I’m not necessarily a road warrior nor do I particularly aspire to be one, so I’ve enjoyed the challenges of managing projects and teams remotely. The primary thing I’ve learned about remote project management is that the most critical aspect is frequent, accurate, and detailed communication.
Communication, communication, communication!
To give an example of how critical communication is on a remote project, I would like to share some statistics with you concerning the remote project that I am currently working. This project only involves 5 core project team members and another 4-5 part-time members. It does, however, involve communication with and demos from potential software service providers. Over the course of the 16 weeks (80 days) of the project so far, here are the numbers:
- 1690 emails in my inbox (21 per day)
- 89 conference calls
- 19 webex meetings
- 9420 minutes spent in meetings/conference calls so far (157 hours total)
- Zero face-to-face (F2F) meetings
Some of the obvious challenges involved with managing a project in a remote capacity are:
- creating a sense of community among team members
- communicating assumptions
- managing the ongoing activities of the project and team members
- communication barriers (time zones, etc. for global teams)
- boundaries for information sharing
Overall, how you run a remote project as the Project Manager should be very similar to how you run a local project. Regular weekly status meetings still need to happen. Weekly status reports detailing up-to-date project status, issues, financials, etc. still need to be delivered prior to each status meeting and are the driving force for each status meeting. The key is that more communication needs to happen for your team to remain cohesive, focused, and moving forward. Out of site, out of mind can happen easily when you aren’t communicating with your team members. On nearly every remote project that I’ve lead each of my team members were also on other projects – sometimes another one of my projects. If you are not pushing them on the tasks for your project then they may be diverting their attention and focus to one of the other projects they are working on. We’ve all heard of the squeaky wheel concept…
I truly enjoy remote project management. I consider myself a good communicator and a very frequent communicator with my team – they’ve told me they get more emails from me than any other project manager they’ve worked with and I’ll consider that a good thing, but I’m not sure if they do. However, I do understand that remote project management is not for everyone and it’s up each individual Project Manager to decide if they can deal with managing a team of highly talented individuals with minds of their own without possibly ever meeting each of them in person.