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The biggest challenges of an Offshore project?

The job at the scheduler can be challenging enough when your team are together. But what if the project is located is located offshore? What do schedulers need to be aware of and what are the biggest challenges for project schedulers to consider? This is a challenge many project schedulers face often in the construction, energies sector and mining sectors.

Here at PrimaveraReader we share with you in this article some of the considerations and challenges for schedulers to consider, including our ideas and practical solutions to overcome these issues. These include location and time zones; languages, translation and the potential for misunderstanding; coordination and getting response from the offshore project team; issues such as the scheduler receiving the timely monthly updates they need to update the schedule and manage performance; to dealing with urgent challenges such as re-planning and change requests.

When building and managing project schedules for offshore projects; location, time zones and language barriers are some of the more frequent challenges to overcome.

The global location of your offshore project could mean that time zones can be a hindrance to achieving good communication and collaboration.

Running a mining project in Australia from Europe? Who is going to make the effort to work outside court working hours in order to communicate?

This problem is exasperated if the scheduler is managing and coordinating projects in multiple geographical locations.

When the clock strikes 12:00 where is it 12:00? In your office or in the location of the project?

It is a good idea to communicate clearly defined time zone and degree project times and calendars.

It's prudent to have in mind that there are different working days operating in various parts of the world.

For example, in some countries the working week starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday, with Fridayand Saturday off. This requires the use of a specific project calendar in the schedule.

Language barriers have the possibility for mix up in misinterpretation of project information such as specifications and requirements.

If you are working with multiple offshore projects in different locations, the problem can become exasperated such as if they form part of a global programme.

If the subject matter expert you need for your project does not speak the language of the core project team, culturally differences and interpretation of the meaning of emails and conversations can lead to confusion about the desired schedule inputs required and can make for back-and-forth iteration and potentially lead to errors and delay on the project.

To combat this, at the beginning of a project it is worth specifying what will be the main working language of your project, if at all possible and keep in mind your enterprise project management tool may need interfaces in several languages, and support those specialists you need that do not speak by mother tongue the core language of the project team.

Some companies are fully aware of the challenges that globally distributed and management of offshore projects present, and ensure at least in the start-up phase of a new project that the project team meet; either via the use of technology or some companies even go to lengths of flying the project team members to one location so that they can meet in person and build the relationships in person so that the project can really thrive and prosper.

Communication

How do you plan on communicating with your offshore project teams?

Coordination and making contact with offshore teams can be a real challenge.

How are you going to reach them?

Rely on email?

Direct line via Phone?

One of the solutions is to set a regular drumbeat schedule meetings and updates via a shared and agreed calendar.

Some of the methods for combating the situation range from the use of technology, to setting out the expected requirements of communication and coordination between the offshore team and the scheduler from the outset of the project so that the project team know what is expected of them.

Videoconferencing and communication platforms can really help schedulers.

They enhance communication and collaboration within the project team and popular ones include Skype for Business to more secure offerings from companies such as Go to Meeting and Cisco Webex.

At times there is a lot of value in being able to share your screen live with your offshore project team so that you can build, update and modify the schedule with the benefit that the project team can view these real-time and provide direct feedback so that the scheduler can immediately reflect those changes and iteratively refine the project schedule with the result of refining and agreeing changes must faster...

Be clear and plan in advance when collaborative meetings are going to take place and how.

Dial in numbers for teleconferencing and or the methods of communication need to be sent in advance, and via an effective method that will reach your project team.

It's a good idea to have a least one, if not two people in the offshore location who will coordinate the project team and ensure they are made available for activities such as to support build of the project schedule, reviewing and setting the baseline, managing and dealing with change and schedule updates.

Which brings us on to another challenge: schedule updates.

With regards to schedule updates: Who is going to verify performance?

For schedulers, are the performance updates received from the offshore team based on pre-agreed rules of credit?

Or are they based on an individual's interpretation of progress?

Who in the offshore location is going to order to verify the schedule performance update against real-world progress before it is published and distributed?

You do not want to be in the position of reporting non-accurate project performance to management and stakeholders, or ordering material when the project isn’t actually as far progressed as is being reported.

Software solutions

What software are you going to choose or is mandated for scheduling for your project?

For offshore and dispersed project teams Oracle Primavera P6 collaboration tools via web access provide project teams a solution. P6 web access provides a collaborative scheduling platform for managing project schedules.

P6 web access provides three types of workspaces:

  • Dashboards
  • Project Workspace
  • Workgroups

These are ideal for sharing and managing offshore schedules and project information.

With Primavera EPPM web access, you can create, schedule, and manage projects whether simple or complex online.

With use the level of security, or project participants can see and update just the information they need, so the entire project team benefits.

As part of this solution, Primavera Workgroups provides a collaborative space for people working on a project.

Project members can use the Workgroups page to view documents issues and the information relevant to their area of the project.

Additional to work groups, Oracle Primavera Workspace provides a homepage for the project and project information.

Each team member views the same project related information, such as project milestone status, activities behind schedule and project documentation.

Dashboards make it simple for the scheduler to share the project schedule with the team, as well as gaining visibility into project performance; such as project health and statistics providing each project team member with the information they need wherever they are globally in order to plan, manage, control and deliver projects of any size.

It really becomes a challenge and problem for a project team if the information they are viewing isn’t the latest version and isn’t kept up to date.

The scheduler cannot be sure which versions of schedulers have been printed or a being viewed through sharing attachments for example via email.

Establish your software solution as the source truth information center and publish a drumbeat update calendar along with management of events such as change control goes a long way to assisting the life of a project scheduler, and successfully delivering projects.

PrimaveraReader provides project managers and project teams a low-cost scalable solution for publishing and sharing project schedules from Primavera P6 and provides a full range of benefits that allows users to reduce project costs due better performance through analysis of the activity details with easy visualization in Gantt chart, WBS, OBS, Resources and Assignments views; along with import custom layouts and filters for alignment within the company environment; analysis of the relations between successor, predecessor including Trace Logic View; and comparison of Baselines and easy tracking of changes from the previous plan version.

Summary

Managing offshore teams is difficult and it takes a lot of commitment from everyone involved.

You have to be even better at documentation, knowledge sharing and team building then when you have everyone in the same room.

Research suggests that 80% of project team members feel that working distributed is harder than everyone co-located.

Being alert to the challenges of offshore teams is the first step to identify methods to help keep your project team on track.

 
 

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