I realize that managing remote project and development resources that you can't see and reach out to face to face immediately is not for everyone. Some project managers just need the ability to grab someone and bring them into an office for a meeting. But if you are experienced managing projects remotely than you may be more prepared than others to handle these types of resources successfully. It takes an organized project manager, as well as one who is a good communicator and an effective meeting facilitator.
If you're embarking on one or more projects that involve the management of geographically dispersed project team resources or the use of an offshore team of developers, then you've come to the right place for some info and discussion. Here I will present three key tips for the effective management of remote team resources and as you read these please be thinking about comments, questions and your own tips and experiences to share.
Here are my three tips...
Act like everyone is in the same time zone. A key to consistent communication on the project as well as insuring everyone's sanity is to conduct business as if everyone is in the same timezone. Figuring out who's timezone that is going to be or perhaps meet somewhere in the middle if you happen to differ by, say 9 hours. I've been there and that one is not fun or easy for anyone.
Require a regular status report. Require every key player to produce a weekly status report. As the project manager, come up with a baseline format that you want everyone to follow - and make it something that will be easy for all to follow and make it easily transferable to whatever formal weekly status report format that you need to produce for the project customer and other key project stakeholders.
Have one key communication point of contact. For the remote team - if they are co-locate like in the case of using an offshore development team - appoint a primary point of contact. This makes it easier when crossing several timezones and you can even have this individual act in a lead role to produce one status report for the entire offshore team.
Summary / call for input
The bottom line is this...treat your distributed team like any other team. Whether its a col-located team elsewhere...like an offshore group you're working with...or if you have a completely geographically dispersed team where maybe no two individuals are in the same spot, it isn't rocket science. I've successfully managed both on project engagements - it just takes planning and patients but the benefits can be huge). You save cost, you get the best resources now because no one will turn you down due to not wanting to relocate and often you don't need to worry about benefits. It's win-win if you interview them and make sure you've got good, experienced, and reliable resources. If you're going offshore, look to someone you can get a reference from. Most are very good and very reliable...some aren't...but if you're experienced and can find a reliable reference, you should be successful.
How about our readers? What would your advice and key tips be for managing remote project teams and offshore development resources? What do you agree with on my list or disagree with and why? Let's discuss.t.