

Literature Review

For the purposes of this study, a global project is defined as a transnational project, a temporary endeavor with a project team made up of individuals of different countries, working in different cultures, business units, and functions, and possessing specialized knowledge for solving a common strategic task (Adenfelt & Lagerström, 2006; Marmer, 1998; Schweiger, 1998).

Likewise, a global virtual team is defined by three dimensions: (1) no common past or future, (2) culturally diverse and geographically dispersed, and (3) communicating electronically (Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999).

Global projects have the opportunity to draw team members from different parts of the world. Consequently, they can source subject matter experts from a much larger resource pool. This leads to the possibility of assembling a highly talented team for global projects. Such teams get the attention in the organization and the industry. In general, global projects with greater visibility attract more attention (Leintz & Rea, 2003), which has its advantages and disadvantages. Such projects are of importance to local governments and therefore get their support. Simultaneously, they are under close scrutiny by the political and legal systems.

Enablers and Barriers

An interesting advantage of using a team from different parts of the world is that the time difference can be used to allow team members to work on the project at different times and as a result, project teams can work round the clock to minimize schedule duration. IBM has used this concept very well in its global project teams (Singer, 2001). Global projects can use time zone differences to increase the number of productive work hours in a day, and secure scarce resources such as knowledge experts and other specialized resources, no matter where they reside (Nidiffer & Dolan, 2005). Also, projects can employ more people, because there are no space constraints. However, Nidiffer and Dolan caution that these benefits come with increased risks from lack of face-to-face interaction, which may result in lack of trust and ineffective communication, leading to difficulty in collaboration.

Likewise, Jarvenpaa and Leidner (1999), citing the characteristics of project teams—use of electronic communication, cultural diversity, and no history of working together—argued that all these dimensions challenge the potential existence of trust in global virtual teams. They concluded that communication that supports the project and tasks makes it possible for the existence and maintenance of trust. Likewise, research has shown team member trust as a key antecedent to collaboration (Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999; Kanawattanachai & Yoo, 2002). It is in this context that project leadership plays an important role in establishing clarity in communication, expectations, and openness to generate collaboration and trust among the project team members (Anantatmula, 2006). Likewise, Kanawattanachai and Yoo (2002) found that trust results in open communication, cooperation, higher quality decision-making, and risk taking.

It is obvious that cultural differences and different time zones are barriers to effective communication, right across the project, from within the project team to external stakeholders. In the past, the language and culture have been confined to the physical location (Sarker & Sahay, 2002). Throughout history, trade, business interests, and consequent colonization have gradually changed these long-held traditions, albeit to a limited extent. Certainly, technology is an important enabler to address some of these issues, but it has a limited role. Recent technological advances such as the Internet, satellite television, wireless communication networks, and the global economy are bringing more changes to local language and culture. Notwithstanding, it is still quite a challenge to global project managers. Sarker and Sahay (2001), however, observed that the cultural identity of individuals is still inextricably tied to their native language. Citing Stohl (2000), they argued that individuals, in spite of being fluent in multiple languages, still have a strong preference for conducting business in their native language.

Global project management teams must pay close attention to cultural differences and their effects on communication among project stakeholders. Yasin, Martin, and Czuchry (2000)—citing other studies (Kerzner, 1995; Halpin & Huang, 1995)—suggested that project managers dealing with international projects should be trained to develop sensitivity to cultural differences and should be knowledgeable about international environmental regulations and standards. Grosse (2002) concluded that speaking the language and knowing the culture help communicate better, but being sensitive to cultural differences is necessary for communication. Discussing the automotive industry as an example of global project teams, Dodson (1998) suggested that the project manager should be cognizant of the differences in culture and its impact on approaches to analyzing and solving problems. Communication was also found to be an important component of project success in virtual teams in studies conducted by Beranek, Broder, Reineg, Romano, and Sump (2005) and by Khazanchi and Zigurs (2005).

Considering culture as a risk factor, Sennara and Hartman (2002) argued that if cultural risks are not recognized in projects, consequences could be costly. In their research study, Sennara and Hartman (2002) found that though major cultural risks on domestic and global projects are superficially similar, their impact on project effectiveness and success are different. They listed six issues that need to be considered before deciding to go forth with a global project: organizational culture, networking, project selection, contracts and negotiation, project leadership, and foreign agent selection.

