5 Steps to Success in Virtual Project Management

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Virtual project management refers to the supervision of teams dispersed all over the world. 

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Nowadays, with the kind of technology we have, it’s possible for companies to conduct work across the globe. A company can have employees who are in different locations with different cultural background all working seamlessly on the same projects.  Their only communication is virtual which can be a huge benefit if managed correctly.

Forming a remote corporate environment allows for the diversity of talents and skills which helps bring growth and success to a company. More and more companies, especially small ones, are opening their doors to the idea of getting team members from different parts of the world.  As long as one can manage to lead, delegate tasks, conduct meetings and supervise the people wherever they might be, virtual project management is the future. 

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Why virtual teams can fail:

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An unstable process, poor leadership, cultural barriers and lack of resources and tools. Can lead to a failed attempt at virtual project management. Communication is one vital element needed in order to succeed in virtual project management. Expectations from virtual team members should be set clearly and interaction among team members should be solid. There should be a concrete plan that is being followed daily so that all of the people working on a project will be on the same page.

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To be successful with your virtual project management
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You will need to focus on the managers. Communicating goals and plans effectively is important as well as supervision. You need to put extra effort to follow up on your team’s progress and provide updates to them whenever there are changes. Maximize the use of technology-mediated communication systems. Make sure that your consultants or virtual assistants are available whenever you need them.

You might need to use a different leadership style than the one you use in a traditional work setting. It does not matter how effective the style you use with your in-house employees, you may need a different strategy for your remote workers so you really need to have flexible leadership skills. Remember that even though your team members are on different sides of the world, all of you share the same purpose and you all have shared accountabilities.

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Some of the benefits of managing your project virtually with your virtual team are:
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Cost-effective
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Remote workers provide their own tools. You don’t need to supply office tools like a computer, photocopy machine, phones, etc. No need to spend money on face to face meetings and a big office space.

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Diverse Talents
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Since you are not only limited to one specific geographical location, you have a greater chance of getting the best person you need for a job.

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Reduced travel time
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Your team members do not have to travel to work each day. You no longer have to worry about employees who are always late to get to work thus reducing productivity.

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Enhances innovation and creativity
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Your remote team is independent and they tend to be creative in performing tasks. Once they know what is expected from them, they work hard to produce a good result.

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Considering the benefits one can get in hiring virtual teams, here are 5 tips on how to better handle your virtual project management:
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1. Establish stable communication tools
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Communication, being the most important element in virtual project management, should always be open. You should have reliable tools that you could use to communicate to your team members. There should be a communication software you could use for video conferences and there should be one for direct interaction with each team member. Make sure that you have a backup system if ever your main communication tool is down to ensure continuous communication among team members. A chatroom is essential too where team members can ask quick questions or they can chit chat to relieve stress and not feel burnt out… (We use Skype and Slack)

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2. Build trust
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This is important in a traditional office setting but is especially important in virtual project management. Remember that the people you work with are from a different location than you are so you don’t get to bump into them during coffee breaks or lunch hours. You really can’t see through their feelings because you would rarely have small chit chats. Build trust by being a reliable team leader to your members. You should be responsive to them too and set expectations not just from them but from yourself as well. Your virtual workers will feel more comfortable when they know that you will be there for them when they need you. Answer important questions as soon as you could and don’t leave them hanging when they have concerns. Give them praises when they’ve done a good job to motivate them to work harder. Again, communication is really important.

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3. Conduct team meetings
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This is the best way to communicate plans and goals across the board. This will also allow for team members to exchange their thoughts and ideas. A leader should have a good meeting management skills. Encourage team members to speak up during meetings and be sure to set goals every single day. Let them know what is expected of them by the end of the day. Asking questions will ensure comprehension from members so make sure you ask questions frequently to determine their level of understanding. Be concise and speak a bit slow. Use screen sharing tools during meetings.

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4. Track work hours, attendance and work output
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This is necessary to ensure team’s productivity. It might be a challenge to keep track of your members’ productivity since you can’t see exactly what they are doing. You can ask them to send you an end of the day report so that you know how much they’ve done in a day.

If you are paying by the hour, make sure you know how much time a member spends in a task. Try setting the hours they can use to finish one task if you have an idea how long does it take to finish it.

Ask for updates via email or you could call them directly when you need to be updated on a task. The key is to make sure that you know what each of your team members are doing and how long they will take to finish a task. You can conduct coaching sessions to keep track of their productivity. Provide assessments and be transparent in letting them know which ones they need to improve on.

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5. Follow a system
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Every business needs to follow a stable and solid system. Without it, things will be all over the place. Make sure that all members follow the same system and processes. Remember that you can’t see everything they do so they might get lost in their own worlds but by setting clear expectations and outlining protocols and guidelines, you can be on the same page with them.

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Virtual project management is the future so its good you are researching it now.  It shows you are ahead of the curve.  If there is one thing you take away from this post. I hope it will be COMMUNICATION.  This is by far the most important aspect of managing your project virtually.  All the other things can be addressed when you have great communication. 
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