What’s more ‘interesting’ is the fact that for every $1 billion invested in the US,$135 million is at risk due to poor project communication and planning, according to research by PMI.
With staggering statistics like these ones, it goes without saying that project management isn’t a joke. Despite the plethora of resources, certifications, and tech deployed, project management holds its place as one of the most challenging professions.
The scope of project management gets even tougher if the work is done remotely, as remote work comes with its own set of pitfalls. In this article, we’ll discuss the major remote project management challenges and their possible solutions.
1. Insufficient Team Skills
According to the 2017 PMI Pulse of the Profession survey, 20% of all project failures are attributed to inexperienced project managers.
But inexperienced project managers shouldn’t carry all the blame for project failures. If the team members aren’t smart enough or well trained to handle the assigned tasks, it can put development in a risky spot.
At times, team members for remote project work are assigned on their availability, rather than on their expertise in carrying out the assigned task. Besides, it’s more cost-effective to hire a local than an international worker who will demand travel and accommodation allowances.
Solution: Always hire based on skills, not availability irrespective of the costs. Project managers should also have the required skills to manage a team and perform all the related costs and risk management analysis.
It’s ideal that the project manager has a PMP certification or is currently pursuing one. Crush the CPA Exam has compiled a list of the best PMP preparation materials that can help project managers striving to become a “Project Management Professional” improve their skills.
2. Poor Communication
In project management, communication is critical as a failure to communicate effectively or on time can have dire consequences on the project’s progress.
Project managers need to communicate with their remote teams from time to time to relay information regarding project adjustments, changes in technology, customer requests, detected risks, and any other issue that may arise.
At times, prompt communication can be a challenge in remote project management due to network failures and lack of proper channels of communication among other factors.
Solution: Project managers can overcome communication barriers by having a dedicated channel for different teams working on different aspects of the project.
A team productivity tool like Slack can allow for the creation of many channels hence it’s great for keeping your team updated on the project’s progress. Offline communication is essential when the network is down so it’s imperative to have all your team's contact info. It’s also important that you and your team have impeccable communication skills to be able to listen and articulately express points without leaving room for others to make assumptions.
3. Gradual Loss of Productivity
Low productivity is an inevitable risk when employees work outside the traditional office. In an environment without day to day oversight, employees are likely to slack off.
Too much freedom can be counterproductive and this is often the case when it comes to remote project management. Many employees tend to lose concentration and do other things not related to the project.
Solution: The best way to increase your team’s productivity is to set clear expectations for each role and ensure constant check-ups to gauge performance. Also, make sure to set realistic goals so you don’t overwork your team, which can also be counterproductive.
Availability is a key pitfall that plagues all sorts of virtual work. Issues with availability can be due to various reasons.
Sometimes, team members may be located in different time zones, making it difficult to communicate in real-time. Internet problems in some regions may also cause availability issues. And in rare cases, a remote team member may fall sick or lose communication devices.
Solution: Remote work involves working outside the office environment, so availability issues are bound to emerge. However, you can mitigate these risks by setting geographical boundaries. For instance, hiring individuals within the same time zone or adjacent time zones with no more than 4 hours’ time difference, if you prefer an international workforce.
Managing a remote team can be challenging, but addressing those challenges heads-on is worth your time and effort.
The challenges discussed above are the typical pitfalls faced by remote project managers on a daily basis. Some may be tough to handle, but with the right team, resources, and good planning, you can overcome every challenge that comes your way.