The main issue between cultures seems to be the role of trust. This is critical if both the buyer and the seller are to work together on the project effectively. It is also important to identify the differences between cultures up front, or an unnecessary risk is created for both parties as well as for the overall success of the project. Majchrzak et al. (2000) defined this issue further, and developed three practical outcomes that can improve trust in global project teams. First, creating an environment where team members are comfortable openly discussing conflicts; second, avoiding rigid structure that are not adaptable; and third, using telephone conferences as well as the Internet.

Grabowski and Roberts (2005) also identified four areas for risk mitigation in virtual organizations: organizational structure, communication, culture, and trust.

Apart from culture, Damodara (2000) argued, in the context of engineering and construction projects, that organizations need to change their project management practices in at least six areas to remain competitive globally. They are as follows:

  • An organizational structure that will be cost-effective in the global environment
  • State-of-the-art information systems, which facilitate fast, reliable data delivery anywhere in the world
  • Project management team members who can think globally; project management team's ability to communicate and delegate work to others in distant locations
  • An ability to make effective use of suppliers all over the world to allow lower manufacturing and delivery costs
  • An ability to take advantage of local existing facilities to lower material and construction costs
  • Achievement of a global quality, regardless of location.

Most of these project management issues are relevant for every industry. For instance, organization structure is considered an important enabler in global projects to promote a culture of collaboration, learning, and trust (Adenfelt & Lagerström, 2006).

Lientz and Rea (2003) identified a number of factors that add complexity to global projects: lack of control due to external issues such as local priorities; diverse cultures; different time zones; volatility associated with local and foreign exchange currencies; differing rules and regulations in different geographical locations; political pressures; and greater public visibility of these projects. Therefore, the project manager and the team have no option but learn about legal issues, rules, and regulations of all the countries involved in the project. Additionally, these global projects have to cope with changing management styles, which vary from country to country. Likewise, the value of money and time are different in different places, and attitudes toward individual and team efforts vary. To some extent, knowledge sharing using technology helps address some of these issues.

A research study examining issues related to enabling and sharing knowledge in transnational projects has identified communication technology as an enabler (Adenfelt & Lagerström, 2006). While it is important, designing information systems for effective communication is not easy. Lehmann (2004) pointed out the difficulty of setting up a global information system for a large multinational firm, the issues being the definition of requirements, the internal politics of the organization, and the changing strategic direction of the organization.

Yasin et al. (2000) observed that compared to project managers with no international experience, those with global project management experience have more knowledge in international law, international finance, international economics, and international marketing. More interestingly, global project managers are more knowledgeable about integration management, customer satisfaction, and leadership. According to their study, project managers with global experience considered procurement management to be important when managing their projects. Lee-Kelley (2006) also found that selection of team members in the global team is critical to project success.

As noted earlier, global virtual teams go hand-in-hand with global projects. The virtual team's effectiveness plays an important role in project performance. In planning meetings of the virtual teams, time and place determine the type of meeting (Singer, 2001), and four options are available; same time and same place, same time and different place, different time and same place, and different time and different place. Each option can use different communication tools and techniques to overcome communication barriers.

Global project teams use different place and same time/different time options for their project teams, and it is obvious that technology plays an important role in project communications. In fact, technology is the enabler for organizations to go global with their projects and it has changed the paradigm for projects. Technology is an enabler, but it alone cannot instill trust among the project team members. Therefore, caution about other factors associated with virtual teams is needed.

Dubé and Paré (2001) contended that global virtual teams face significant challenges over and above virtual teams located locally, due to cultural differences and language issues. They identified people- and technology-related key issues for global virtual teams. People-related key issues are culture, language, and IT proficiency. Technology-related key issues are accessibility, reliability, compatibility of technology, and appropriate use of it.

Team building is considered essential for virtual project teams (PMI, 2004). Referring to a Standish Group report (1999), Nidiffer and Dolan observed that building virtual teams with a minimum of face time, clearly defining work, measuring cybernetic worker productivity, and managing employee communications across time zones are major management priorities. These priorities are relevant to projects and have a significant impact on the project manager's role and how projects are managed. Needless to say, technology is critical in supporting and meeting these priorities. Based on their study of virtual teams using WebCT, Sarker and Sahay (2001) suggested that attention to technical and social components of virtual teams would minimize the friction related to locational and temporal distances.

