With COVID-19’s effects disrupting more organizations’ activities every day, some project teams are struggling to make the shift to working remotely. Maintaining strong connections internally as well as with stakeholders is critical for PMs to continue moving projects to a successful completion. No matter if you have one or two team members supporting your project remotely or an entire office telecommuting, you need to develop a strategy to keep communications going.
Remote project management is becoming more necessary with the prospect of in-person meetings becoming more difficult. What can PMs and their teams do instead to preserve their connections with executives, sponsors, end users, and other collaborators?
Video conferencing is a great way to stay in contact with project stakeholders. It most closely simulates the kind of live interaction your team is used to without the risks of bringing too many people together in one place. Video conferencing solutions are particularly useful if you want to blend standalone sites—individuals connecting from home or a remote office—and enterprise-level locations where employees can still gather in a meeting room with full-featured video conferencing equipment. Some platforms can record video sessions, giving team members the option to view meetings later if they can’t attend in real time.
Instant messaging and chat are perfect channels for informal project discussions. Applications are available for desktops as well as mobile devices, and most platforms have the ability to connect a large variety of internal staff and external collaborators in a single conversation. Chat and IM solutions can also be used alongside other communication arrangements to create a more robust environment. Presentations that include a Q&A, for example, are well suited to the use of a conferencing platform augmented by a chat solution. This enables everyone to view the presentation and those who want to submit questions can do so without disrupting the main conversation.
One constant in the business world is e-mail, which continues to be the backbone of many project teams’ communication strategies. If a portion of your stakeholders have transitioned to remote work arrangements, e-mail can still tie everyone together seamlessly, replacing impromptu hallway discussions while providing an easily followed thread should anyone need to find and retrieve key pieces of information later. Because e-mail is so prevalent, be mindful to follow some basic business etiquette:
- Send messages only to individuals who need to be aware of the discussion. Include sponsors or senior leaders on the bcc list if the conversation is relevant to them, or consider sending them a roll-up of the pertinent points once the lower-level e-mail conversation is complete.
- Be aware of using “reply all.” Many of your colleagues will likely rely more on e-mail during this time and you don’t want to add to that burden by filling everyone’s inboxes with unnecessary replies. Before you hit send, check that your message won’t go to the entire group.
Don’t underestimate the convenience and availability of the telephone. Though talking remotely with the project team on a phone conference may not include all the fancy features of other communication platforms, it more than makes up for it with sheer ease of use. The ability to join a conference call from any phone enables participants to connect from Internet-based telecom platforms, landlines, or mobile devices. This is an important consideration if team members aren’t near a secure and reliable Internet connection, or if someone’s cell phone is low on battery or doesn’t have a good signal. It’s also a boon for commuters, who can use their hands-free device to carry on conversations in the car. This isn’t always possible (or prudent) with IM or video-linked collaboration tools.