Human Challenges of Multi-Location Projects by Deasún Ó Conchúir


Speaker: Deasún Ó Conchúir

Collaboration Consultant

Scatterwork GmbH - Kesswil

Wednesday, 9 May - 13.30–14.45 - 1 hour, 15 minutes

Summary: While collaboration technology is essential for multi-location projects, success also depends on strong attention to the human challenges. This workshop reviews these issues in the context of both global and generational diversity and highlights how to get quick wins in the virtual team environment.Learning objectives

Check visual summary by Penny Pullan

laforest-valerie.jpgReport by: 

Valérie Laforest, PMP

France Sud Chapter

Human Challenges of Multi-Location Projects by Deasún Ó Conchúir 


When asked, all the people from the audience reported to be working in virtual teams which put the speaker in a challenging position from the beginning.

Back to definitions

An endeavour that is unique will need more planning.

The temporary aspect stating that a project’s duration is limited may be disregarded. It is very hard to kill projects that don't want to die. This is a governance issue that may also depend on the politics.

The traditional way of doing things is to collect requirements and then work. You can do it circle. That may not stabilise until the end of the project.

A pragmatic approach is to accelerate the execution of tasks in a project. Usually there is space for crashing or fast tracking.

Things have changed a lot and communication tools have changed even more. Internet access, cloud computing, software as a service and social media have become very relevant and widely used.

When critical path analysis went out, the assumptions about communication were completely different from what they are now. The conditions regarding communication have completely changed.

The original assumptions (that we cannot reach everyone at any time) about project communication are totally obsolete, says the speaker.

Multi location project members work

In the old ages, people were working at home, then work has been concentrated in factories or offices, and now it is moving back to home with telework.

The example of telecottage offering secretarial work from remote to provide services in a different time zone so that the work can be completed during the night, illustrates that trend reversal.

The shift away from the office is recent and there are a lot of possibilities to do that and many experiences have been done or are under way.

Management by wandering around in multi-project location is challenging.

Unless people deliver and are reliable, the remote teams drop. Projects can become dependent from technical issues or lack of familiarity of the team members with the modern social tools.

First people have to know each other; they should meet at least once so that they can build an image of each other and build a foundation for further trust. Organising meetings in nice places where everybody wants to go would make it even more memorable.

Sometimes, the communication process is embedded in a procedure and you can't change it.

Personnal recommendations and tools

Trust is certainly a start. We need to emphasise trust among team members. You have to deliver and prove your place in the team, you can pretend that you are working but you're not.

Responsibility is also key. Each team member has to be responsible for his own work because nobody will be checking it. Isolated team members should be experienced and able to work in autonomy.

Implement operational guidelines with a wiki for instance allows all the people involved to work on the same understanding.

Avoid unproductive diversity. Find a language where everyone is comfortable to express their feeling. Not necessary English. Taking culture into account is very important.

Simplify repetive activities. Business Process Management Notation (BPMN) could be very helpful. Set-up organisation logic: The one who does the work depends on the location.

Select tools according to team maturity, whether they are in forming, storming, norming or performing step (Tuckman 1965).


In conclusion, this presentation was a good recap of what has happened to date for most of international projects. Questions and comments from the audience provided material for some interesting discussions and experience sharing.