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Virtual Project Management: Not as Scary as it Sounds

April 18, 2019

Virtual project management? What is this, Ready Player One?

I can’t answer that, because I haven’t read it. But what I can do is explain what virtual project management is, and why it’s a valuable term to understand within the Project Management (PM) industry as a whole. 

If you’ve been hearing this term lately and have no idea what it means, allow me to walk you through the possibility of project management in our digital era.

What is virtual project management

Virtual project management is the emerging trend of managing remote teams, or managing teams in locations separate from your own.

A lot of the responsibilities and the project life cycle are the same: the key difference is not all project team members are in one place.

The demand for virtual project managers is growing as companies wish to expand outside of the local talent pool. Additionally, remote work in general is a growing trend.

As managers become more comfortable with the idea that teams can succeed even when separated, virtual positions are sure to grow. These employees can easily work from their living rooms, the local library, or a favorite coffee shop. 

virtual project manager

If you’re looking into virtual project management, either as a company strategy or as a career move, continue reading this article to learn how it works, how it could benefit your team, and what challenges the strategy can pose.

How virtual project management works

There is no right way to be a virtual project manager: ultimately your success will depend on a company’s existing strategies around communication and project management. A huge change PMs experience when they go virtual is that communication has to be infinitely more clear.

For example, video conference calls should include plenty of time for employees to ask questions, or speak up if they need an assignment clarified. Virtual PMs have to be empathetic individuals who are able to pick up on feelings of chaos or general confusion within a team.

Being a virtual PM, you will definitely have to invest in a digital project management software to help update you on the progress of certain projects or initiatives. Being able to look online and see your team’s work communicated digitally is imperative — especially if you’re working in a different timezone. You’ll also need to invest in some sort of video conferencing tool. In order to build trust with your employees, you’ll need that regular facetime.

View the Easiest-to-Use Project Management Software →

Benefits of virtual project management

Below are just a few benefits of the virtual project management structure.

Larger talent pool

When you’re allowed to hire outside of city limits, you open yourself up to a wider range of talent. You could see the resume of a PM and find out they actually moved across the country one year ago. With virtual project management, you’re still able to bring them on board.

Cost-effective

Virtual project management is a way to hire great talent without having to pay the moving costs of bringing them to your location. This can save you a lot of change, especially if your business hopes to hire internationally.

Presents challenges that grow both managers and employees

A remote work structure is still new to many, meaning novice employees may push themselves harder to prove it can work. In other words, a remote team or a remote project manager may work harder than teams that are in-house.

Challenges of remote work

Below are a few challenges of the virtual project management structure.

Time differences

If you’re across the world from all of your employees, chances are you aren’t working the same hours. This can be difficult. What if the accountant budgets a project incorrectly, and you need them on the phone immediately? This is something to consider in a remote environment.

Miscommunications

Miscommunications are inevitable in a face-to-face setting, so they’re even more likely in a remote-work environment. Virtual project managers have to be prepared for miscommunications, and try their best to over communicate to prevent them.

When these miscommunications occur, project managers have to find a diplomatic solution that reinforces a strong team bond.

Disconnected to team

In-office team members are able to have employee engagement such as team happy hours, celebratory dinners, workshops, and daily life together. Being a remote member can be difficult in that you’re less likely to get to know your colleagues, which in turn can decrease respect and understanding.

Project managers wanting to go virtual — or any company hoping to go completely remote — should study up on remote team best practices to understand how to make a dispersed team feel connected.

Virtually impossible?

No way. With all the advancements in technology in the past few decades, remote teams can not only thrive, but also survive. If you’re interested in making the switch to a virtual PM role, look for job opportunities on your favorite job search site.

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