Project management is stressful enough, but managing remote projects adds an extra layer of complexity in juggling timezones and people management, when you can’t actually see your people. After managing countless global projects here at the-oop.com, we’ve come across our fair share of issues. Follow these 7 tips to help you deliver your remote project milestones on time every time!
1. Plan, plan, plan!
Spend extra time in the planning phase and be sure to have all requirements down on paper. No detail is too small – whether it be milestone dates or font colours, writing everything down and sharing in advance will minimise the chance of encountering costly delays during project implementation.
2. Build relationships
Prior to the project initiation, build relationships with local professionals whom you will be able to leverage if necessary during the project. Perhaps there is a local IT company who could guide you on ordering circuits in the region, or a real estate company with knowledge of the commercial market. Having contacts on hand before the project commencement will ensure you are ready to hit the ground running, and have professional networks in place should there be future issues.
3. Build the right team
You may not always have the opportunity to select your project team, but when you do you need to make sure to find the right people. Remote projects generally require experienced team members, so this is probably not the right time to look at hiring cheaply. Ideally, your new team will have experience working remotely and are experts within their field. Most importantly, hire people that you can trust, and trust that the people you have hired can and will complete the work to the best of their ability.
4. Create a team atmosphere
It’s easy to feel isolated when working remotely, and this can lead to a drop in productivity and lack of motivation. If your budget allows, organize for your team to travel and meet in a single location prior to the project initiation so that they can get to know one another and build a sense of team companionship.
If your budget does not allow for team travel, there are still ways you can promote a team culture. Use videoconferencing rather than phone calls so that your team can see how each other look, and encourage online social interaction through team competitions and apps such as Slack or Yammer.
5. Set clear goals
As the project manager, you need to ensure that your team understand their roles and responsibilities in relation to the remote project. Project milestones should be broken into goals for individuals, so that each person is held accountable for their contribution.
For example, say I was managing a project to relocate an office from one side of town to the other, and one project milestone was to have racks installed by the 27th of June. I may set individual goals for Ibrahim, the technical specialist, to have all requirements defined by the 20th of May, and for Sally, the purchasing specialist, to have the purchase order issued by 10th of June. Both Sally and Ibrahim can see each other’s goals and know how their role fits into the spectrum of project delivery.\
6. Use communication & tracking software
Nowadays there is a vast array of software available online, both free and paid, to allow to you to communicate with teams and track their work. Try Slack or Trello for instant messaging organized into threads, Skype for online chat and video calls, G-Suite tools to share updates and BaseCamp to manage time and costs. For smaller projects, you could even limit yourself to Excel, G Suite and Skype as long as you can motivate your team to remain committed to using the tools regularly.
7. Test early and often
Never underestimate the time required for testing. As a project manager, you should be checking or testing every task that is marked as completed. Prioritising testing will prevent sticky situations further down the track where the project may need to be rolled back due to an earlier element not working properly. It also gives you the opportunity to provide feedback to your team and pick up on problems early which may affect your delivery dates.
In summary, with the right team and tools your project can run smoothly and efficiently. Put the effort in ahead of time to build your team and relationships, and your due diligence will pay off through early milestones and a well executed project.