Health crises, such as COVID-19, can have a significant impact on your business and your teams, leading you to reinvent ways of working. In this post, we will try to define what a virtual project management is, its relevance to your organisation and challenges.
Indeed, measures related to stage 3 of a health crisis (e.g. COVID-19) require you to deal with a new situation, such as:
Compliance with safety requirements for your employees;
The continuity of activities that are vital to the life of your company, including your 'Must-have' initiatives.
There will be a before and after Covid-19. The situation is so novel that it pushes us to a more disruptive approach.The exception of home working becomes the norm.
Whatever the reason, virtual project management comes with its own set of challenges that are added to the already difficult task of managing a project. There are traditional protocols for making assignments, managing resources, tracking progress and updating stakeholders, but not when they’re in a different locale or a foreign country.
How do you navigate this brave new world of virtual project management? We’ll get to that, but first it’s important to understand the big picture.
WHAT IS VIRTUAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT?
Virtual project management is the process by which one manages projects via remote or virtual teams. When teams are distributed across different time zones, they still need to get assigned tasks and that work must be monitored and tracked to make sure it stays on schedule. As more teams work from home, virtual project management has become more defined.
Thankfully, project management tools have for some time been moving from analog to digital, and with that transition increasing efficiencies and productivity. So, the move to virtual project management is the great leap it might at first appear. But first let’s look into the trend and why it cannot be ignored.
VPMO enables people to work together, yet they remain apart. These work configurations share a need for management tools that enable communication and coordination at a distance. By definition, a VPMO is a system by which virtual teams collaborate for a finite period of time to achieve a specific goal.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF VPMO
Successfully transitioning from a PMO to a virtual PMO necessarily entails development and support of an infrastructure for electronic information. The leadership and key persons in the management of virtual teams allocated to their projects are no less important.
Rather than just being a mere curiosity, it offers many advantages over conventional project management approaches:
Permit attracting the best workers: independently of their location and without the need for a permanent contract
No need to relocate existing workers;
Reduction in travel time and expenses;
Suitable for environments requiring cooperation between distinct organizations;
Shift toward service work;
Global workdays (24 hours rather than 8); and
Changes in workers’ expectations.
Strong PMO and competent project management are so vital during a crisis, especially for project-driven companies.
A well-established project environment can greatly help ensure that projects are handled efficiently, continue through the crisis, and provide a strong recovery afterward. It’s important to avoid making hasty decisions regarding reductions.
What’s needed is good leadership in the PMO. As project manager, you need to maintain a good overview and be able to quickly identify any problems and respond to them in a way that ensures your company’s success.
CHALLENGES OF VPMO
That doesn’t mean virtual project management isn’t without its challenges. There are always going to be hurdles to clear.
The number-one issue is trust. This is true with any project. Teams must be trusted to execute their tasks as best they can with the skills that got them hired.
Not having your team in the office with you creates a fear that they’re not going to work as diligently as they would if you were looking over their shoulder. The truth is that building trust takes time and that might be a long time if you’re working in a corporate culture that’s new to virtual project management.
Being able to monitor and track progress sort of piggybacks on the trust issue. But even if you have complete faith in your team to work hard, any project manager worth their spreadsheet knows that without metrics to measure their work things can get out of hand quickly.
Having virtual teams to manage makes monitoring and tracking progress more difficult. You can’t just walk into their office and get an update or see where they are in the process.
The corporate culture at your organization can be a benefit or a challenge, but more likely than not it’s another hurdle to clear. Even with a list as long as your arm noting how virtual project management can help projects and organizations, old habits die hard. If executives do not buy into the idea of virtual project management, then it’s bound to fail. But getting that genuine acceptance from the top can be difficult.
HONEST AND FREQUENT COMMUNICATION
It's a key factor in ensuring good collaboration and successful projects. You have to make an extra effort to keep the team spirit alive – especially now that many colleagues are working from home.
Many organizations that are trying to organize a VPMO and to implement the necessary improvements to achieve successful project management continue to struggle. Especially in this time of crisis.
I'm Joël Eloundou, as your VPMO, I have a proactive plan, both short- and long-term, for helping your organization fulfill its strategic business goals while simultaneously improving project management. A crisis can also be an opportunity for positive change.