Project management is chaotic enough when you are the sole manager in charge. If you are participating in a joint venture with one or more partner organizations, things can get really complex. There’s more to creating a successful outcome than simply defining who does what within the scope of the project (although that’s an important first step). You also have to determine how the work will get done and how problems will be addressed.
Communication and Documentation
For many projects, it’s helpful for all participants to use the same platform. Project management software that permits remote access to authorized users from multiple organizations may be a helpful tool for ensuring all parties have access to the same information. An ideal solution is one that permits collaboration while restricting data access to those who “need to know” within the hierarchy of each organization.
One area where having everyone use the same software can be particularly beneficial is in reporting. If you have two or three project managers who each have a different idea of what’s going on with the schedule and cost, this makes effective communication about necessary course corrections difficult. When there is greater transparency, accuracy, and conformity in the reporting process among partner organizations, this promotes accountability.
Maintaining a high level of quality in a joint venture is particularly challenging if the project is designed in such a way that each party can pass the buck for getting things fixed. Organizations can hold very different ideas about of what constitutes an acceptable level of quality assurance. Company ‘A’ might think spot checking components on a finished product is all that’s required. Such an organization may have no real strategy in place for what to do if they find a problem other than going back to the drawing board. Company ‘B’ could have a full QA department that incorporates quality planning into the project from the outset including detailed analyses and an action plan for making required adjustments along the way to ensure quality targets are met.
Such a disparity in methodology can lead to conflict. If company B is “downstream” from company A, company B may be stuck trying to fix a problem company A didn’t catch (or risk having scheduled work significantly delayed). If company B does its portion of the work first and company A subsequently fails to deliver on their end, the client organization may blame both parties equally. To avoid these pitfalls, the party with the best track record for quality management practices should have some input regarding what will be considered acceptable QC for all parties.
Wrap Up Session
The project management teams from all organizations involved should (if possible) be part of the post-project session to capture lessons learned. The knowledge that can be gleaned from the successes and failures of a joint venture is particularly valuable since it involves so many variables that simply aren’t a factor in simpler projects.