A remote team is a common occurrence today, as we visualized in our infographic about the new independent workforce and the rise of the new economy.

In years past, project teams were assembled within individual companies. Employees at firms would work together within the walls of the physical business location to complete a project. Partners from other firms would often visit the offices of the business heading up the project.

Much was done in-person.

Today, the reality of modern business structure requires teams to operate remotely. This process involves coordinating tasks, responsibilities and schedules with many variables. For the modern project manager, this can be a difficult task.

But in order for projects to be successful, project managers need to adapt and have the necessary skills to manage remote teams.

Here are 5 actionable steps you can take, as a project manager of remote teams, to ensure timelines are met, goals are achieved, and success is reported to the appropriate business leaders.

5 Steps for Remote Project Team Success

The role of the project manager has always been important, but the demand for agile project managers is growing in importance in today’s business world. Team members work from home. They can work from various locations all over the USA and the entire globe with each person working in different timezones.

Therefore, it’s necessary to have a plan in place for each project you manage. The plan will be what helps you successfully manage each project making sure the leaders at your business are impressed.

1. Project Overview and Timeline

The kickoff meeting is something that happens with teams that work together in the same physical location. For remote teams, this is not possible. You can do this one of two ways. First, you can gather everyone for a conference call or a video conference with sometime like Google+ Hangouts for your remote team. There are several great free audio and web conferencing tools. Second, you can send an initial correspondence via email or online project management software that describes the entire project overview and the timelines.

A good project overview will include the reason the project is being done, goals and objectives, and the role of each of the team members. A schedule or timeline is also included usually broken down into individual due dates.

Once presented, it’s good to ask for feedback from the team to see if there are concerns about the timeline and tasks. Changes should be made if appropriate and the project begins.

There are tools that can make a project schedule more efficient and effective. A calendar, such as the Google Calendar, complete with reminders for each team member can make sure each person understands that deadlines must be met with quality work.

When a project begins, it’s easy to view it as one big project. But in reality, each large project is made of smaller projects with each having its own deadline. Breaking projects into mini projects allows people to better understand the schedule and when they are responsible for delivering work.

2. Responsibilities and Roles

With any project it’s important to define roles. An extra step that is important, especially with remote teams, is to make sure each team member understands how the work of others is impacted by their work. Due dates are important and when people are working on their own they might need the motivation to understand that they can’t wait until the entire project is due to complete certain steps.

A common occurrence in a website design project is making sure the designer has all content for the website. This usually needs to be complete before the designer can even begin. So if you have a remote team working on your website project, you will want to make sure the copywriter understands that their deadline will be early in the overall project timeline.

With a remote team, it is important to define responsibilities so each team member understands what is expected of them. When people are not working together in the same office there might be a need for the leader to communicate deadlines more often to ensure the project can move without delay.

3. Progress Updates

It’s common at businesses for their to be periodic progress reports or visual progress in a project tracker. Within office buildings, this could be a weekly or monthly meeting where every member of a department gives an update on what they’re working on. It is also a time to ask for feedback from others or to schedule a time with others to go over timelines and how one person’s work might affect the timeline of another person’s work.

For teams working remotely and online, the progress update can be just as important.

For communication, it should be established at the beginning of the project how team members should communicate. With project management tools, there are often messaging systems where members can comment on the project feed. Notifications can be set to make sure each team member receives an email confirming a new message is available or a new task has been assigned.

Schedule regular progress updates where each person can check in with progress. This could be a report to the entire team or to the project manager.

4. Project Conclusion

Conclusion of the project is often what each member of the team looks forward to. When the project is complete, the manager will need to close the project and make sure each requirement has been met.

As the manager, you’ll want to confirm with each team member that all files or deliverables have been provided. You’ll want to make sure everything is in the correct format for delivery to the business leaders.

Your next job will be to organize the material into a presentation or your deliverable to the leaders of the business.

5. Reporting to Business Leaders and Team Members

The final step in the process is to present the project to your business leaders. Once the project is accepted as complete and satisfactory, it is a good idea to send the final message to the remote team.

It is important to thank each person for their hard work on the project. It is also a good idea to discuss how the work will be used by the leaders to once again show that the had work on the project will go to improving the company or that it will contribute to the bottom line.

Feedback for the work is important. It’s important that each person on the remote team feels like they are in fact part of the team. Communicating the feedback from the leaders and the role the person played in the business makes them feel ownership of their work and makes them more willing to contribute to the best of their ability on the next project.

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What has helped you with remote team project management? Any specific case studies or tips?

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