In the context of software outsourcing, Erickson and Ranganathan (2006), argued that the project management capability of the outsourcing agency has a significant impact on whether the outsourcing project is effective; that is, meeting schedules, controlling costs, achieving technical performance, and attaining overall results. After a qualitative study, they concluded that team management and project planning and control capabilities have a significant influence on offshore outsourcing effectiveness.

Other barriers to global project success include failure to understand that international projects are different from standard projects, excessive management attention that leads to micromanagement, lack of sensitivity to local culture, overdependence on technology, and little or no project control processes (Lientz & Rea, 2003). The authors also identified some enablers, which include collaborative effort, proactive resource allocation, project organization, and conviction among all the stakeholders that it will be a win-win situation for all.

While external factors such as culture and legal environment influence project performance, global projects are also affected by internal factors such as project management practices, which vary from country to country. Yasin et al. (2000), in their study of 81 project managers, found that project managers with global experience seemed to have to more knowledge about cost management, have the ability to be leaders, and tended to understand international, technical, and human factors of project management compared to those who did not have global project management experience. Research findings of Yasin et al. underline the roles of a project manager in successfully managing global projects.

Using the above literature review findings as reference, we have developed a list of factors that appear to have a significant influence on global projects (see Table 1). Obviously, these factors include both enablers and barriers. We have combined them to label them as factors of influence on the performance of global projects.

Table 1. Enablers and Barriers

Enablers and Barriers Description References
Communication Language and associated cultural differences—an obvious obstacle to communication, but its importance is apparent with the increasing use of the World Wide Web. Grosse (2002), Jarvenpaa & Leidner (1999), Lientz & Rea (2003), Sarker & Sahay (2002), Nidiffer & Dolan (2005), Dodson (1998), Beranek et al. (2005), Khazanchi & Zigurs (2005)
Cultural values Religion has an impact on a project in terms of work ethics, values, holidays, who will work with whom, etc.
Beliefs, outcome of culture, can influence work practices.
Local, regional, and national management practices can vary from country to country and could be different from western norms, such as time off from work, hierarchical authority, gender issues, etc.
Dubé and Paré (2001), Grosse (2002), Jarvenpaa & Leidner (1999), Lientz & Rea (2003), Nidiffer & Dolan (2005)
Global business environment International market, international economics, international finance, and currency—an understanding of all these global business environmental issues will facilitate making better project decisions throughout the project lifecycle. Yasin et al. (2000), Lientz & Rea (2003)
Legal and political issues Country-specific laws, environmental regulations, political issues, and acceptable standards can impact a global project. Lientz & Rea (2003), Yasin et al. (2000), Kerzner (1995), Halpin & Huang (1995)
Integration management Vertical (within the organization) and horizontal integration (external to the organization) is critical and can become difficult across regions and countries. Barkley (2006), Nidiffer & Dolan (2005), Yasin et al. (2000), Erickson & Ranganathan (2006), Lientz & Rea (2003), Damodara (2000)
Project organizational structure Cost-effective organizational structure will be decentralized and flexible to collaborate and manage global projects successfully to meet customer needs. Yasin et al. (2000), Erickson & Ranganathan (2006), Damodara (2000)
Global procurement management Procurement management in global projects will have no geographical boundaries. Therefore, it is a challenge to possess the knowledge of the best places to go for materials and labor, which can impact global project success. Sennara & Hartman (2002), Damodara (2000), Erickson & Ranganathan (2006), Yasin et al. (2000), Lee-Kelly (2006)
Leadership and establishing trust Treating a global project as a standard project can lead to problems. Leadership and people skills are more important for global projects. They help in establishing trust. Micromanaging is a temptation in global projects because of lack of understanding of the capabilities of the project team members, including contractors, and the absence of trust. Anantatmula (2006), Jarvenpaa & Leidner (1999), Nidiffer & Dolan (2005), Sennara & Hartman (2002), Erickson & Ranganathan (2006) Dodson (1998), Yasin et al. (2000), Lientz & Rea (2003), Damodara (2000), Grabowski & Roberts (1999), Majchrzak et al. (2000), Kanawattanachai & Yoo
Planning, execution and control Planning, execution and control—which include risk management—are impacted by cultural differences, varying working conditions, and local issues. Nidiffer & Dolan (2005), Yasin et al. (2000), Erickson & Ranganathan (2006), Sennara & Hartman (2002), Al-Tabtabai & Alex (2000)
Stakeholder and customer satisfaction Stakeholder and customer satisfaction—cultural, financial, communication complications can occur in terms of determining what the customer considers a successful project.
Stakeholders need to be part of the global project process and should be made to feel that they are in a win-win situation with respect to the project outcomes.
Nidiffer & Dolan (2005), Yasin et al. (2000)
Fast and reliable information systems Fast and reliable information systems are essential for success in global projects. Communication and control systems that are standard, compatible, reliable, and can be used in the participating countries are essential for knowledge sharing. Yasin et al. (2000), Lientz & Rea (2003), Sennara & Hartman (2002), Lehmann (2004), Dubé and Paré (2001) Adenfelt & Lagerström (2006)
Time zone differences Time zone differences can create communication (meetings) problems, specifically in synchronous mode. However, time zone differences can also allow work to proceed 24 hours a day. Yasin et al. (2000), Nidiffer & Dolan (2005), Lientz & Rea (2003)

