According to the latest researches, in the next few years the process of project management in companies will change a lot. The main trends will be a wider use of analytics and Agile principles, a great impact of artificial intelligence, large-scale integration of various fields of activities and, of course, an increased number of remote teams. Today more and more people are working remotely, while the need for a structured way of task management and strict compliance with deadlines still remain in force. So, new approaches require certain changes in the whole company management and some rules which you should follow when organizing your teamwork not to become a victim of a failed experiment and common troubles related to remote working.
Hiring Right People
Wherever you work, you try to find the best employees for your company, but remote work demands additional traits and skills from them. Hiring new people, make sure that they meet these requirements:
- Self-reliance and self-organization. You won’t be able to ensure full control and support for remote employees, so you should encourage independence and responsibility of developers. Remote workers need to manage themselves most of the time, make their own decisions, cope with difficulties on their own and stay organized without any effort on your part. Otherwise, you risk that all work will be stopped when some of their co-workers are offline, or you will have to constantly control your team to make them keep working.
- Work enthusiasm and trust. There are many ways to ensure that remote workers really stay online during working hours, however, there are even more ways to override the system. Working from home means much less control, while it also causes a lot of distractions. A passion for work is the only guarantee that an employee will be able to concentrate on his duties despite not the most suitable working conditions. At the same time, remote working requires a high level of trust on the part of managers. Good remote workers are those who can be trusted to do the right things even when nobody is observing.
- Good communication skills. Although communication among remote employees is much less frequent, this only imposes greater requirements to their communication skills. Remember, they have no watercooler talks, no overheard conversations in the smoking-room. A weak interaction between all team members makes it difficult to understand what the current project state is and only really good communication skills of every remote worker can compensate this lack of knowledge and rare personal meetings.
Do your employees have the necessary qualities? If so, the rest is up to you. In addition to hiring right employees, it is also necessary to properly organize the workflow, choose efficient tools and prevent a number of shortcomings in remote work.
The key to the success of the remote project management is setting up the workspace with appropriate tools. First of all, they must provide constant communication within a team. It may be email, an instant messaging platform, intranet or something else that covers your company expectations. For instance, you could use Skype, Telegram or Slack to communicate within teams. In addition, make sure that you have everything you need for teamwork cooperation, for example, file sharing apps like Google Docs & Sheets, Github or similar. An important step to success is the choice of the project management and collaboration tools such as Riter, Trello, etc. Screen sharing and time tracking software could help you to organize work in the best way and free managers from constant control over developers. Integration of different areas of your employee’s activities, maximum automation of the workflow will not only save your time, but also make the management process more transparent for all team members.
Specific Process Management
Remote project management requires a specific approach. To begin with, lack of project vision is a frequent problem for all remote workers. Poor communication and documentation, narrow specialization and division of duties lead to the fact that each individual developer does not see himself for what purpose he is doing this or that task, how it will affect the project as a whole, in what way it will be used and so on. This can cause serious problems, right up to the misunderstood problem and, consequently, incorrect implementation of his own part of work.
To deal with this, set clear goals to developers. Avoid short project description and ambiguous instructions. Encourage, within reason, communication within the team, awareness and interest in the project as a whole. Spend time communicating with all interested parties to discuss tasks and create a general picture of the work ahead.
The next challenge your team should overcome is a poor feedback. According to the survey, most remote employees lack feedback on their job from managers. As a rule, the absence of reaction means that the work is done correctly and managers don’t have questions or remarks. However, a short review could help developers to feel more confident about their results, and not feel left behind. At the same time, too persistent attention on the part of managers can be annoying and reduce developer’s efficiency.
One of the most serious problem in remote working is employee’s overburn. The fact is that remote employees tend to work more than their office colleagues, skipping coffee breaks and other distracting factors usual for an office team members. This can be caused by the guilty feeling: they suppose that their colleagues may think they waste time working from home, so they often overwork, exceed traditional 8 working hours, working late at night or even on weekends. This should be regulated by the company’s policies to prevent worker’s overburn.
Remote work involves more flexibility, however, it also requires a certain order and structure to avoid complete chaos. Set up rules and make sure that all team members follow them. They will have less meetings and less control, but that small number of formalities that you establish, must be compulsory for everybody in order to avoid uncertainties and related issues. Here are some of them to organize and make your workflow predictable:
- Regular common and one-to-one meetings. Don’t waste time of your workers, distinguish questions which should be discussed individually and by the whole team.
- Sharing of work results. Make sure that you have good tools for sharing data and collaborative work, as well as that all interested parties get access to the information they need. Ensure that employees present their interim progress fairly often, and not on the last day before the deadline.
- Agreed terms of cooperation. Remote workers may be from different time zones and follow different working schedule. Don’t make them adjust to some convenient for you time and terms of working — discuss them all together and choose the best way of cooperation, instead of trying to catch them online when this is necessary for you.
Communication and Team Building
Be available. Even the most independent and talented employees not always can solve problems themselves. Stay aware of the current state of their project progress and troubles to be able to join the process when necessary. You could use appropriate means of communication depending on the situation.
Take into account a delay in communication. If the time difference is more than 5–6 hours, it can be a big problem for interaction with other team members. In such situation someone will probably have to choose not suitable enough time for a call with colleagues. It would be fair if this was not always the same person.
Do not forget that there is a big gap between remote and office workers. The research shows that lack of close contact with the rest of employees prevents the formation of trust and mutual purpose. In other words, a remote worker sometimes does not feel a part of the team. Look for team building activities for remote workers or imagine your own ones.
The Formula of Success
As you can see, remote work is not just an easy way to organize your business with minimal efforts and costs. To succeed and not return to the traditional approach, like Reddit or Yahoo did, you need to take into account many factors to organize the workflow in the best way. The formula for success can be summarized as follows:
The Right People + Specific Workflow + Effective Tools + Communication + Proper Teamwork = Successful Remote
But this is not a complete criterion of success. Managing a remote team, you will definitely come across a plenty of other problems and challenges, the solution of which can not be taken from someone else’s experience. Does it worth it? We believe that a well organized remote team has obvious benefits and can be extremely productive. The question is, will you have enough patience and ability to provide yourself with these advantages?