3 Key Tips for Managing a Project Portfolio with Remote Teams

Remote project management

The remote project manager role is not for everyone. Whether you were forced into it due to the COVID pandemic, or it’s something that you went into knowing from the get-go, you’ll need a few things to be excel and be successful.

In this article, we’ll give some helpful tips to make the project management of teams that are located elsewhere easier.

1. Choose the right tools for the job

Start the project off on the right foot. Due to the remote nature of the work, communication could be a challenge at times so making sure everyone understands the project, the goals and mission of the project, when deliverables will happen, how testing will be run, and what any change control process will look like is important from the very start of the project. After kickoff everyone needs to be able to hit the ground running. The key is to have as few surprises as possible throughout the project engagement and that is often easier said than done on a remote project. 

Do your best to close any understanding gaps right out of the gate and make sure everyone understands and is on the same page. Ask that often and follow up on communications throughout to ensure proper understanding of work, goals, assignments, and status. 

Most importantly, pick the right tool for the organization, team, and projects. There are so many project management tools to choose from now, but we recommend that you find one that will allow your team to be engaged easily with one another in a shared project space. One where it will also allow you to chat or make comments directly tied to the project item, so you won’t have to waste your time jumping from email to searching in another solution for whatever it is the email was referring to. One that is an all-in-one solution where the data is shared among teams and cross-functional teams in a clear and relevant manner. This way, everyone will automatically always stay aligned easily without constant messaging and back and forth emails–communication heaven. 

2. Find consistent space and time

There is no question you need a decent “Plan B” space to run to if suddenly the world (meaning your personal life – wife and kids) collapses on you all at once because the toilet downstairs is overflowing and you are on a critical Zoom meeting. Mainly you need a good, quiet space that you can regularly count on to do most of your work. That may be an office, Starbucks, the public library, or a rented office space somewhere. Whatever works best for you and you find you do your best productive work. 

Figure out when you are most productive. A lot of project management work is performed independently without communication to team members and without calls from your project management office (PMO) director or accounting department or even your project client. It’s not 24/7 emails and meetings. So figure out when you are at your creative best and do status reports then, update your project schedule then, re-forecast your financials at that time, etc. If you’re best from 1 am to 4 am, then try to do some of your work then and take some time off during the day when possible. Your project customers, team, and management don’t need you 24/7. They need you for regularly scheduled meetings and tasks and they need you ad-hoc at times. You’re still going to pull 40-60 hour weeks no matter what. But if you are at your productive best in the middle of the night – go ahead and make that part of your work time. You may want to let others know you’re doing that (and I don’t just mean your family – but they should know too or they’ll think you’re weird).

3. Have the right meetings

Since you won’t be working with a project team and the customer face-to-face much and possibly never, conduct good meetings that cover the topics. Make them count. Hold weekly status meetings and weekly internal team meetings as usual, but it may be good idea to add monthly or quarterly project review meetings on longer engagements to increase the “virtual” touchpoints on the project with the team and customer. Since the project customer can’t reach out and “touch” you and see you, the more status updates, discussions, and project health updates you can provide and discuss with them the better. It will only serve to increase their confidence in your ability to deliver. The same is true with your project team who is not working physically close to you. Communicating well and often will strengthen team cohesion and collaboration and help eliminate any frustrations that could otherwise come with team members not having close access to the project leader. Plus it helps ensure everyone is on the same page at all times – a critical component of communication excellence and project success.

Using the right tool for the project, team and organization can provide clear data with relevant views in real-time for all stakeholders. One that has an engaging feed that helps keep teams in the same shared space informed of what is happening, and easy to collaborate with one another. Find a solution that can do this – not leaving it up to just the project manager and the human error that can always rear its ugly head. No need to bounce out into other apps or dig through emails to figure out what is taking place. Everything is in one place. 

Conclusion

Virtual teams and remote work may be our new norm. So this is a key topic and it is likely that we are all experiencing it or will likely experience it at some point. We need to learn how to be at our productive best and be ready to continue to lead with excellence without missing a beat.

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