Research Methodology

We have used two research methods. The first, Interpretive Structural Modeling (ISM), examines the underlying dependency relations among the factors identified from the literature review (Table 1). The second method was designed to establish the importance and level of impact of each of these factors on the success of global projects. To obtain this information, a questionnaire was sent to project management professionals working in virtual teams on global projects. Using the survey results in conjunction with the ISM results, the most important success factors were identified and strategies developed to manage them.

Interpretive Structural Modeling (ISM)

The ISM methodology was used to determine underlying relations among the factors listed in Table 1. Developed by Warfield (1973), this research method is normally used for structuring goals and objectives into a hierarchical model. ISM was chosen because human brains experience problems in coping with complex problems with a significant number of elements and relations among elements (Waller, 1975). ISM has other advantages too: it uses an interactive discussion method to collect data, which forces the participant in the research study to carefully analyze links between these factors.

After identifying a set of global project management factors (Table 1), ISM was used to develop an understanding of the shared underlying mental model in which these factors operate. An Excel spreadsheet (shown in Figure 1) was used for collecting the data.

ISM for Data Collection

Figure 1. ISM for Data Collection

ISM uses a process in which individuals or a group of people participate in structuring their collective knowledge and modeling interrelationships in a way that enhances the understanding of the complexity associated with the elements. In the process, ISM facilitates identifying structure within a system of related elements and creates an opportunity to analyze it from different perspectives.

Figure 1 was used when discussing the barriers and enablers with the participants in the study, and they were asked to fill out the white cells of the matrix shown in the figure with the following instructions:

  • Enter V when the row influences the column
  • Enter A when the column influences the row
  • Enter O when there is no relation
  • Enter X when row and column influence each other

For example, the cell (2, 3) represents the question, “Does communication lead to cultural values or vice-versa?” and the response (V, A, O, or X) is entered in the cell (2, 3). The contextual relation “leads to” is established based on a pair-wise evaluation of all the 12 factors shown in Figure 1 and the majority of the participants agreeing to a specific relation between any two elements.

Using this methodology, we can identify the direct and indirect relationships between attributes of project performance and show how to include softer variables in the analysis. The steps involved in using the input to develop a model are shown in Appendix A.

Using the Excel spreadsheet shown in Figure 1, data was gathered from discussions and interviews. The participants included project management professionals and academicians in the project management discipline. The participants were actively involved in global projects. Thus, we used qualitative research data as input to the ISM software to generate ISM data. The computational results are shown in Appendix B. Using these results, ISM software has generated the model shown in Figure 2.

Survey Results

The survey was sent to 40 project management professionals involved in global projects, and 23 responses were received. Of the respondents, 83% were either project managers or members of a global project team. The remaining members were part of the senior management; albeit indirectly in day-to-day management, senior management are involved in global projects as well. The majority of respondents were project managers (65%). Respondents represented global project teams of considerable size, with 70% of them having more than 20 members in the team, and 31% of them with more than 50 members.

