Integrating Project Management Services on an International Scale

Martin Hirko
As a leading construction consultancy, Faithful+Gould provide comprehensive project management services to clients across the world.

Our construction project management team provides a range of integrated professional services. Operating through our network of national and international offices, we adopt a planned, organised and controlled approach to deliver successful construction projects. But, when a project attracts teams on an international scale from all aspects of the supply chain, such as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), there are certain challenges that need to be considered.

Global Stakeholders

In our modern era, the technical side of communication with global stakeholders is relatively easy; via email, conference calls and web-based software, all of which are used by our project management team on a daily basis. However, with that said, nothing beats old fashioned face-to-face communication, which can be quite a challenge when the people you need to talk to are located across the globe. 

In order to manage these stakeholders and maintain a sense of control on an international project, we schedule a series of regular meetings; weekly, bi-weekly and monthly. Most of which combine face-to-face attendance with video-conferencing for those who either cannot make it in person or where travel is just not practical, cost-worthy or efficient.

...nothing beats old fashioned face-to-face communication, which can be quite a challenge when the people you need to talk to are located across the globe. 

The most important communication tool for delivering and tracking project correspondence, submittals and approvals has proven to be our web-based document control system. The Aconex system has been created specifically for the construction industry and has proven to be an essential tool for providing efficient communications and document control, scaling up or down seamlessly, whether a local, national or international project. 

Cultural Challenges

Challenges on international projects are both technical and non-technical; technical challenges however, are always there, irrespective of where you are in the world.  Non-technical challenges, or cultural challenges, are what need special attention to ensure successful delivery.

Non-technical challenges, or cultural challenges, are what need special attention to ensure successful delivery.

Clients, with the support of Faithful+Gould, can often decide on an international/local joint-venture (JV) for construction. A successful JV like this takes advantage of the skilled resources, experience and talents of global and local experts. However, that unique combination comes with language, cultural and experiential differences which need to be managed on a daily basis.

Most of our clients decide from the start that all communications (written as well as spoken) will be conducted in English. But, we recognize there are times where some individuals are not proficient in English and need translation into or from their own language. In addition, there can be official in-country government documents which must be written in the user's native language. Recognising this challenge and putting solutions in place prior to the project start (i.e. multilingual staff or translators) is crucial, otherwise you may find yourself playing catch up on the schedule before the project has even begun.

In the end, there is no substitute for patience in order to ensure that all communication is as accurate and clear as possible...

In the end, there is no substitute for patience in order to ensure that all communication is as accurate and clear as possible, and the three main key deliverables on any project; quality, cost and time, are a universal language, understood by all.

Delivery Challenges

Delivery challenges on international projects can involve sourcing of materials, equipment and technical expertise from various parts of the world. To ensure successful delivery of a project, it is critical to select team members (design, construction and project management professionals) who have a combination of international, multi-national and local expertise. Our project team on the SNFCC for example, includes experts from the USA, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Holland and Greece. This particular mix may be unique but has proven to be essential in providing a very sophisticated level of experience and input required for this complex project. 

And, you cannot underestimate the importance of input from experts with local knowledge of government regulations as well as local labour force (its capabilities and limitations). Local experts with experience on projects with multi-national teams can prove to be vital to the success or failure of project delivery.

Local experts with experience on projects with multi-national teams can prove to be vital to the success or failure of project delivery.

On a project such as the SNFCC where the client has decided to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from a foreign authority such as the US Green Building Council (USGBC) specific challenges arise. Those challenges result from a lack of familiarity, experience and understanding of regulations and compliance issues required to meet and achieve the chosen certification. Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of assembling a team of talented experts with a combination of general as well as specific experience related to project specific needs, issues and requirements.

Where project implementation relies on parties on an international scale, it’s a given that technical competencies need to be effectively managed and coordinated, but, as globalisation has spread throughout the civilized world, cultural and language issues are becoming more common and ‘just part of the job’...but it’s probably the most important part to ultimately drive a project to success. 

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