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Foretheta

Five challenges for remote project managers

Yassine Tounsi
I am an accomplished Project Management Professional (PMP), with +10 years of experience in software engineering.
Originally published at foretheta.com Updated on ・5 min read

This article contains an overview of some of the most common challenges that remote project managers experienced. We will also provide tips on how to avoid mistakes most project managers make at one point.

1. Lack of Motivation

Face-to-face communication sets the foundation for building stronger working relationships and fostering engagement and innovation. Thus, such collaborative environments ensure employee satisfaction as well as company culture and growth. On the other end of the spectrum, remote teams rely on various means of communication for rather formal interaction.

Setting up tech-tools, defining roles and processes, and establishing communication are the priorities. Keeping employees motivated is a challenge for most managers. Therefore, remote project managers have to lead a team that is neither motivated nor self-driven since motivation influences productivity.

Solution
Remote project managers should keep a continuous communication flow to ensure that their team members are updated on the expected level. The best approach is the use of remote project management communication software.

Communication technologies have made remote work more convenient. It enables a team to be more connected and informed, which promotes engagement and sustains productivity. It is also essential to keep the team as part of the company's bigger picture. This way, they will know that each one of them has a role to play.

The project manager should also take every opportunity to motivate his team by identifying the individual contribution and the outstanding work done within a project.

2. The difference in Time Zones

Different time zones are a more significant challenge to remote teams whose members come from different continents and countries. Finding an appropriate time for meetings is hard, especially if the time difference exceeds 8 hours. If members have to sacrifice their personal time to attend, they may end up resenting the project. As a project manager, it will be hard to work with a team that is discontent with a project.

Solution
One solution is to divide the team into geographical regions. If you have team members in North America and Asia, then it would be more convenient to have two separate teams. This will make it easy for the team members to have meetings and follow up as the project progresses.

Another option is to reduce the number of meetings altogether. Meetings should only take place when necessary. Otherwise, meetings at inconvenient times might negatively impact the team’s productivity.

Rotating the meeting schedule to switch between time zones is also an option to consider when all the members cannot agree on an ideal time.

If all the above solutions fail, the project manager may decide to record the meeting and send the videos to the members who did not attend.

3. Communication Challenges

Communication is an important aspect of remote project management. Lack of seamless communication throughout the project phases may delay the turnaround of the project. For this reason, many project managers look for software and digital tools that help them get the job done. It can be in the form of online chats, audio calls, or video conferencing.

But the availability of these tools doesn't minimize miscommunication. In an onsite setting, communication is easier for receiving feedback, and asking for clarifications is quicker. You have the opportunity to meet people outside the workplace and get to know them. Informal communication within and outside the workplace is the norm. This has made many people contemplate more on onsite projects as being better than remote.

Solution
The project manager should work towards normalizing informal interactions between team members. There should be a culture where informal communication between stakeholders is routine. This way, team members can engage with each other and clear miscommunications before they escalate and cause any setbacks.

The project manager should use remote project management tools and software to solve miscommunication issues. There are different modes and tools of communication that work for different teams according to the project needs. Most of these tools are designed to increase output while avoiding burnouts. It is important to choose software, tools, and means of communication that can easily be adopted by each team member. Some common tools we use are Slack, Trello, Zoom, Google Drive, and, of course, Github.

4. Output Analysis

The success of a project depends on the input of each team member. As a project manager, being able to track the efficiency of employees' input is essential for better estimation. If Project managers find it challenging to determine employees' output then they can't estimate overall team output with any degree of accuracy.

Solution
Picking the right tools is key to estimating the output of an employee. Whatever tool you pick, make sure the whole team is using the same tool. They should have access to each other’s work in the project management tool. This ensures timely dissemination of all project updates on the project to all involved parties.

This has an additional benefit of reducing the project manager's effort to check on the employees and track their progress frequently. With less overhead, the focus can be on the output instead. Focusing on the right things is important, as it determines the success of a project.

5. Analyzing Risk Management

Risk management is all about identifying and assessing possible challenges and obstacles to focus on treating such areas to avoid potential failures. The prioritization involves resource allocation and monitoring to observe the change or turn of events. Project managers have to plan for emergencies in case the project took an unexpected turn. This means that the project manager has to determine the risks the project is bound to face or encounter. The uncertainties involved in a project management process turn out to be a considerable challenge to most managers.

Solution
Strategic planning and research is the best way to understand the potential risks. Before the start of any project, a project manager should conduct intensive research. Analyzing previous projects and sorting for the field's experts and mentors consulting is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with the potential risks. This way, you can develop proper control measures.

Conclusion

In conclusion, lack of motivation, different time zones, lack of communication, managing the team's output, and accurately managing risk are some of the setbacks that most remote project managers may encounter. Experts, experience, and research show that you may be able to deal with many of these challenges if you incorporate these solutions in time. This is what we will like to call a proactive management strategy. Project managers should be dedicated to the constant analysis of setbacks and challenges as they implement effective ways of maneuvering the hurdles to achieving success. With the right strategies, remote teams have proven to be more effective than the traditional onsite teams because of their skills, knowledge, and experience diversity.

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