Virtual Project Management: Should You Give It a Try?

Virtual Project Management: Should You Give It a Try?

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8 minutes

A project manager sets goals for your project and ensures the team meets them on time and under budget. It’s a crucial role and the glue that holds many teams together. But if you’re sourcing, interviewing, and vetting virtual project management applicants, you know it takes time. Teams must also onboard and train the new hire once they’ve been selected, which can further distract from mission-critical work.

Wing Assistant makes it easy to hire project managers virtually. A Wing Assistant client success manager gets to know your business needs. Then, they match your team with a qualified remote PM who has all the skills needed to succeed for your particular use case. In this article, we’ll discuss how choosing a managed solution like Wing Assistant can help save your team time and money.

But first, let’s consider what makes a virtual PM such a vital addition to your business in the first place.

What is Virtual Project Management?

These days with the rise of remote work, many job descriptions have rapidly evolved, and project management is no exception. In this next section we’ll look at all the things a remote PM can do for your team and why they may be an even greater asset than a traditional one.

What are the skills that are necessary for virtual project management, and how do they compare to a traditional in-office role? Let’s dig into this question by comparing in-person and virtual PMs side by side.

Traditional vs. virtual project management

A traditional PM will set the pace for the project and drive progress. They are equal parts administrator, cheerleader, and resource manager.

On many teams, the project manager will temper client expectations before the work even kicks off. They draft and revise a project plan, solidify the scope of the work, and may assign core team members to jobs on the project. As the project progresses, they monitor work, remove blocks, and coordinate due dates. Good PMs will also document the process and do a post-project retrospective to inform future work.

On a micro level, traditional PMs create and update status reports, estimate and check progress using Gantt charts and other tools, and manage workflows with your team’s chosen software suite. They need to be familiar with PM tools like Jira, Asana, and Basecamp. They must also be efficient communicators adept at prioritizing tasks and delegating responsibilities.

Typical Virtual Project Management Tasks

So, what’s the difference between a traditional PM and a remote PM? Not much, aside from physical distance.

There should be no discernible difference between what tasks you give a traditional PM and a remote one. A virtual PM can and should help plan your project scope, manage your team, and allocate resources to make sure the project is delivered on-time and under budget.

A good virtual project manager should be able to take your project from conception and planning, through the execution and monitoring phase all the way to the close.

That being said, the ways in which your virtual PM operates will have to be different due to several considerations. Here are some considerations that come into play when working with them:

  • Managing a geographically dispersed team
  • Managing deadlines in multiple time zones
  • Reliable connectivity
  • Proper remote meeting decorum
  • Familiarity with tracking tools

This last point is key. Traditional PMs may be able to get by without tracking tools like Trello, but it’s absolutely essential for virtual managers. Good tracking helps the virtual PM keep an eye on all the moving pieces of a project.

These are big responsibilities to hand to a newcomer. That’s why it pays to go with a managed solution as opposed to hiring a solo practitioner. While you may pay a little more up front, you get your money’s worth when your projects are executed with proven professionalism. Fewer mistakes means less time wasted, and more time focused on what counts – your business.

Now that we understand the kind of value remote PMs can add, let’s take a look at some of the typical tasks you might assign to your PM.

Managing a Team Online: Our Best Tips

There are a lot of tips and tricks out there for managing virtual teams, but it all boils down to a few important points. Here are 4 keys to successfully managing a team online:

  • Communication clearly
  • Set expectations
  • Build employee engagement
  • Deal with conflict management

If these seem similar to in-person management tips for success, they are. In a virtual environment, however, these tips are extra important. They’re the cornerstones to a successful virtual business relationship.

Let’s break down each of these factors so you have a better understanding of how they impact your virtual team.

Establish clear communication channels

According to one study, poor communication can cost small businesses an average of $420,000 per year. For that reason alone, consistent, clear communication is especially important when you’re managing virtual employees.

