written by
Sean Thomas

5 Greatest Challenges of Virtual Project Management (and How to Resolve Them)

Project Management 5 min read

With the recent social restrictions in place, many businesses have shifted to a complete virtual workflow. This has enabled businesses to keep things going despite strict lockdowns. However, project managers have had to face a different set of issues due to this new style of management.

Quickly, project managers realized that handling team members virtually does not have the same kind of efficiency compared to in-house management. Following on, project managers had to work harder to meet tight deadlines.

As a result, many project managers bore extra pressure and several of them struggled to manage their project portfolios successfully. Project managers are trained to handle uncertain situations. That said, a global pandemic isn’t something anyone was ready for.

Today, we will go through the greatest challenges of virtual project management and at the same time, outline ways to handle them effectively.

Commitment Issues

Many teams consider changing strategies when one thing doesn’t work as expected. However, back-tracking from an already destabilized situation can lead to further problems. This is why leaders should show commitment to what they have planned.

Commitment, however, depends on two important things clarity and buy-in. In virtual meetings, it’s easy for things to appear unclear since team members are isolated from each other. Unless leaders also commit themselves to provide clarity to the team, they can introduce confusion ambiguity in the team, which leads to failure.

Absence of Documentation in Processes

Lacking documented processes can harm your team even when you are working in-house. So understandably, the lack of such guidelines can create even greater problems when managing remote workers.

When you are not in the same location, it’s difficult for workers to seek your guidance instantly. Instead, they must email you or post questions on the communication platform and then wait for your response before moving on with their work. These small things can create significant bottlenecks in the workflow that escalate to greater problems.

To prevent such problems from ever happening, you can create training programs for critical guidelines so new workers are familiar with the basics. Maintaining documentation can also be useful in such situations since workers can always refer to them to clear any doubts.

Lack of Remote Work Policies

Lacking remote work policies can be detrimental to your project team. When you are not in the same location, it’s difficult for workers to seek your guidance instantly. Setting up guidelines can help teams tackle virtual work concerns and follow best practices. Ideally, your remote work policies should cover workflows, logistics, methods for interactions, and security issues.

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Photographer: Christin Hume | Source: Unsplash

Lack of Communication

In remote management, it’s common for project managers to let communication fall lax, making their team operate independently. However, letting this happen can harm your existing workflow significantly. In the absence of good, open communication channels, remote workers tend to feel remote and forgotten, which affects their ability to deliver work on time.

In larger companies, this can get even more complicated, since many teams work remotely while others don’t. In these situations, it’s your duty as a project manager, to maintain the flow of information and ensure that everyone’s contribution is visible and transparent.

For this, you need to establish clear communication guidelines when you start remote work. It’s necessary to spell out how your team prefers to communicate, which can be through calls, emails, video conferencing, text messages, or communication tools such as Slack.

Similarly, it’s equally important to let workers know when they are expected to communicate. You can even set expected email turnaround time to prompt workers to maintain open lines of communication.

Difficult to Implement Accountability

Many remote members feel that they can don’t have to work as hard as they did in the office. Therefore, it is your job to hold them accountable for their work. Establishing responsibilities and roles within the team and assigning strict deadlines for certain tasks can help your team perform efficiently.

Speedcurve Performance Analytics
Photographer: Luke Chesser | Source: Unsplash

At the same time, these initiatives can help members understand how their mistakes can cause delays and impact other members of the team. You can also relegate the responsibility of communicating and enforcing deadlines to senior members within the team.

If any person maintains behavior that threatens deadlines, you should try talking to them face to face via video call. Talking to members directly and letting them know the consequences of their actions can prompt them to change behavior, or at least warn them of the impending disciplinary action.

Issues Related to Project Visibility

When we’re working remotely, it is easier for project teams to fall out of sync and become disorganized. It’s extremely important to maintain project visibility if the team is not present at the same physical location.

Lack of visibility creates unwarranted delays in projects and diminish the quality of the project. To save your team from such problems, you can utilize project management software and create a central and fully accessible dashboard for your project.

At the same time, you can utilize shared spaces that everyone can access. By notifying members with recent updates, you can improve communication and visibility while enhancing collaboration between them.

To learn how to communicate project needs effectively, you need to establish a project communication plan. The plan can help you establish project expectations at the beginning of the project and clarify what you want with team members and stakeholders.

For this purpose, you can utilize a Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed (RACI) Chart to illustrate and explain project goals. The chart is an effective way of streamlining project expectations and communicating them effectively. If all team members and relevant stakeholders are aware of their responsibilities and deadlines, it is easier for them to work on it.

Remote management is indeed challenging, but by following the tips given here, you can improve as a project manager and handle remote employees more effectively. To learn more about topics related to project management, feel free to follow our website.

Project Management