The headway that remote work is making today presents no doubt that virtual employees will soon dominate the world’s labor force. The Trends in Global Virtual Teams 2016 report published by consulting firm RW3 CultureWizard says:
“The 2016 survey indicates that corporate teams are now almost entirely virtual, and 41% never meet in person. […] In this year’s survey, 48% of respondents revealed that more than half of their teams include members from other nations. In 2014, that figure was only 41%, and in 2012, it was only 33%.”
Even Fortune 1000 companies are making major changes in their workspace, since 50% to 60% of their employees are now mobile.
There are many benefits to reap, but the challenges of managing a virtual office are equally overwhelming. Project management especially can be daunting, so finding the right balance of talent and tools is key when tracking and coordinating tasks across different locations and time zones.
Project management software for virtual teams – the essentials
Project management software comes in various forms, each with a mixed set of functionalities, from time tracking to collaborative editing, from task management to expense management – all driven by disruptive technologies like the cloud, BYOD (bring your own device), and big data.
Selecting a project management tool is as crucial as finding the right members for your team. It should make the workflow as seamless as possible and not contribute to unneeded complexities.
Statistics on project management show that the most important factor in choosing project management software is functionality (40%). Ease of use comes in second at 24%, and price and support are tied at third place at 9%. Most-used features include file sharing, time tracking, email integration, and Gantt charts.
To make sure you’re choosing the right software, this project management software tutorial is a guide worth looking into. Among the essential features your chosen tool must have are task management, Gantt chart, document management, time tracking, CRM integration, role-based access, and messaging.
Project management software for virtual teams – the benefits
A byproduct of the internet and cloud-powered productivity and collaboration tools, virtual teams with members scattered across the globe are fast becoming more the norm rather than the exception, which is why carefully selecting your project management tool is vital for the success of your team. It must, at the very least, empower your team, and not hamper the project’s progress.
Real-time file sharing and communication
Among other things, web-based project management software solves the file sharing and versioning problems commonly experienced by remote workers. File attachments can be uploaded anytime, in the appropriate conversation thread, all within the context of work.
In terms of communication, there are project management software options with built-in videoconferencing, one-on-one and group chat, status indicators, push notifications, and emailing features.
Anytime, anywhere access
Online project management software also allows remote staff to create, access, edit, and update tasks from any browser, any connected device, 24/7. Instead of losing valuable time in virtual face-to-face meetings for status briefings, team members can simply post updates on the status of their individual tasks on a regular or as-needed basis.
For example, fieldworkers doing maintenance work at a client site can take pictures of the machinery they’re servicing, and those updates appear on other members’ timelines in real time.
Task visibility and transparency
For remote teams with geographically dispersed members, visibility is critical. Online solutions provide collaborative avenues for team members to save files, post comments, upload emails and other assets.
Most importantly, project files are kept in one location – a shared team workspace – so that when new members are added to the team, they can readily review where the project is at and get up to speed easily.
Deadlines, workload, staffing gaps, and resource allocations are just some of the factors that are routinely tracked when moving projects from planning to completion.
Online project management solutions are equipped with team dashboards that, depending on your user access credentials, allow you to view important metrics and performance indicators, and make adjustments based on available data, if needed. You can even add charts and graphs for faster, easier data visualization.
Where does project management for virtual teams go from here?
As more and more organizations take advantage of teams that are virtual and more diverse, the role of technology, particularly cloud-based collaboration tools, will become more prominent. It’s imperative, therefore, that you include trustworthy tools addressing your specific needs in your project workflow.
Beware of simple tools that are easy to use but with limited functionality. These tools do not scale when your team grows and your projects get more complicated. Make sure the tools you select can grow with your business and support your future needs.
*Jasmin Kabigting also contributed to this article.