In any field with project-based work, certain challenges arise in the scope of project management and classic mitigation strategies to drive the delivery of high-quality, on-time work. Over time as more companies have transitioned to accommodating remote work, teams have adapted to keep projects rolling with key contributors outside of the traditional brick-and-mortar office. Now countless industries are moving to fully-remote work due to the current public health crisis surrounding COVID-19. With that, it is worth re-exploring the challenges of virtual project management and strategies for how project managers can successfully overcome each. Below are the top five challenges we see with virtual project management:
1. Ensuring teams are highly-productive and support becomes more challenging while remote. Without facetime, project managers should ensure they are not left wondering if team members are focused on the correct action items, being productive, and supported to the proper extent.
A. Mitigation Strategy: First, always encourage team members to be proactive. When people are proactive, issues are identified and solved more quickly. We’re using Microsoft Teams to stay highly engaged and connected in real-time; your organization likely has a similar messaging tool. Second, set up recurring, scrum-type meetings to act as a forum for discussing action items and identifying issues. Many projects employing an agile methodology already have a scrum cadence in place but consider implementing this even for traditional waterfall projects. Think through the frequency ” once daily may be too much or not enough. Lastly, dedicate time outside of these updates to review outputs and in-process work. Utilize screen-share capabilities as often as possible ” it is easier for people to align and make decisions while looking at the same data, reports, or deliverables.
2. Developing rapport with customers during projects becomes harder to do without in-person dialogue. Project managers need to drive relationship-building with customers as solutions are being developed and rolled out. Relationship-building should never end with the initial sale of a product or service.
A. Mitigation Strategy: Utilize video-conferencing to simulate the feeling that you are in-person. People on video calls are typically more engaged and present in conversations compared to people on phone audio who may be preoccupied or multi-tasking. Additionally, get to know your customers as people first ” their interests, families, hobbies, or whatever it may be. Learning about someone as a person goes a long way in developing relationships, in a project management context or otherwise.
3. Predicting the impact of remote work to timeline and budget may be difficult. Do schedules need to be extended with teams remotely? Can the budget be adjusted downward?
A. Mitigation Strategy: Connect with key team members and the customer on whether the timeline may be affected. Strive to keep timelines on track. Next, follow the cadence that you usually have for reviewing the timeline and budget. If you are in professional services and normally talk to your customer about timeline and budget every Monday afternoon when you see them, keep that same cadence while remote. For budgeting, stay conservative with cutting costs due to remote work. Though you may not need travel or entertainment budget, there may be unexpected costs for tools or software that team members need at home offices.
4. Typical conversations/questions that arise in-person may not come up when working remotely, and team members’ work schedules may need to be adjusted.
A. Mitigation Strategy: Ensure you are checking in with each team member 1-on-1 on a weekly basis. This will encourage team members to talk about topics they may shy away from during group discussions. Encourage team members to bring up concerns or ask questions. Additionally, check-in on the timing of workdays to position the project and team members for success. For instance, team members who are parents may have children at home and find it difficult to be productive during certain hours, and easier to be productive during others. Certain people may prefer to start their day earlier or work later than others. Try your best to accommodate these situations to ensure that both the project and team members are set up for success.
5. Teams may miss out on the camaraderie developed while in person.
A. Mitigation Strategy: Try to keep things light and have fun! Share ideas, work-from-home strategies, and try your best to keep up the enjoyable times you have while together. For us at Spaulding Ridge, virtual coffee chats and happy hours have been catching on ” what will it be for your organization?
There is no replacement for working together in person, but with these practical steps, an in-touch project manager may find it easier to navigate the waters of remote project work. Finding strategies to drive productivity while also supporting and developing team members should open the door to building more cohesive teams, better products, and more successful organizations. Hopefully, these tools improve the quality and timeliness of outputs and ensure that team members are set up for success, driving your project and organization forward.
Founded in 2018, Spaulding Ridge is a top management consulting firm, dedicated to client success and helping organizations implement and adopt best-in-cloud technology to solve their most pressing challenges. We provide the office of the CFO financial clarity to Sales and Operational complexity by integrating financial and sales SaaS Platforms.
• Finance gain control ” Increasing financial effectiveness, insight and impact
• Sales increase Productivity ” Hitting quota more quickly, consistently and efficiently
• Operations increase Competitiveness ” Through productivity rates, customer service outcomes, and efficiency