Global projects are more complex in nature than local project because additional factors are added to it, such as time zone differences, cultural differences, language differences and geographical distance differences. Distance is one of the major factors making global project complex. Distance has direct impact of communications. Lack of communication is one of the major reasons for PM failure. Distance also affects coordination and it does increases the amount of misunderstanding among project team members.
Geographical distance differences have a direct relationship with time zone differences especially in the East west direction. The further the distance the bigger the time zone differences. Time zone difference affects synchronous communication significantly. Project members therefore have to rely more on asynchronous communications which add extra delay to the project time. Asynchronous has it own advantages especially when there is a language barrier.
Language and cultural difference also goes hand in hand. However there are times two geographically separated teams will have similar culture but difference language. A good example will be Brazil and Mexico. In Brazil the national language is Portuguese while in Mexico the language is Spanish. However, both countries have very similar culture. Both countries are heavily influenced by the catholic religion, they both love music and entertainment and soccer is a more than a religion in both countries. However, on a global project involving the two countries language difference still come out. The language difference complexity is worse in situations when the there is no relationship between the languages of the various teams on the project such as English and Chinese. In these situations the language barrier is very pronounced. Synchronous communication is not helpful at all and the project members have to rely primarily on asynchronous communications. For global projects to be successful multiple means of communications are needed so taking synchronous communications out of the project will result in additional delay especially with feedback and clarification of confusing issues.
Cultural issues are much larger than language issues. Cultural issues affect many things such as believes, attitude, values, morals, ethics etc. What is ethical in one culture might be consider unethical in another. A good example is drinking or dressing. The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18 but 21 in the US. Bill Young the past president of AIPM (Australian Institute of Project Management) noted in (reference 5) that “50% of joint-venture project between Western companies and Chinese companies fail”. He then said understanding the cultural differences is one of the keys to the success global project not just between Australian and China.
If global projects are more complex than co-located projects why are companies doing global projects. In (reference 4) a report by pwc they noted that most financial institutions struggle with the effective execution of large, complex global initiatives. Others can comment on why global projects and how global projects can be successful today.