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Strategic Alignment in International Projects
By Francis Norman

When you select and engage with an international partner for the execution of your projects, what discussions do you have regarding strategic alignment of your organisations? If you don’t, have you considered, or even experienced first hand the impact of any misalignment on the delivery of your project?

Do you agree your aims and goals from executing the work so that you are both focused on the same outcomes? Specifically this conversation with your international partner will encompass among other things;

  • Financial goals, how do your and your international partner’s cost models compare, is your business as important to them as the business from another client, because if it is not, you may well find that your level of service from them is not all you expect, particularly if they are able to make substantially greater profits in performing work for the other client.
  • Deployment of personnel, continuing from the point above, if your work is less valuable to your international partner than that of another client, you will most likely struggle to get access to the personnel you so dearly desire, potentially resulting in the quality and/or schedule of work suffering.

  • Agreed scheduling and quality of deliverables, Have you agreed what will be delivered to you, when, and at what quality level? getting the right work but three months late may completely destroy any benefits from engaging the international partner, equally, getting the work on time but incomplete for your needs will have a similar impact since there will be substantial levels of remedial work required to bring the work up to your required level.

  • Standards, either national or industry driven, that must be complied with, will the work delivered be accepted in your country of delivery? I have seen several projects where equipment or designs were of a standard not accepted in the host country, resulting in substantial levels of project delay, additional, unplanned expense, frustration and loss of reputation while the work is re-performed to an acceptable level.

  • Do you and your international partner share common values? You need to ensure that any labour issues, safety requirements etc are held at a common level between partners otherwise you may find yourself losing reputation through poor safety records, environmental issues, low rates of pay to local labour forces, etc.

  • Do you have a corporate cultural fit? If your corporate cultures align you will find working together much easier than if they do not, this can be as simple as having a common approach to raising issues encountered during the execution of the project and how these issues are resolved, in some cultures, both corporate and regional, it is common to have open and frank discussions over issues, in others, these discussions are either not held or held at a low level, having a common approach will avoid any embarrassing surprises as time goes by.

Francis Norman is currently a Regional Operations Manager in Perth, Australia. Francis maintains a professional blog, International Project Management Communications.

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