In today’s real world, project teams are often spread across the globe, not just a building. As a result, it can be a real challenge to manage projects. Fortunately, most project management systems include not just on-site project management, but ways you can control your project from a distance, online.
Inexperienced project managers should never run their first project online. There are far too many minutiae that need to be picked up by someone with genuine experience with project management.
Tools for online project management
The software you chose is a critical decision for your online project management system. You will need to have online interfaces that can be installed securely on your company server, but that also look identical to everyone else’s.
The Internet is a blessing, but can sometimes feel like a curse. A good project manager will look for software that supports online webmail and email, chat, bulletin boards, blogging (a surprisingly effective tool for a project manager today), and shared file storage, as well as the traditional project management tools you’ll need for your management system.
Your other critical tool is the telephone. Often in today’s email-driven world, people forget they can pick up a phone and call someone for instant information on what’s happening. Never use email for quick check-up calls; instead, save some time and give your team members a ring.
Online project management software
Information is the key to any project, and when you have to run your project online, you’ll find this to be even truer.
The most important thing you’ll need to accomplish with online project management is constant communication. And you should not just communicate through email and online services; you should also pick up the phone from time to time and call.
This is also where you will start to develop the instincts so important to being a good project manager; when something “feels” wrong with a long-distance team, you should be ready to fly out there with a moment’s notice to have a look for yourself.
This is why your online project management needs email, bulletin board, and chat services. You should also look for a blogging system; they’re surprisingly effective when trying to ensure everyone on a team is kept up to date on what’s been done in your project most recently.
Issues with running long-distance teams
Online project management is generally a choice made when you have a team spread at least across the country, and sometimes across the world. You will have issues with a team of this sort, both personal and professional.
For any team spread thinly across any area, be sensitive to cultural issues. It’s not as hard as you’d think for a New Yorker to insult an Alabaman. If you catch any of this going on, you need to address it right away.
For international teams, the cultural misunderstandings can be enormous. If you have teams in Dubai and in India, take some time to read up on the cultures in these countries, and remember what you read.
Time is one of the items most likely to cause stress. Time is not only different on the other side of the world, it may actually be treated differently.
For instance, in Mexico City it is typical to take a siesta in the middle of the day; but an American project manager may want to get things going right away instead.
Vacations and holidays are different in other countries, and need to be planned for as well. And the language barriers may be nearly insurmountable.
Whenever you’re dealing with online project management, just remember that it’s more than just the software and the time differences that makes this sort of project a special challenge. Even on the other side of the world, people need to be managed properly too.