Communication Barriers in the Client’s Workplace and Possible Solutions

Nowadays, as seen in many industries, outsourcing has become well-accepted in the project management area. Reasons for outsourcing can vary from industry to industry. In project management, outsourcing is primarily due to the lower budget that many projects have. Nonetheless, the key area to focus on is the “communication barriers that exist when a project manager works at the client’s location and manages an off-shore team by obtaining the client’s scope.”  From this aspect, the article, “Communication Barriers in the Client’s Workplace and Possible Solutions,” highlights several communication problems along with possible solutions.

Below you will see a highlight of these problems categorized under four (4) processes along with possible solutions. These problems are also defined in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) – Fourth Edition (PMI, 2008).

  1. Identify Stakeholders
  2. Plan Communications
  3. Distribute Information
  4. Manage Stakeholder Expectations


Identify Stakeholders and Plan Communications

–          Stakeholder register

  • In the article, the author suggests to have a stakeholder register for every project. The stakeholder register should include the name of the stakeholder, the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholder in the project, the stakeholder’s expectations of the project, and cases in which the stakeholder needs to be contacted and how.

–          Arrange weekly meetings highlighting the exact agenda

  • The project manager needs to determine frequency of the meetings and media, i.e. face-to-face meetings, conference calls, etc.

Distribute Information

–          Plan and execute the right mode of communication

  • The author suggests to use email communication for complex scenarios, and to use face-to-face communication for quick and immediate responses. As for face-to-face communications, the project manager should also send a “re-cap” email of discussions, tasks, decisions, etc. as a best practice.

–          Access to required information, i.e. client’s network, shared folder, etc.

Manage Stakeholder Expectations

–          Negotiate and influence the stakeholder so that certain critical project meetings can still be conducted in the absence of the key stakeholders

–          Accept the fact of how the client works and try to adapt to such working cultures

(Ramaniah, 2012)

The possible solutions seen above can easily be applied to any project in any industry.  This list can be endless since there are several issues and risks in any given project. Therefore, as a project manager, one should consider all four processes. At the end of the day, as the author stated, “It is the project manager’s responsibility to run the show successfully by proactively anticipating such issues and planning how to tackle them.”

In particular, the biggest challenge for me in the project communications management area has been identifying stakeholders in my projects. This has been a challenge since I was new to the company, and initially needed a lot of support and guidance from my manager.

Overall, what are the current challenges that you are now experiencing in the project communications management area? Have you experienced any communication barriers listed under the four different processes?  Have you applied any one of the solutions?


Communication Barriers in the Client’s Workplace and Possible Solutions



What do “Great Projects” have in Common?

The article, “What Great Projects Have in Common,” gave a great overview of the common characteristics of highly successful projects. The overview was based on research and initially included the following selection measures.

  1. It was a major undertaking of strategic importance to the initiating organization.
  2. Its outcome contributed substantially and for an extended period of time to the performance of its organization and the well-being of customers and users.
  3. It was highly innovative from a scientific, technological, design or operational perspective.
  4. The project’s outcome had a major impact on its industry and stimulated others to follow in its footsteps.

(Dvir and Shenhar, 2011)

With the selection measures listed above, 46 projects were selected from various industries. The list was then narrowed down to 15. This was based on a survey from five experienced executives, and the projects ranged from the construction of The Sydney Opera House to the launch of the extraterrestrial spacecraft into the Milky Way (NASA’s Kepler project).  Interesting enough, out of the 15 great projects, 12 of them shared the following common characteristics listed below.

  1. A great project involves creating a unique competitive advantage and/or exceptional value for its stakeholders.
  2. These projects began with a long period of project definition that was dedicated to defining a powerful vision and clear need and selecting the best execution approach.
  3. Great projects create a revolutionary project culture.
  4. A great project needs a highly qualified project leader who is unconditionally supported by top management.
  5. Great projects maximize use of existing knowledge, often in cooperation with outside organizations.
  6. These projects have integrated development teams with fast problem-solving capability and the ability to adapt to business, market and technology changes.
  7. Great project teams have a strong sense of partnership and pride.

(Dvir and Shenhar, 2011)

From this aspect, I think that the “Configuration Management” project that I am currently co-leading with my manager displays most of the common characteristics of great projects. This project is a multi-year global project, and the goal is to develop an end-to-end product life cycle solution that includes designing and implementing a combination of best practice processes, procedures and tools.  It also includes creating a systematic and controlled environment of configuration management that is scalable for the entire company. Most of all, the project displays common characteristics #1, #2, #3, #6, and #7, and will be changing the company culture and the way Baxter Healthcare does business. Similarly, my manager is a highly qualified project leader that has top management support for this highly visible and strategic project. However, one area that we need to work on is common characteristic #5. We need to benchmark with other companies to learn more about best practice processes, procedures and tools for configuration management.

Overall, what do you think great projects have in common? Do you agree with the initial selection measures and seven common characteristics?  What examples can you provide from your previous project experience as great projects?



MITSloan Mgt Review_Spr 2011_What Great Projects Have in Common