Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Projects, project management and careers – 10: international and trans-national projects 3

Posted in career development, job search and career development, outsourcing and globalization by Timothy Platt on September 7, 2012

This is my tenth installment in a series on projects and project management as a career path (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 250-258 for Parts 1-9.) And it is my third in that, to focus on projects as carried out across geographically dispersed organizational systems and in an increasingly interactive online context.

I began this sub-series in Part 8 with a general discussion of project management and with a focus on bringing in and actively, effectively involving and including project team members when they are scattered geographically. In Part 9, I turned to discuss some of the communications and information infrastructure issues and opportunities that can contribute to successful, effective in-house project management for a geographically dispersed business and project team. Here, I continue that with a discussion of collaborative project software, and how it can bring teams together to function effectively. And in this, I divide project software into two categories:

• More general purpose software tools that can be used and even user-customized to meet project and project management needs, and
• Dedicated project design and management software.

And I begin discussion of them by noting that project-supportive general software already in place, and with necessary usage licenses already in place, need not add any operational costs to the projects it would be used for. Those expenses can, of course be transferred in part or even in whole over to a projects expense line as a bookkeeping decision, but overall expenses to the business as a whole need not necessarily rise, unless additional user licenses or other novel expenses are needed. And these expenses will not come into play for in-house developed software and certainly if development costs have already been amortized into other, operational budget lines. So general purpose software in place in the business that is tasked for specific usage instances to supporting a project, can be considered in many cases, to be essentially free to that project. And this does not even consider the issues of open source and freeware already in place.

General office support and communications software would fit into this category of software infrastructure in place (e.g. Microsoft Office tools such as Word or Excel, used to draft and share reports, or PowerPoint for which licenses are already in place, or open source instant messaging software.)

Dedicated project-supportive software might or might not carry project-specific costs for acquisition. Even open source or free for use commercial software can effectively carry usage costs when project team members need to be trained in how to use it. So look beyond the initial costs of software acquisition here, to consider all possible cost centers that might become involved:

• Server computer space for housing this software if new hardware support would be needed – though these expenses would in many cases be distributed among project and ongoing operational users. And
• Training costs, as cited above, where this would include both the costs of training per se, and costs accruing from employees in training not being available for their regular work assignments while actively in training

are just two possibilities here.

Work with affected stakeholders in Information Technology and Finance, among other departments to find the most cost-effective way to meet these project needs and expenses, and ideally with solutions that would add benefit outside of project work too so resources obtained do not remain idle or under-used once a project is completed.

Microsoft offers a widely used and known project development and management software package: Microsoft Project, along with a dedicated project management server solution, and together these resources form the foundation for their overarching Microsoft Office Enterprise Project Management product. So complete packages, capable of managing the largest and most complex projects are available and off the shelf.

As a workable alternative, there are also open source project software solutions, thought they can carry costs where their underlying code might need adjusting and augmentation, and they often carry costs related to integrating them into existing IT systems. And open source solutions do not generally carry the levels and types of information security due diligence support, and security-related update and patch availability that larger-provider commercial software companies offer. So free can carry real expenses and become costly too.

Microsoft has run programs in support of schools and nonprofits that have given free license access to their software, and for a wide range of their more popular products, to organizations they would support as being societally important. So as a special case, perhaps, nonprofits at least can at times find commercial software less expensive than open source and freeware.

• Approach the issues and questions of software inclusion and integration with an open mind and know your options and the direct and indirect costs that different approaches might carry.
• Some costs come immediately and up-front and some would be more spread out. And timing of expenses-due can be crucial, and certainly as budgets are allocated and budgeted expenses are scheduled for payment. So more due-later can be more cost-effective than less due in total but all of that due now and all at once.
• Work with interested stakeholders and both to obtain buy-in and to help you develop the most cost-effective solutions – and not just for your project but for the business as a whole.

My focus here has been on selecting, financing software and related IT support and on functionally setting up a project so as to be cost-effective. My next series installment will turn to the issues of scheduling and coordinating projects across distances and time zones. And I note in anticipation of that, that distances and time zone spreads can at times and with planning be converted into positives and strengths.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development. I am also including this subseries on international and trans-national projects in Outsourcing and Globalization.

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