Are you ready for remote project management?

The need for remote project management is a reality for most businesses today. But how ready is your business for the move? Here are some things to help evaluate preparedness.

remote project management best practices

Managing projects is a demanding job, and it's more seem challenging when you add in the fact that you're doing it remotely. But it doesn't have to be. After identifying all the possible barriers to remote project management, as well as some of the possible solutions, your business should further analyze and document the readiness of your teams, processes and technologies. Here are some factors to include in the evaluation.

The business model and infrastructure

When it comes to the business model and infrastructure, consider at the very least, the following questions:

  1. Will the existing business model and infrastructure fully support remote project management in ways that make sense, currently and into the future?
  2. How is your organization physically structured, and does the existing hierarchy demonstrate the necessary capabilities to effectively manage and meet the needs of remote workers?
  3. Do the existing infrastructure and technologies offer the needed capabilities for remote connectivity?
  4. How adaptable are the people, processes, and technologies, especially during times of sudden change?

Key drivers

Several drivers may steer a business towards remote project management. Some can be higher-level considerations such as a shift in overall business strategies, hiring practices, service delivery, a change in customer base or any other factors. It's important to distinguish between key drivers that make sense to the overall business strategy, versus following the crowd and simply turning to remote project management because other companies are doing it. The rationale for making the switch to remote project management shouldn't be entered into lightly. It must fit within the overall long-term business plans, and be an improvement in terms of servicing stakeholder needs.

[ Related story: Project management glossary ]

The right people

If your organization is considering a transition to remote PM, having employees with the right aptitude, capabilities, focus, and dedication for working in this independent fashion is critical. If individuals lack the motivation or are individuals who require a significant amount of supervision and guidance, this may not be the best move.

That said, if the remote project management drivers fit with higher-level strategic objectives, it may be necessary to still proceed in that direction, and hire individuals with the capabilities to execute projects remotely. It may also be a better option to invest in training for existing high potential employees. With either of these options, or a combination of both, make sure to carefully and properly identify the strengths and career interests of existing employees. Often times they have greater skills and knowledge that might have been previously overlooked.

The necessary tools

Everything is in place, your team is prepared, you've talked to all the stakeholders and considered all the factors. Now you've got to get the technology in place to empower your teams. There are many mobile PM tools out there to choose from, the key is understanding your business and industry, as well as the project needs and also being able to identify how the tools/software enable strategy, streamline processes, and improve collaboration.

[ Related story: Using KPIs to measure a project team's effectiveness ]

Business process impact

Business process impact is an area impacted by a shift to remote project management. Since remote PM relies heavily on the use of specific technologies for communication, like sharing data, approvals, overall collaboration and workflows will need to be rethought. It's critical to analyse and document the changes, and identify how these changes impact the business and the people involved. This is an important area. Many dangers lurk in the details where processes are involved. Take the time to closely trace and document existing and proposed processes to reduce the risk of bypassing critical steps when evaluating a move to remote project management.

The project managers

Having project managers who are experienced in remote PM is a need, not a want. Depending on the existing processes, the maturity of an organization and the experience of the employees working remotely, it may be possible to hire a PM with less remote experience but if an organization is less mature in its remote capabilities, it would be wise to hire a highly capable PM that brings remote experience to the table.

Also keep in mind that it's not a guarantee that a seasoned project manager can always deliver in a remote environment. Other factors can pose significant uncertainty if not addressed well in advance.

[ Related story: 6 ways to be a better project manager ]

The metrics for measuring success

Being able to measure the effectiveness of a remote project management team is critical to overall project success. Without being able to determine how well a remote team works together, or how they deliver, it's almost impossible to know if remote project management is working. Having a comparison to a pre-remote PM model makes it much easier to know how your organization's remote project teams are actually performing. Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be used to evaluate success against an established success baseline.

Finally, while the trend is to become more mobile and make a shift to remote teams, timing and preparedness are the key factors to success. To find out more about remote project management see "Does remote project management really work?" to read about factors that may impede virtual teams and also some of the possible solutions.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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