Managing projects remotely can significantly improve the quality and experience for the entire project team. In an article from CIO.com, Moira Alexander wrote that the following are just some benefits to remote project management:
- Lower project costs due to technology advancements that bridge distance
- Improved work/life balance for project team members
- Increased efficiency and decreased travel time
- Increased ability to attract top talent
While there are some very real benefits to remote project management, this concept needs to be approached with deliberate consideration. In the few paragraphs below, I will try to outline some items and concepts that need to be considered before jumping into remote project teams. I will try and show validity in both approaches to project management and provide insight to situations where remote or on premise project management shine.
One of the most obvious benefits to more traditional/local project teams is leveraging face-to-face communication. You can take advantage of the non-verbal cues such as people’s gestures, posture, or body language which can be very helpful in guiding conversations with team members and project stakeholders. That being said, we live in a virtually connected world and it is becoming more and more common for a project team to be remote.
The benefits to remote project management start with the project team. By allowing the team to be geographically dispersed, there are a number of benefits that can be seen. One of the most immediate benefits is enabling the team to work at their own pace. Without the interruptions that come from busy office environments, team members can more easily focus on the tasks at hand without being pulled in different and time consuming directions. With the ability to focus on priority tasks, there is a potential to see a boost in efficiency of work. Allowing people to stay focused and work at their own pace is a sometimes overlooked benefit to remote workers. With the emergence of more comprehensive collaboration tools, it has never been easier to move towards remote project teams.
If you and your organization want to move towards remote project teams, there are few remote project management tips to keep in mind to help make that transition successful.
- There is an adjustment that will have to be made when transitioning to remote teams. People get used to being able to walk by someone’s desk and get an update. Being conscious of past expectations can help make sure there is less of a shock when going remote. What might be considered “over-communication” in a local setting might be just what is needed when updating stakeholders and communicating with your remote team.
- Regular touch points
- Similar to the point above, setting up regular touch points for the team can help provide structure to this increased level of communication. Having daily or weekly status calls can help make sure tasks are being completed and the project is staying on track.
- Collaboration tools
- There are many great collaboration tools available that can help keep a project team in sync. Conference bridges, online meeting tools like WebEx, or project tracking tools like Smartsheet or Leankit can all help make sure projects are running smoothly and everyone is on the same page.
- An added benefit of some of these tools is the ability to passively update stakeholders without the need for additional meetings/phone calls. Allowing the entire project team and stakeholders to have access to online project plans can help provide a single project repository where people can look for answers on project status.
I’ll end this by slightly contradicting myself. While it would be easy to make a blanket statement of “everyone needs remote teams!” the reality is there are some situations, organizations, or cultures where this is not realistic. Remote project management is an adjustment that can bring on various benefits; however, it is important to look critically at the pros and cons of geographically-dispersed teams. Getting feedback from team members and stakeholders can be a good starting point to see how ready they are to change their day-to-day project processes. A great place to start is discussing current pain-points and considering if a shift to remote teams could remediate these issues. In doing so, you can build a case for changing process and help make the whole team invested in the positive change.
David Hill, Project Manager | Scrum Master