It's official now: the modern workforce is going remote! According to the latest data, nearly 70% of employees work remotely at least once a week, while 99% of remote workers say they would like to stay like this until retirement. For a remote team to function properly, communication remains the biggest challenge.
Coordinating workflow and tasks can be tricky when your teammates and coworkers are scattered across the world, but your client still expects you to deliver the project on time. The good news is that you can make remote work efficient and equally successful with the right system in place. This article will take a look at remote project management and how it differs from traditional methods.
What makes remote project management different?
If you are managing a remote team or considering to, you are familiar with its benefits. To name only a few:
- Lower operating costs, no office rent
- Work-life balance improved for your team
- Ability to attract top talents, regardless of location
Managing teams and projects in different locations doesn't come without challenges. In this case, not only will it be more demanding to stay on top of deadlines and tasks, but it can also be harder to keep your team on the same page.
Without break room chats, lunches, and regular meetings in an office environment, it can be difficult to accurately evaluate how the project progresses and whether your team requires assistance.
But don't despair! This is the perfect opportunity to make project management methodologies shine. By taking control over how your team communicates and operates, everyone will feel like they're still working from the same office. Whether you need to talk about deadlines, budgets, or deliverables, communicating with your team is a crucial part of this process, and it will help you keep your business on track.
Factors that may impede remote project management
Lack of focus
Even the most dedicated team members and project managers lack focus and have issues staying on top of tasks, despite their dedication. To fix this potential problem, you can try building virtual project teams with members who don't only possess an intrapreneurial outlook but also technical expertise.
People with entrepreneurial passion are more result-oriented, highly adaptable, innovative, independent, dedicated, and resourceful. Expect a lot of personal integrity and a high level of professionalism from all team members. Be aware that these traits should not be optional.
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You should also encourage exceptional organizational skills in all team members. If organizational skills aren't your team member's strong suits, make sure to provide additional training in this area. Clearly define their roles, regularly monitor the status of deliverables and activities so that nothing falls through the cracks.
Time zone, distance, or location issues
Project schedules can get stuck when they are negatively impacted by the distance between coworkers, different locations, and time zones. That's why you need to establish clear protocols and policies to address the expected availability of team members through the project's lifespan. Practice asynchronous collaboration until perfection. But whenever possible, schedule team meetings that all members can attend. Time zone differences may leave only a small window of time per week to schedule a get-together. Make sure that all teams have access to all the necessary tools.
Legal and cultural differences
Nowadays, many organizations have projects nationwide, sometimes creating legal and cultural challenges that must be factored into a project's success. To overcome potential issues, you must address and evaluate any regulatory or legal issues in the project's initial stage.
Keep in mind that these types of issues may delay your project, so try to gain local or international legal expertise before proceeding with a project. Additionally, before initiating a project, prepare and research any language or cultural barriers that could impede your project.
When it comes to remote project management, communication is the most impacted area because teams don't have face-to-face meetings. You can't easily read body language, gauge facial expression and tone of voice. As a result, virtual teams might have a hard time achieving timely and effective communication.
That's why remote project managers need to work exceptionally hard to build and establish trust among team members, so they feel connected. To accomplish trust and connection, talk to your team members more and discover their interests. Schedule weekly or bi-weekly team meetings and use different means of communication to deliver your message, such as chat platforms.
Security, data access, and technology issues
Having the right tools and technology available to all team members is crucial in ensuring that the project is on budget and schedule. Choose software with a mobile version to quickly solve any problem. Projects can easily fall out of scope if team members can't access data they require promptly. Organizations and projects can also be negatively affected by security breaches that can jeopardize a client's data.
What does remote project management look like in real life?
To successfully lead a fully remote team, you need to know how remote project management works in real life. Here are a couple of recommendations you could find useful.
Create a team: first and foremost, you need a team of people with the right mix of skills and input to complete the project on time. Start everything with specifications and a meeting: a full squad video meeting at the beginning helps you avoid crucial issues before they become actual problems.
Use online tools to establish communication and organize tasks: while some companies have developed their own, others use third-party tools to establish regular communication. A video call platform, project management tools, a mobile app to keep up wherever anyone is, a chat app, etc., are all essential. Whatever option you choose, the use of online communication tools is crucial for remote collaboration.
Keep the project on track and handle common obstacles: managing a project is like taking care of a baby; turn your back for a second, and it will be crawling straight for the edge of the stairs. If you have a system for checking in on the project status and keeping all team members on the same page, managing your projects doesn't have to be a full-time job.
Steps to making remote project management successful
Share the vision with a project specification
One of the best ways to set a project for success is to lay a solid foundation. Simple projects don't require a lot of engagement, but complex ones tend to have plenty of moving pieces, so it's useful to provide everyone with a detailed rundown.
Bring the team together before you start the project
The next step is bringing your team together, virtually, of course. Cloud-based collaboration solutions are crucial here, like Google Hangouts or Zoom. Getting everyone together before you start a project ensures that potential obstacles or issues are dealt with before you run into more significant problems.
Keep everyone on the same page and an eye on every deadline
After starting with the project, you will require a place to manage its day-to-day lifecycle. While some companies use Google Docs, others put their deadlines and tasks into a project planning tool. If you decide to use a project planning tool, it will keep all team members on the same page.