How technology could help project management teams to succeed in the unprecedented global remote working experiment during coronavirus pandemic.
The novel coronavirus is posing one of the greatest challenges to organizations around the globe. And the mitigation of its negative impact depends on how fast and effective the response is. The pandemic has already triggered the greatest remote working experiment in history. Therefore, smart adoption and use of technologies are critical for the appropriate response. The main characteristics of this approach are adaptability, agility, and learning.
Starting with inventory
A good starting point is to do an inventory of the existing IT infrastructure of your company and to understand what is already available across the organisation, what systems, apps, and tools are already being used by teams and how they feel about them. The resulting list should include not only the names of the systems recommended by other teams, but lessons learned, tips, and best practices for roll-out and examples of the usage. Focusing on already utilized systems allows you to significantly speed up the process of mass adoption, as the systems are already familiar to some teams and some volunteers will be ready to share their experience.
The next step is to form a team of digital champions, enthusiastic early adopters who are happy to volunteer to share their knowledge. There are different possible ways to conduct knowledge sharing. It could be regular short walk-in show and tell sessions for example in the lunch and learn format, or it could be more detailed sessions by request. Running short webinars with demonstrations and screen shares could be another way and, in this case, it is always useful to record sessions and share the link with those who could not attend. It would be also helpful to create an e-hub, for instance in a form of a classified discussion forum, where anyone could ask questions and digital champions would be able to respond. A further development of this e-hub could be the growth of a knowledge base, which also promotes peer-to-peer learning across the organization.
Systems most commonly used to maintain the viability of remote teams include the well-known email systems, teamwork collaboration spaces, cloud storage, and video conferencing services.
Chat-based workplace communication tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack are designed to keep conversations organized and work collaboratively on documents. An important feature of the functionality of such systems is the ability to integrate with other applications that are necessary for the team to work, such as task management, project management tools, file sharing etc. Despite the popularity of systems like Microsoft Teams or Slack, it might be worthwhile for small teams to check alternative systems (e.g. Workplace from Facebook, Flock, HeySpace), some of which have free plans and are easier in deployment.
Although teamwork hubs typically provide cloud storage and file collaboration capabilities, there are cases when a team will benefit from having separate cloud storage. As one example, this could be if there is a need for sharing files with external people. Having a transparent structure of files and folders with clear rules for ownership and granting access has a positive impact. Among the most popular solutions are OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox, and for small teams, it is quite possible to get a free tariff plan with limited disk space.
Many organizations have already been using Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom, or Webex for virtual meetings and video calls. However, as a result of this pandemic, they have completely replaced offline meetings. Even a new term ‘over-zoomed’ has emerged demonstrating fatigue from the rapidly skyrocketing number of virtual meetings. When planning a virtual meeting, it is useful to think through its format, which will depend on the topic, the number of participants, and other factors. Meetings with a large number of participants will benefit from the appointment of a Chair or moderator and a notetaker. It is also important to build five minutes of chat into virtual meetings to ensure your team doesn’t lose “high touch”. Another approach to avoid or at least mitigate “over-zooming” is to implement interactive tools such as voting, whiteboards, non-verbal reactions, etc. For example, for a brainstorming session, the use of a free tool Padlet during meetings allows the posting of notes on a common page.
Don’t forget about fun
Another small tip is not to forget about fun and find time for informal communication with your colleagues. Friday’s evening quiz in WhatsApp, Jackbox over Zoom or a lunch-time 15 minutes HIIT workout over Skype, Slack or MS Teams with your colleagues are great ways to keep your team engaged and in good spirits.