The survey also revealed that more than 73% of respondents had more than six years of project management experience. Referring to global projects and virtual teams, 78% of the respondents have three or more years of experience working with global project teams.

All the participants have basic educational qualifications: 35% of them were certified PMPs, and an additional 8% held advanced certification or a graduate degree in project management.

Represented organizations were large organizations in terms of revenue and number of fulltime employees, with 70% of them have annual revenue exceeding $500 million and 83% of them being for-profit organizations. A staggering 87% of them had more than 1,000 fulltime employees, with 39% employing more than 10,000. A wide spectrum of organizations was represented in the study, with the healthcare industry leading the group (40%), followed by technology (22%), manufacturing (17%), and the communication sector (9%). Financial, real estate, and engineering industries were each 4%.

All the organizations that respondents worked for use Internet and email for communication with virtual team members. Seventy-four percent had used videoconferencing and virtual data sharing; Intranets were also commonly used (83%). Among all the electronic communication tools, instant messaging was least used (61%). Teams choose communication technology based on either the software and hardware compatibility among team members, or it is determined as a function of financial limitations (Pauleen & Yoong, 2001).

Comprehensive Global Projects Success Model

Figure 2. Comprehensive Global Projects Success Model

Respondents were asked to rate all the global project factors identified in Table 1 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing low impact and 5 representing high impact. The results are shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Success Factors and Their Impact

Factor Mean value (Impact)
Communication 4.70
Leadership and establishing trust 4.43
Stakeholder and customer satisfaction 4.39
Planning, execution, and control 4.30
Fast and reliable information system 4.22
Culture 3.91
Global business environment 3.78
Integration management 3.66
Organization structure 3.65
Global procurement management 3.52
Legal and political issues 3.43
Time zone differences 3.26

As can be seen from Table 2, the factors with highest impact are as follows:

  1. Communication
  2. Leadership and establishing trust
  3. Stakeholder and customer satisfaction
  4. Planning, execution, and control
  5. Fast and reliable information system

The results establish that communication is the key factor and is likely to have a high impact on project success. Considering that virtual teams are less successful compared to teams working using face-to-face communication (Baker, 2002), communication assuming greater importance than other factors is justified. Communication is followed by the importance of leadership and establishing trust. The high impact of stakeholder and customer satisfaction implies the significance of communicating with the stakeholders and managing their expectations. The next two factors—planning, execution, and control and fast and reliable information systems are means to employ effective communication, and manage the project and its team to meet stakeholder and customer satisfaction.

Respondents were not as overly concerned with time zone differences. It is suggested that the reason for this could relate to the fact that project team members are now continually using asynchronous communications and time difference is a normal part of their experience. Also, the low impact of time zone differences agrees with instant messaging as the least-used technology tool for communication.

By using ISM results in conjunction with these survey results, we can add more clarity to the success model. Considering the top five factors with greater importance than the rest and considering the remaining as behind-the-scenes driving factors, we have modified the comprehensive model in Figure 2 to a simplified version, shown in Figure 3, for managing global projects successfully.

Simplified Global Projects Success Model

Figure 3. Simplified Global Projects Success Model

The relevance and importance of the research findings, as reflected in Figure 3, in the project implementation phase are obvious. Once installed, it is important to maintain and upgrade the information systems to ensure their performance at the desired speed and reliability levels throughout the project management life cycle. Likewise, leadership and trust help create effective communication that must be sustained throughout the project life. Geographically dispersed project teams without an opportunity to get the whole picture of the project status are likely to be unaware of the project accomplishments and may quickly lose the sight of the status, which in turn will result in decreasing levels of motivation. Engaging leadership, building trust, and communicating effectively would help avoid such pitfalls.

Figure 2 has its relevance in developing a detailed plan and strategy for managing global projects, whereas Figure 3 could be a reference for global project managers to sustain the success strategy that is developed. Additionally, it will serve as a reference to maintain focus on important factors of success during the project execution.

With the possible exception of fast and reliable information systems, the factors shown in Figure 3 are considered important for traditional projects as well. However, the project management life cycle phase in which these factors become important differ considerably. These issues, along with a detailed analysis of the findings, are presented in the next section.

Analysis and Discussion

Generic Insights

The significance of ISM and its results from the global project management point of view is the emergence of this logical flow of causal influences. These causal influences are logically consistent and provide a combined view of the participants who participated in the study. The contextual relevance of this approach has important consequences for successful strategies and management practices in global projects.

