4 Essential Tips for Managing Projects Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic
Organizations unfamiliar with working remotely might find themselves anxious or unsure of the rules of engagement in a virtual world or unfamiliar with the communication platforms available to facilitate remote meetings.
A communication plan is a critical part of all projects, and even more so essential to the success of a project amidst social distancing and work from home restrictions. The project manager that identifies these challenges and develops a preparedness plan is more likely to continue successful project management, even throughout a pandemic.
1. Develop and communicate expectations of a “Work From Home” or remote environment
Take the initiative to develop a communication plan for working within a virtual or remote environment and identify to the team your expectations of how the team will operate in this new space. Set aside time at the beginning of a remote project to identify how roles, responsibilities, tasks, schedules and deadlines will be communicated to team members and stakeholders.
By clearly identifying the processes and the methods of communication in the remote environment, the project manager can establish their leadership, while conveying confidence to team members and stakeholders encouraging “buy-in” to the environment.
Tip: Balance formal meetings with informal meetings, like those conversations that would happen while grabbing a cup of coffee or at the water cooler. These informal meetings provide the occasion for candid conversations, while maintaining the motivation and bonds, built during the coffee or lunch break.
2. Familiarize yourself and the team with available technology
Take the time to evaluate virtual meeting or video conferencing platforms and acquaint yourself with the selected application. Utilizing a video conference platform like ZOOM, Microsoft Teams or GoToMeeting allows the project team to communicate “face-to-face” and provides meeting management features including screen sharing, recording, chat, raise your hand and even closed captioning. Video, unlike traditional conference calls, offers the benefit of visual cues from participants. Without the visual cues from video conferencing, participants may limit their input or feedback for fear of interrupting another team member.
Once you are familiar with the features and functions of the application, provide resources to the team to test drive the selected application, prior to using it for a project meeting. Creating a recording of your simulated meeting is a great way to help familiarize your team with the platform, increasing engagement and positive outcomes.
Tip: Use video conferencing platforms for team building, for the recognition of a job well done and even for social engagement. Throw a party, create game rooms and even host “happy hour,” to encourage internal communications and camaraderie.
3. Data Centralization and Sharing
Amidst the current work from home directive, organizations have no other option than to centralize data, documents and reporting within a single information, file sharing platform. Productivity suites, including ASANA, Wrike, ZOHO One and Microsoft Power Apps contain word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database applications, paired with communication and project management tools – providing a single portal shared by team members and stakeholders.
Productivity suites provide organizations a cost-effective sharing solution that can often be shared within the organization, along with external users including clients and vendors, making it easy for project managers to share documents, manage and share project boards, implement process automation, manage resource allocation and utilize communication tools for status meetings and presentations.
Tip: Project managers typically assist with the evaluation and implementation of a productivity suite and are most likely responsible for the status of tasks, percentage of completion and that resources are available to complete tasks according to the project timeline. Take the initiative to keep dashboards and project boards up to date, so that team members are set up for success.
4. Prioritize Monitoring and Utilize System Notifications
Project management tools provide dashboards that can be tailored for specific requirements including task management, Gantt charts, resource utilization and planned vs. actual forecasting for projects. Built within these elements are notification settings that allow the project manager to visualize key performance indicators and potential risks to the triple constraints within a project.
Tip: Take the time to understand how notification settings operate within your productivity suite. Notifications can be established to automatically trigger and communicate deadlines to internal and external stakeholders and distribute reports to project team members, management and the client. The availability and access to reporting and project assets allows remote team members to feel empowered and supported, even when you can’t be there in person.
If your organization does not currently use a file sharing, centralized information system or project management tool and productivity suite, now is an ideal time to improve communications, productivity and process improvement through the implementation of these systems.
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