How, when and why remote project management works
Whether you currently have or allow remote work from project managers and project team members or not, there are likely times when the concept would have been beneficial. You may not have even seen it at the time, or if you are working remotely you may not have even considered it's huge benefit at the time, but it's there and that's what I'd like to discuss here.
In my opinion – and from my experience – there are five key benefits and reasons that remote project management and virtual teams work for the organization. Getting everyone to see that is not always easy, but some of the best employers already see it and have implemented this type of company ==> employee relationship already.
Five key benefits:
- Access to the best talent without extra costs. When using remote project managers and team members, your organisation has access to the best talent in the world without forcing them to move to your location or a customer location. The hiring expenses are, therefore, considerably less when you're trying to get the best available resources and those resources are more likely to say “yes” because no one is forcing them to move to Boise, Idaho from their long time home in Boston or India or Brazil. Those moves are very expensive and you are at least two weeks – if not two months or more - out from having them ready to serve on a project. For remote workers who are at the top of their field, they can be up, ready and productive to at least some degree by the next day, if necessary.
- More productivity from the proper fit. Looking for the most productivity from the best fit resource for your needs? Then go remote. They are likely already adapt to working remotely – especially international workers for US-based companies. They are more likely to be instantly productive to some degree. An experienced project manager who works out of his Florida home can be on a call tomorrow transitioning onto a project with a customer in Iceland for your Los Angeles-based delivery organisation because he doesn't have to worry about selling a house, contingency offers on a home and moving vans and expenses. He just has to worry about reading over some recent project status reports and notes to be at least somewhat productive on a project status meeting in two days and the first customer introduction. You can make a seamless move to a new project manager or team member without jeopardizing customer confidence and satisfaction. It it also a good way to get a project manager saviour on a troubled engagement without needing to commit to the resource for the long haul immediately.
- Timely delivery of materials. In a remotely project manager role, I'm happy to have a team call on a Wednesday, revise the project schedule, status report, issue list, etc. with the latest and greatest information and conduct a customer project status call the next day on Thursday with my virtual team and distant project client. I stayed up late – and that works for me – and I had the most up to date info for the client every week because of that remote flexibility. If you are requiring your project management leaders and your project teams to be co-located, then the likelihood that they are going to be able and available to work late and off hours to ensure that best possible real time information is far less because it would greatly increase their weekly work involvement and decrease their overall quality of life. The turnover rate among your best employees will be higher. And that will not set well with your most important and valuable project customers.
- Fewer, not more distractions. Contrary to some popular belief, the experienced and organized remote project worker has fewer, not more, distractions in his home office and home environment. I have 6 kids aged nine and under and I can say I'm still more productive because I have my home office set up, I can work odd hours to get the most timely information together for my project clients located all around the world and I don't have employees and project team members parking themselves in my office to talk about their weekends. That happened all the time when I was co-located every day with the team members that I managed. You'd like to think that face to face is more productive, but in many cases it is not.
- Ability to service customers in more diverse locations and time zones. Finally, the remote project manager has a greater ability to service customers in more diverse locations and time zones. I had one project customer who insisted on 8am conference calls several days a week and they were located two time zones away. That meant 6am for me. I could make those calls from home, but getting to an office just to conduct a project call was a nearly impossible situation – especially multiple times a week. And the project customer didn't care at all where I was located because I was never going to be face to face for those calls anyway... it was merely important that we have the calls and we did – always on time and I was always available.
Summary / call for input
Can you tell that I'm in favor of remote project management and that I feel strongly about the productivity of virtual teams? You have access to the very best talent available, you can cover a broader range of time and customer niches and you can deliver more real time information through the use of remote project managers and virtual teams. In my opinion, it is definitely a win-win situation. Getting your senior management to see and understand that may be a bit more difficult, but at least getting them to go for it on a trial basis shouldn't be too hard.
Readers – what are your thoughts? Do you agree with this list? And if you are currently working remotely or have in the past, do you still agree? What have been your experiences – both good and bad? What are some of the trials you've experienced, because I know remote work does not necessarily work for everyone or in every industry.