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Does remote project management really work?

Moira Alexander | Dec. 11, 2015
Remote project management may be a great alternative to traditional project management for most organizations, project managers and team members, but is it realistic? There are tangible advantages here, but this is not for the faint-hearted.

Cultural and legal differences. In today’s global business world, many organizations have projects that span across multiple geographical locations; sometimes creating cultural and legal challenges that must be factored into the success of a project.

Possible solutions: 

  • In the initial stages, it will be important to evaluate and address any legal or regulatory issues that may exist currently or in the future. As these types of issues can easily and unnecessarily halt a project, try to gain critical local and/or international legal expertise prior to proceeding with the project, this can mitigate the risk of the project becoming an expensive sunk cost.
  • Also prior to initiating a project, research and prepare for any cultural or language barriers that could crop up throughout the project. This is an area that is often highly underestimated but can often times create the potential to risk project failure due to misunderstandings.

Communication barriers. This is easily one of the areas most impacted in remotely managed projects because teams are not meeting regularly face-to-face, where it is easier to gauge facial expressions, body language and tone of voice simultaneously. As a result, effective and timely communication can be the most troubling for virtual project teams to achieve.

Possible Solutions: 

  • Project managers will have to work exceptionally hard to establish trust with and among team members. Work at building virtual teams that feel connected and stay connected regularly. It may be helpful to talk with some other virtual project teams that have been successful in this regard. Also, find out more about your team members in order to establish common ground in order to build a more cohesive team.
  • When possible set up the initial kick-off and weekly/bi-weekly meetings via video conference as people often feel more connected when they can see each other when they are talking.
  • Try to use different forms of communication depending on time and information sensitivities, timing differences, the nature of the message and even the audience.
  • Set team based rewards that are tied to team performance, not just individual performance.

Technology, data access and security issues. Having the right technology and tools available to all members of a project team is essential in ensuring a project is on schedule and on budget. This is especially true in remote project management.  Projects can easily fall out of scope if team members cannot access the data they need in a timely manner. Projects and organizations can also be negatively impacted by security breaches that can put the client’s or internal company data at risk. This is another area often highly underestimated and overlooked.

Possible solutions:

  • Prior to project execution ensure the appropriate PM/other collaboration tools, access rights and permissions are identified, provisioned and tested for all project team members.
  • Establish clear security protocols for utilizing all company information, resources, technologies and external mobile devices.


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