“There are just some things you can’t do as easily online as in the office”. A statement that has passed many lips since lockdown rendered us housebound. While that may be the case, most businesses can’t afford for project management to be one of them.

Yet more than half (54%) of businesses say they do not have effective technology to collaborate on projects, according to a 2020 survey by Wellingtone, which also reports that a third of businesses still spend one or more days manually collating project reports each month, and that project management software exists, but less than a quarter (23%) of businesses use it.

And yet remote working isn’t going away. A UK survey by Adzooma in May found that 53% don’t want to return to the office after the pandemic is no longer a threat. In the US, it’s a similar story: an April survey by Waveform found 60% of respondents who started working from home due to the pandemic prefer it, and 49% wish that it was a permanent change.

So, weighing up the software options has never seemed more urgent. But to help you make a wise decision, it’s important to understand what employees need to see projects through to completion from afar.

Before the pandemic, only 23% of businesses used project management software RoadLight / Pixabay

One place, real time

To avoid doing the same tasks twice, or overwriting other people’s changes, you’ll need everyone to be on the same page. So, one point of entry into the project, which updates in real time is a non-negotiable feature of any project management software worth its salt. Colleagues that are part of the project team but that aren’t inside the project at a given point in time should also receive live project notifications.

A progress bar with visible deadlines that will update live as tasks are completed can be an invaluable feature. According to a PMI survey in 2017, the primary cause of failure for projects is a lack of clearly defined objectives and milestones by which to measure progress.

Consolidate all essential task information such as requirements, due date, and priorities, into one central place and you’ll keep your project moving forward. Staff can keep track of tasks that are assigned to them, and project managers can view at-a-glance who may be overwhelmed or under-worked.

Small & large efficiency features

Without the option to call over more experienced teammates when they’re stuck, remote workers risk being left in the lurch when trying to move a project along. The aforementioned PMI survey also revealed that only 51% of projects are finished on time. But seemingly small efficiencies can, collectively, make a huge difference to productivity.

For example, being able to message colleagues from within a project, assign questions to them and ask for help, can keep things moving along quickly. Similarly, having all relevant files in one place eliminates the need to hunt and retrieve information.

Bigger productivity savers include pre-defined project templates, handy for when you need to create similar projects on a regular basis.

Permissions for control

Permissions – customisable roles and rights – help project managers control access rights for all project contributors. This doesn’t only mean that sensitive information is hidden from view where necessary, it’s also an important employee engagement tool. If your team has to wade through pages of information irrelevant to their role within the project, they will disengage.

Backup against accidents

All project managers know the value of historic version control: to restore documents within projects back to earlier states, see what has changed, or perform a resurrection after a major error.

Incorporating that into all elements of a remote business is pretty important, as when mistakes do happen the communications lines are slower and more convoluted than in a physical office. Thus, controlling who has access to documents, what they can do within them, and being able to restore past versions can save a lot of panics.

Read more: Best Practices for Remote Collaboration