In this research method, the resultant model permits us to understand how each of these elements can behave as an enabler and an inhibitor to global projects. In the models shown in Figures 2 and 3, the weakness of an element makes it an inhibitor, while the strength of that same element makes it an enabler. For instance, the presence of fast and reliable information leads to effective and efficient communication among the project stakeholders and creates a system for effective leadership and team management, whereas the absence of such an information system will impede project team functioning because of its geographical dispersion. This research approach demonstrates the dual role of all the elements in terms of whether they are enablers or barriers in global projects. Therefore, it may not be helpful to classify these elements as enablers or barriers.

The difference between the management practices the model suggests for global projects (Figures 2 and 3) and the management practices of traditional, co-located projects is an important outcome of this study. Defining roles and responsibilities, employing consistent processes, and communicating expectations are the activities that are addressed first in a traditional project (Anantatmula, 2006). However, in global projects, which are routinely managed with virtual teams consisting of diverse cultures, leadership and establishing trust is a first step and assumes importance in the initial stages of the project. Establishing leadership and information systems in the initial phases of the project life cycle exert significant influence on the project success in a global environment.

Analysis of the Results

Our results show that the global business environment and cultural values are the two main driving factors that can be used as basis to build a successful project management effort in global projects. The global business environment, which consists of international markets, international finances, and the global economy, exerts a major influence on global projects, for obvious reasons. It is imperative that the project managers critically examine the prevalent global business environment and its influence on existing legal and political issues of the applicable geographical regions where the project will be managed.

Likewise, cultural values, which include religion-based differences in values, differences in local and national management practices, work ethics, and beliefs, will have an impact on work practices and productivity, and shape the leadership and team management of global projects. It is critical for the project manager to be cognizant of cultural values in formulating his leadership and team management strategies. Based on all these factors a project manager will have to adopt his or her leadership style and ways in which the team is managed. As is true with any project, among other things, stakeholder and customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal of global projects.

Project leadership and team management influence and are in turn influenced by time zone differences and fast, reliable information systems. As defined earlier, time zone differences help project managers engage the project team round the clock. On the down side, the project team may not always have an opportunity to discuss issues face-to-face or by synchronous video-conference meetings because of geographical dispersion. For the same reason, fast and reliable information systems play a major role in deciding leadership and team management styles. On the other side, cultural values, which lead to the adoption of a suitable project leadership and team management, will have a significant influence on how time zone differences are managed and what kind of information system is required. Global project managers must analyze and understand these project-specific interdependencies in formulating their approach.

These factors together—information systems, issues related to time zone differences, and project leadership and management—will influence procurement practices in global projects. For instance, time zone differences and information systems will have a bearing on the project manager's decision to identify places for obtaining human resources and materials. Global project managers must exercise prudence in exploring and identifying all the possible sources for procurement of materials, services, and people, because there are no geographical boundaries or other constraints. Similarly, organizational structure, while adjusted to project leadership and management practices, is also influenced by information systems and time zone differences.

Integration management in the context of global projects is about integration within the organization as well as outside the organization. The involvement of various agencies in different parts of the world makes integration extremely important. The involvement of these agencies is a critical component of global projects and represents a significant difference between global projects and traditional projects. Involvement of various agencies external to the parent organization is decided by global procurement management practices and their effectiveness is a determinant of project communications and the structure.

Several research studies have shown that stakeholder and customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal of any project and our research results confirm this. However, for this to happen in global projects, stakeholders and customers should be made to feel that they are in a win-win situation and should be included in project communication whenever it is feasible.

Summary Findings

These results have several implications. In order to manage a global project successfully, organizations need to understand the global business environment and different relevant cultures. Further, the sponsoring organization and the project manager must develop an understanding of the relevant legal and political issues. The project-sponsoring organization and all the key stakeholders must recognize similarities and differences in culture and values. If required, the entire project team can be considered for training on cultural values. However, developing and nurturing a culture of openness and trust is usually a gradual process and will have a significant impact on communications. It is critical that the global project establish current, reliable, and fast information systems because of the geographical dispersion of project team members and stakeholders. Integration is a key success factor and the primary stakeholders will have to play important roles in managing this aspect of the global project. Finally, project managers who are managing global projects must adopt their leadership and team management practices and processes based on prevailing cultural values, legal and political issues, time zone differences, and information systems. Only after these aspects are addressed in detail can we move on to the traditional project management life cycle phases of planning, executing, monitoring, and control.

