Remote Project Management
May 22, 2020

Remote Project Management for Teams Using Office 365: 7 Steps to Doing It Right!

By Brian McHale

The future of work is remote.

With incredible savings and productivity increases, remote work is definitely going to become the new normal.

But as we transition from on-site teams to distributed teams, we’re going to need new project management and team collaboration solutions.

In this article, we’re going to show you 7 great tips for managing remote teams.

Let’s dive in!


Why Remote Teams Are the Future of Work?

Remote teams come with incredible benefits:

So not only are remote teams more productive, but they actively reduce costs for companies that choose to have a distributed workforce.

However, if you want to maximize your benefits, there are two very important things to pay attention to…


The Importance of Communication and Collaboration for Remote Project Management

One third of projects fail because of poor communication. And this statistic was based on primarily traditional projects with on-site project teams.

Now imagine what could happen if you manage projects remotely.

Communication is the most important thing for remote project management.

Remote Communication

When your distributed team is communicating, they’re sharing knowledge, staying updated, collaborating, and, most importantly, contributing to project success.

And according to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, collaboration and communication are one of the most pressing challenges for distributed teams.

Conversely, when distributed teams have all the tools and guidelines they need to communicate and collaborate, you can expect your project success rate to skyrocket.

So, what do you have to do to become a pro at remote project management?


How to Manage Projects Remotely

There are a few surefire ways to become a great remote project manager, even if you don’t regularly manage projects.


Keep CCDBE in Mind and Create Processes

There are precisely 5 factors that should be your main remote project management priorities:

  • Communication – How to facilitate effective communication between stakeholders
  • Collaboration – How to help your team members collaborate
  • Deadlines – How to keep track of deadlines and performance
  • Budgets – How to stay within budget
  • Engagement – How to improve productivity and effort.

Your remote project management strategy should address these factors.

The same goes for tools.

It’s impossible to manage a distributed team without communication and collaboration tools, and the tools you choose have to cover these 5 areas.

Then, create processes for each factor.

Tools will be very helpful. Even if you’ve been using Office 365, you can do plenty with their tools, and additional tools that tightly integrate with O365.

For example, you could use Microsoft Teams to hold virtual meetings with your team. Then, switch to a powerful project management tool like Project Central (tight O365 integration) to keep track of tasks, deadlines, and activity.

In room communication


Choose the Right People for Your Remote Project Team

Even though we mainly talk about office culture, remote teams also have their culture.

Successful remote culture relies on:

  • Time management
  • Accountability
  • Communication skills
  • Collaboration skills.

And more!

The folks at 6Q did a great job of explaining what a positive remote culture should look like.

You want to hire people with the right skills – both hard and soft skills.

They should be great at what they do, while being able to communicate their experience remotely.

Another thing to take note of is the “water cooler effect.” Provide your team with the right methods of chit chatting with their colleagues.

This can be as simple as an informal Slack channel.

Don’t ignore team building for remote teams.

Even though your team is working remotely, there is a plethora of activities they can do to start trusting each other.

In the long term, this will make them better at teamwork, and increase their productivity.

At the same time, you won’t have to worry about mitigating as many conflicts.


Keep Your Remote Team Productive

This is where motivation really comes into play.

One of the main challenges remote project teams face is the lack of motivation and, consequently, productivity degradation.

If your teams are constantly handling similar tasks, or don’t feel like their effort is recognized, they’ll be more likely to stop engaging with their jobs.

Remote desk communication

In order to motivate your distributed team, you should:

  • Have a clear and transparent way of tracking work, performance, and results
  • Recognize your team members’ achievements, and if you can’t reward them for it, at least offer praise
  • Encourage your team members to come to you with frustrations, issues, and other feedback.

Don’t underestimate the power of asking: “How are you feeling?” or “How do you feel about XYZ?”

When managing projects remotely, you have to understand your team, and connect with your team members on a personal level.

This is why it’s important to at least have an informal Slack channel, or get together every once in a while.

Free Project Plan Template in Excel

Click to download our Free Project Plan Template in Excel to begin simplifying your project management.

Make Roles and Responsibilities Clear

Accountability is one of the most important aspects of remote project management.

You should:

  • Clearly distribute and assign tasks
  • Offer a way of tracking progress
  • Monitor project performance
  • Create a RACI matrix.

Remote workers can be incredibly productive. However, they need to know what they should be working on.

This brings us back to the importance of project management software. For example, a tool like Project Central allows you to create project timelines, manage tasks, and monitor team members’ activity.

When everyone knows what their responsibilities are, and how their effort moves the needle, they know they’re being held accountable.

And if you’ve created the right team atmosphere, they won’t want to disappoint their coworkers.


Keep Stakeholders in the Loop

Stakeholder communication and engagement in remote project management goes further than simply communicating with your team.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to keep clients and top management in the loop while managing your team:

  • Create a documentation policy (create a project communication plan that will tell you which stakeholders needs to know what, and when you’ll report to them)
  • Consider providing top management and clients with restricted (guest) access to your project management tools
  • Collaborate with clients/top management, and keep them updated regularly

You can also decide on certain check-in milestones.

For example, software devs that use the Agile project management methodology often conduct review meetings when a certain feature is finished.

This way, they’re able to hear what the clients think, and improve the next Sprint.


Start off on the Right Foot

Nothing can substitute good project initiation.

Regardless of your project management methodology, you should make processes clear at the beginning.

If you’re using a specific methodology, explain it to your remote team.

Make sure they’ve fully understood it.

Tell them which tools they should use, and when they should use them.

Make sure your team understands the project goals, and stays aligned.

A good idea is also to bring your team on board when creating the project plan.

This way, you can address any concerns, and show them that they’re an integral part of this project.

Often, team members can feel like they’re just workers. But in reality, you’ve got a team of highly-skilled individuals, and you should use it.

And speaking of feelings…

Project Initiation Tips

Source: The Digital Project Manager


Monitor the Right Metrics

While we mainly talk about performance metrics, you should also monitor communication effectiveness.

There are two things to monitor:

  • Knowledge sharing
  • Communication value.

Are your remote team members short with one another, or are they open when providing feedback?

How easy is it for them to find the information they need to do their jobs?

All of this is incredibly important if you want to successfully manage projects – remotely, or otherwise.

If task dependencies are clear, and your team members are still coming to you for information, then you might have a problem on your hands.

In that case, it’s good to look into more efficient project management tools, or use team collaboration best practices to make team members more comfortable with another.


How to Rock at Remote Project Management

Remote project management relies on your remote project team.

If you can help them communicate, you’ve already won half the battle.

he rest is waged through transparency, organization, and feedback.

By following these tips and implementing the right project management methodologies for your projects, you’ll become a remote project management pro.

Let’s get to work!

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