These days, the world gets smaller, but our teams get more scattered. Increasingly, organizations and teams are comprised of people working in different locations.

Is this always the best formula when managing projects?

managing projects remotely

It depends on the project, and the customer’s expectations. Perception, location, budget, and project needs all play a role in deciding what’s best for everyone involved.  Either way, remote management is on the rise, and as a project manager you probably deal with one of these situations:

  • You are the one working remotely on the project.
  • You work onsite with the customer – and the hiring company is off-site.
  • You work with your team at your company’s headquarters.
  • Your team is geographically dispersed.

Here are three points to consider if you’re planning to manage a project remotely.

Customer needs and perceptions

Ask yourself at the very beginning: What does the customer appear to need from you? Some clients want to be able see you, despite what they say. They believe that’s how they’ll know if they’re getting their money’s worth. They might tell you it’s okay to have a virtual team, but then they set up a bunch of in-person meetings or conference calls. Be in tune to these requests, and make sure someone is checking in with the client in the manner that puts them at ease (office visits, conference call, etc.).

how to manage a project remotely

Other clients get concerned if they see you too much. Face time gives them the perception that too much time is being charged to the project, and that their budget is wavering out of control.

To meet your customer expectations, address these concerns prior to project kickoff, and during kickoff. Then, see how the engagement progresses. Assess the situation along the way – and make the appropriate adjustments, with the input of your team and your client.

Team location – follow their lead

If your entire team for a given project is located at corporate headquarters, then it’s probably a good idea for the project manager or consultant to be there as well.  However, if most or all of the project team is dispersed around the country — or the world — then it’s probably a waste of your productive hours to drive into company headquarters just to sit there and conduct phone calls. Nobody wants you wasting time sitting in heavy traffic when there’s work to be done!

remote project management

Budget vs. project needs

It gets expensive to co-locate an entire project team to the company headquarters – or, to travel to a client’s location for extended periods of time. But if that’s what the customer wants, and you want to manage the project, then consider the following:

  • Work the co-locating and travel expenses into the project budget.
  • Make sure the customer is including the extra travel time as part of effort and deliverables.
  • Make sure you’re pricing the project accordingly.

If you have a choice, make a case for keeping everyone where they are and consuming project budget dollars to bring resources together at the project’s most crucial moments — key phase kickoffs, UAT (testing), and deployment.

The bottom line is that you have to do what’s best for your project, and client.  Include the customer, the team, budget, and your own workload to set up an effective remote management plan.

And stay tuned to your customer’s unique and shifting needs. Their primary concern might be budget, or it might be face time. Either way, plan your remote management strategy to meet those most important needs – from wherever your team is located.

Is Remote Management Right for Your Project? was last modified: April 9th, 2013 by Brad Egeland