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The problem with remote project teams

It is more common than ever before that project managers now have to manage remote project teams. These teams might be in a different business location in the same country or, equally likely, in a different country and time zone altogether.

 

Companies of all sizes now regularly outsource work to take advantage of skilled workers at lower cost elsewhere in the world. Digital technology advances have made that so much simpler with easy video conferencing with tools like Zoom and social sharing apps like DropBox and BaseCamp. Yet for all the tools that can make managing remote teams easier there are still difficulties to contend with such as different time zones, cultures and languages. But many of these difficulties can be overcome by following some simple tips:

 

 

Make your requirements crystal clear – It’s not surprising that communication between remote teams is one of the greatest challenges. All stakeholders, sponsors and end-users must clearly understand the project requirements and aims and that doesn’t just mean sending out a document for them to read – it also means taking advantage of things like video conferencing to talk “face-to-face” even if you cannot be in the same location. Often talking through objectives, problems, requirements etc can be much easier for everyone to grasp with visual aids.

 

 

Keep lines of communication open – Novice project managers often make the mistake of assuming they are communicating simply because they have put together a communication plan and are following it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean others are receiving that communication loud and clear. Information is easily lost in translation, over a poor phone line or via an ambiguous written document. You need to make doubly sure that your communication is effective when project teams are not co-located.

 

Keep your project management skills up to date – If you gained much of your project management experience working in the same location as your team then it might be worth updating your project management skills with some training more relevant to today’s way of working. There are many project management courses that deal with remote team management today, offering advice and approaches to help you out.

 

 

Find ways to motivate your team – A motivated team, whether remote or not, will always go the extra mile to help make a project a true success so never neglect to boost their morale even if the team are not in the same building. Any concerns they have or feelings of de-motivation may not directly be your responsibility but, as the project manager, you should appreciate that they will affect your project so trying to improve motivation in your remote team can only have a positive knock-on effect on the final outcome. Or that reason alone you should always consider motivating your team to be part of your role.

 

Managing a remote team is never going to be as easy as managing a team in the same location, but, if you follow these simple bits of advice then you will have a better chance of the project running more smoothly.

About M Symonds

The author is a freelance consultant specialising in digital marketing. She has many years experience in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects and managing outsourced project teams.

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