Limitations of the Study

A limitation to creating a model that represents a structure of relations is its general applicability across organizations. Therefore, caution should be exercised in using these findings. In addition, the number of participants remains an issue. To increase the validity of these results and to develop a more robust shared mental model, participation of more project management professionals is planned.

To increase the validity of the study findings, we plan to approach more project management professionals to participate in the study. These actions will facilitate the development of a more robust structural model. It is planned to further validate the model by using survey questionnaires to establish the importance and effectiveness of each factor included in the model, and establish their dependency relations using statistical methods.


Through the use of ISM, the research study has shown how we can capture the behavior of factors that can act as either enablers or barriers to global project performance. It has also shown that such a qualitative approach allowed us to retain the richness of the complexity associated with the interactions among the factors. With the research results, we have identified important strategies and suggested methodologies for successful implementation of global projects.

From the standpoint of enablers and barriers, this approach allows us to understand how each of these elements can behave as an enabler as well as an inhibitor to the success of global projects. Consequently, these results will help redefine some of the key project management processes to improve performance.

The model can be used to set priorities within a global project and assess the ability of global projects in meeting their objectives. The model helps in global project evaluation and as a tool, supports in improving project management processes. It also serves as a structure to develop strategies and set priorities for global projects.


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Appendix A: ISM Method

1. Identification of Elements:
The elements of the system are identified and listed. In this study, it is achieved using literature review. However, brainstorming or other research methods can be also be used

2. Contextual Relationship:
A contextual relationship between elements is established, depending upon the objective of the modeling exercise.

3. Structural Self Interaction Matrix (SSIM):
This matrix represents the respondent's perception of element to element directed relationship. Four Symbols are used to represent the type of the type of relationship that can exist between two elements of the system under consideration. These are:

1…for the relation from element Ei to Ej, but not in the reverse direction;

2…for the relation from Ej to Ei, but not in the reverse direction;

3…for an interrelation between Ei and Ej (both directions);

4…to represent that Ei and Ej are unrelated.

4. Reachability Matrix (RM):
A Reachability Matrix is then prepared that converts the symbolic SSIM Matrix into a binary matrix. The following conversion rules apply:

If the relation Ei to Ej = V in SSIM, then element Eij = 1 and EJi = 0 in RM

If the relation Ei to Ej = A in SSIM, then element Eij = 0 and Eji = 1 in RM

If the relation Ei to Ej = X in SSIM, then element Eij = 1 and Eji = 1 in RM

If the relation Ei to Ej = O in SSIM, then element Eij = 0 and Eji = 0 in RM

The initial RM is then modified to show all direct and indirect reachabilities, that is if Eij = 1 and Ejk = 1 then Eik = 1.

5. Level Partitioning:
Level partitioning is done in order to classify the elements into different levels of the ISM structure. For this purpose, two sets are associated with each element Ei of the system – A Reachability Set (Ri) that is a set of all elements that can be reached from the element Ei, and an Antecedent Set (Ai) that is a set of all elements that element Ei can be reached by.

In the first iteration, all elements, for which Ri = R1nAi, are Level I Elements. In successive iterations, the elements identified as level elements in the previous iterations are deleted, and new elements are selected for successive levels using the same rule. Accordingly, all the elements of the system are grouped into different levels.

6. Canonical Matrix:
Grouping together elements in the same level develops this matrix. The resultant matrix has most of its upper triangular elements as 0, and lower triangular elements as 1. This matrix is then used to prepare a Digraph.

7. Digraph:
Digraph is a term derived from Directional Graph, and as the name suggests, is a graphical representation of the elements, their directed relationships, and hierarchical levels. The initial digraph is prepared on the basis of the canonical matrix. This is then pruned by removing all transitivities, to form a final digraph.

8. Interpretive Structural Model:
The ISM is generated by replacing all element numbers with the actual element description. The ISM therefore gives a very clear picture of the system of elements and their flow of relationships.

Appendix B: ISM Data


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