To simply put it, Virtual Project Management is about handling and supervising workforce that is dispersed across different geographies and time zones.
Just think about it. If your technology or business partner can supervise people who are located in different parts of the world, they can get members on board who are culturally different, and as a result, they can avail the benefit of different problem-solving instincts. Needless to mention, a project can greatly profit from such team dynamics.
Of course, they need to consider some checks and balances.
Based on various case studies, here are some of the advantages of Virtual Project Management:
Global Talent Pool
They have the liberty to pick talent from every nook and corner of the World. If they have a client (which can be you as well) whos audience is global, then they need to have resources who understand different national or regional markets.
They can easily achieve this if they opt for a virtual team. Virtual project management increases the scope for cross-pollination, which creates a space conducive for knowledge sharing and innovation.
So if you have a product idea and are intending for a global customer base, then it will be ideal for you to work with a team that supports virtual project management.
By their very nature, virtual teams thrive in a non-hierarchical environment. If there is mutual trust among the team members, then not having too much of hierarchy work wonders. For example, the decision-making process is expedited as there isn’t too much going back and forth. This, in turn, escalates the productivity.
Lesser development time
As their workforce is spread across different time zones, they can handle a project 24×7. So if one member of the team is having a downtime, then the other member takes over, and the ball keeps rolling. This reduces the development time and the product can hit the global or local markets rather quickly.
A wider window of opportunities
Not every one rejoice the idea of relocation. People have other priorities and that’s completely understandable. You can’t miss out on talent just because they aren’t willing to relocate.
By adopting virtual project management, you can throw “relocation issues” out of the equation, once and for all.
Can Virtual teams fail as well?
Yes, they can. In a virtual setup, the quality of leadership matters a lot. Senior managers need to understand the cultural differences among the team members. They need to figure out ways to keep the processes stable and effective, in case there is a lack of resources.
In a virtual setup, if there is a communication breakdown, things can go downhill very quickly. The expectations and KRA’s should be clearly communicated to team members.
Therefore, if you and your technology partner want to make virtual teams succeed, then you need to take care of a few things.
1. Invest your efforts and energies into communication
In a virtual and widely dispersed setup, there is always a chance of talented resources being left out. They might feel isolated and become reluctant to share knowledge with their colleagues or even become resistive to feedback.
So maintaining transparency in communication and keeping every team member on the same pages becomes all the more important. Therefore, you need to have a communication strategy in place.
There are some popular communication tools like Slack, that you can integrate with your strategy. The thing with Slack is, you can integrate other useful apps with it, like Standuply, which lets you create one-time or recurring polls for getting feedback of your team.
That being said, a face to face interaction is still irreplaceable.
As a virtual project manager, you can always arrange weekly video calls (using Skype or Google Hangout) with each off-site member, to discuss the pain points, if there are any. You can coach or guide the team members or give earnest feedback.
2. Policies And Procedures
Although the law is considered to be an “Ass”, ideally it shouldn’t be. Laws are meant to become irrelevant and therefore should be amended from time to time. Similarly, your policies and procedures should change from time to time, to remain relevant to your remote workforce.
Someone from a project management team who works remotely should be given flexible working hours. Everyone hit their peak performance at different times of the day, and having the freedom to choose the working hours can greatly optimize one’s performance.
But at the same time, you need to make sure that the team members don’t work in silos, feel alienated and burn out eventually.
Your technology or business partner must lay down some ground rules for their virtual project management teams, like the number of times a remote worker is expected to visit the headquarters in a year, or the time during which all remote workers should be available for virtual team meetups.
In case you are monitoring the activities of your virtual teams, then you must pass this information to them in a transparent manner.
3. Invest In Coaching
At some point in time, project managers have to play the role of a coach. This is even more relevant for virtual project managers. As there is minimal in-person interaction, establishing trust requires even more efforts from project managers.
Project managers must coach new members on board who are working remotely so that they can inculcate “productivity-friendly” work habits.
To become an efficient coach or guide, project managers need reliable inputs regarding an employee’s work ethic and performance. Project managers can establish automated processes to get those inputs. For example, they can use time tracking applications that can give a good idea on an employee’s efficiency and time management.
Hope you found this writeup interesting. We have also written write-ups on how cultural clashes among teams working in different time zones can affect businesses?, and How to work productively when clients and service providers are in different time zones?. Do give them a read as well. Don’t forget to share your views. Our comment section is all yours.