7 Tips To Improve Remote Project Management Boxfusion

7 Tips to Improve Remote Project Management

Many of us have been forced to work differently over the past year and a half. Our jobs have had to adapt to flexible and remote working. This has been no different at Boxfusion and for our customers, where our CX projects have continued apace. The project management role by nature is one of the regular meetings, updates and catch-ups, keeping tabs on progress, teams and stakeholders. This can be a significant challenge when project teams are widely dispersed across varying locations, time zones and internet reliability!

Even with places of work opening up again, a hybrid remote working model is becoming the new normal. We have the advantage of already having plenty of prior experience delivering projects remotely (albeit usually with our own team co-located) for some customers pre-pandemic.

As such we have identified some factors that can help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of remote project management (either entirely or in part).

1. Clear roles and responsibilities #

When working remotely, it is essential that the project team can work as autonomously as possible. Project roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined and transparent from the outset. When teams work remotely, a small misunderstanding of expectations can take longer to be detected which can put a project at risk.

A good way of doing this is by creating a RACI Matrix, which helps identify the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in the project.

Another important factor is to ensure the project team are up to date with their tasks as the project progresses. A useful way of doing this is setting out at the beginning of each week what you are expecting from each member of the team for that week in terms of effort and progress and for them to alert you of any deviation from the plan.

2. Frequent catch-ups #

The reality is that most projects, evolve and deviate from the original plan. Without face-to-face contact, it is harder to read the social cues and body language of the team, pick up on underlying challenges, build rapport and judge the overall sentiment. Frequent catch-ups are key. Regular check-ins, if only for a few minutes, allow an opportunity to share updates and challenges, bounce ideas around and sense the project mood.

Don’t underestimate the importance of video calls. We relay so much information by our facial expressions and body language. We can often recognise if someone is struggling by their visual reaction to the conversation. Of course, video calls cannot be a complete substitute for in-person conversation and there will be social cues that are missed but they are far more effective than communication by email and phone alone.

(Important to note: frequent catch-ups are vital but make sure everyone has sufficient time to get on with their work without constant interruptions that can break their focus. You should also account for the additional time needed for these catch-ups over what you would normally need when working face-to-face.)

3. Be familiar with different video call options #

Project managers will regularly need to schedule, host and manage meetings. As most meetings will take place via video call, it is essential to be familiar with all the mainstream video call options (Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, Goto Meeting, Skype etc.). Our customers will often have different preferences on what they are able to use. Learn the tools’ functionality and limitations. You should be able to competently schedule invites with meeting links, add participants, share your screen, record a meeting and most importantly, find the mute button!

4. Set up a collaborative working platform #

One thing to try and avoid is the need to constantly upload, email and download files that need to be shared. Besides being time-consuming, it makes collaborative working very messy. Setting up a project-specific shared folder on SharePoint or Google Drive, for example, is a great way of having somewhere for all parties to view and edit project documents and trackers.

A project-specific chat channel is also very effective in driving quick and focused communications to members of the project team.

5. Share availability #

One of the most frustrating things for a Project Manager is response lag. As swivelling your chair round for a quick update is not an option when working remotely, the project team should ideally be aware of each other's availability.

Even allowing just busy/free access to each other's calendars will be very helpful when looking to schedule meetings and catch-ups especially at short notice.

Sending a holding message will reduce the frustration! Even if a request cannot be responded to right now, a holding message will tell the sender you have received their request and will deal with it when you are available.

Visibility of leave is also important in project planning. From a customer-supplier perspective, a shared leave tracker can reduce project delays by planning around the required availability and help identify the correct points of contact at each stage of the project.

6. Utilise existing software #

Don’t try and re-invent the wheel. There are plenty of great project management cloud apps currently available that can provide clear visibility of tasks, progress, budget and timeline. This is important regardless of co-location, but it will provide more noticeable efficiencies in remote management. Identify your current pain points and manual repetitive tasks and look to streamline in these areas. It is also worth looking to see how these apps can integrate with any of your current systems.

7. Get regular feedback #

Working in silos can bring out the best and worst of our work. The lack of an office environment and culture can also lead to very different working methods within a single team. This is especially important for the staff or our customers who started working with us post-lockdown and never experienced the company's 'normal' way of working. Try to get regular honest feedback from colleagues, customers and management. This will allow you to gauge what is working well and what can improve and ensure you don’t slip into bad habits.

Do not underestimate the power of praise! Show the team you appreciate their efforts. Well-deserved complements provide a great morale boost and will ensure they give their best every time!

Conclusion #

All projects come with their own unique set of challenges and there is no single right or wrong way to manage them. The above tips will hopefully provide some guidance and best practice as to how to we at Boxfusion have sought to effectively navigate the obstacles of remote project management and retain the essence of the Boxfusion approach to delivery excellence.