Restaurants are closing, grocery stores are either closing or limiting hours and can't keep products on the shelves long enough for panicked shoppers to get what they are there to buy or stock up on. Schools are closing. Universities are closing. Sports leagues like the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) have suspended play. Even the casinos here in Las Vegas are starting to shut their doors. The idea, of course, is to avoid gatherings of people where the virus can spread. It's the only way to win and eventually stop the virus from spreading.
Big tech corporations are taking it seriously as well. Workers are being sent home to work. Giants like Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter wisely started the mass exodus and others are following suit. The worldwide numbers of infected individuals and deaths is still rising daily, but these measures will help.
But what how about our tech projects? How does this virus and the movement to work remotely affect projects starting up or that are in process? If you're a project manager or project centric organization, you know full well that risk planning is critical. If you haven't already been sent home to work, let's consider what the overall affect to tech projects and project managers and teams will be in project centric organizations today and when the next emergency like this comes up...
Project opportunities will dwindle.
There's no doubt that project opportunities will dwindle and therefore tech revenues will dwindle. The tech team and tech organizations are going to have to look hard at finding ways to grow more projects into new business and extended opportunities for more projects from existing clients. I'm not saying that remote project managers need to make sales, but every project manager should be eyeing potential needs within their client's organizations for need gaps they can fill with new project opportunities or change orders on current projects that expand the revenue footprint of the current projects in motion.
3rd party vendors will be closed or will not have available supplies to ship.
This is going to have to be a major concern and one looked at as a very likely risk and planned for as well. What if you can't get that critical database update from a 3rd party vendor completed in time for it to be used on the project in May as documented in your project timeline? Timelines are going to slide – no question. But how will that affect the project overall? Have you planned for that potential issue? Will the end users still be able to get project delivery from you within the necessary timeframe? When we are faced with these situations then sometimes the timeline will need to be put together with the thought of “under promise and over deliver.” Don't set customer expectations too high from the beginning. Be sure they also know and agree to the risks.
Remote work must happen.
Again, when it is serious and people need to be separated from each other, remote work and remote projects will happen. Be sure you have the right people who can handle it and won't fail under the pressure. Organizations in the future are going to want to consider stocking their teams – at least to some degree – with individuals who have experience with being very productive and effective in the work from home environment. Look for project managers who have successfully led projects while possibly never having met their team face-to-face. Not everyone can do it – organization is key and being an excellent communicator is critical.
Virtual teams will be the most productive.
If you have virtual teams already in place, then you are best prepared to immediately realize efficiency and productivity in your project delivery. That equals project success and customer satisfaction. Remember, the customer is affected as well and very stressed in situations like this. You want to ease their minds that your project will be successful. Having talented individuals working remotely already delivering projects will help them stay confident and stay long term project clients for your organization. Be ready to deliver when events like this happen. Use it as selling point going forward. Embrace the fact that when this is all over remote projects, remote workforces and virtual teams may be the new normal and it's a good thing. You can get the best workers now without having to bring them onsite to work. Costs can go down while productivity goes up. It can be a win-win situation.
Organizational leadership will be affected.
No doubt that organizational leadership will be affected. Will senior management be available to help make decisions on projects? Do you have great communicators and experienced decision makers in place leading teams and projects so reliance on senior leadership during emergency situations like this is kept to a minimum? They are going to have many things to worry about and remote teams that are prepared to run with the project and make key decisions are going to win and keep the project on track as needed. Plan for that in the organization's workforce makeup and teams must plan for that as a potential risk.
Summary / call for input
This pandemic is going on right now and more and more organizations are taking the drastic measures necessary to help begin to mitigate the spread of the virus. Will this happen again in our lifetimes? It could. Will a movement to remote work and remote teams and virtual workforces help on project delivery? I think so... and I believe this current move will leave us in a new situation or scenario where work from home – especially for project delivery – will be the new norm. Organizations will see the benefits and productivity gains and employees will be confident that they can make it work and achieve a nice work/life balance.
Readers – what are your thoughts? Do you currently work from home? Does it work well for you? What issues do you see from remote work and remote project management that could make it fail or that need to be addressed and planned for? Please share your thoughts and experiences and discuss.