Your team may be scattered across the globe working at different times of day or on different days of the week, but there should be no excuses for missing an email or forgetting to check Slack during business hours.

Flexibility and availability are key in a fast-moving virtual office environment. Wing Assistants are available by phone, email or text. Use Wing Assistant’s free communication software and you’ll get a messaging app, a secure password sharing tool, and more.

When it comes to communication, you also want your virtual employees to be adaptable. If your team is more accustomed to using a messaging service like Slack or MS Teams, simply add your Wing Assistant team member on these platforms for easy communication.

During working hours, your PM will respond within 5 minutes. Virtual PMs are available seven days a week during 8-hour time blocks. You’ll decide which blocks work best for your team during the on-boarding process, so there’s never any confusion.

Set expectations and guidelines

Speaking of eliminating confusion, let’s discuss setting clear expectations. Most hiring managers know that it’s important to clarify expectations at the beginning of a working relationship. This sets the employee up for success. But do you know how to provide effective guidelines for a virtual employee?

Many Wing Assistant plans include our proprietary workflow software that can help facilitate this process. Participating team members can add tasks to the queue and get visual confirmation of task status. Add an unlimited number of tasks with the confidence that your virtual PM will take care of them.

If you’re on a small team and need your virtual PM to flex into other roles, that’s possible too. Wing Assistant also staffs teams with virtual assistants, so your VPM can handle customer support, email inbox management, scheduling meetings, and other administrative tasks.

Motivate and engage virtual team members

The key to a successful virtual team is motivation and engagement. No matter where they are on the globe, team members should arrive to work with a clear purpose and objectives.

Wing Assistant provides dedicated support. You’ll get the same team member showing up day after day. This builds a solid working relationship with your virtual PM. They will understand the business better, and you’ll know what you can expect from them in return.

Address Conflicts and challenges

A virtual employee can be useful when you want to cut costs, but many hiring managers are reluctant to hire remote PMs because conflict management seems challenging. Well-functioning teams have systems for performance reviews and conflict management. But it can seem next to impossible to deal with poor performance when your employee is on another continent.

Wing Assistants are entirely managed by our operations team. They receive feedback and routine check-ins to ensure they are on task. Your Customer Success Manager is assigned to your account and there to support you if you have questions or concerns.

Common Challenges in Virtual Project Management

Just because technology makes business faster and more convenient does not mean it’s the cure for everything. If you have worked with any type of virtual employee before, you know the challenges this working relationship presents.

In this section we’ll break down the most common challenges you may face when working with a virtual project manager and see how Wing Assistant can help your team overcome them.

Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction

The number one challenge most hiring managers see with virtual PMs is the lack of face time. Say what you want about office life, employees benefit greatly from in-person communication. Seeing familiar faces helps to foster a sense of camaraderie among the ranks.

As a manager, you will need to be proactive to ensure your team is connected. Luckily, with Wing Assistant, your virtual PM is always available during working hours for a video call. If you have any concerns, your Wing Assistant Customer Success Manager is there to ensure that communication is smooth.

Time Zone Differences

Managing a virtual employee often means contending with two different time zones. Many hiring managers are hesitant to hire virtually because of this simple fact. But hiring a virtual employee who is halfway around the world works wonders for some teams who like to keep projects moving even when core members are at home with their families.

Wing employees are based all over the world. Hiring managers select a window of time for their virtual PM to work based on the company’s local time, so there’s never any confusion. You can also request a PM in your time zone if that’s of particular importance.

Cultural Differences

Some hiring managers have concerns about tackling cultural differences with their new virtual employee. One of the biggest cultural differences comes from a language barrier or a difficulty with communication. Of course, “culture” has many meanings. Others may harbor concerns that their new hire has no experience with their given industry.

All Wing Assistants speak fluent English. You can also opt for US-based talent in many cases if that’s important to your business. Ask your Wing Customer Success Manager for more details.

Lack of Trust

As we’ve already discussed, project management is such a crucial role in any company. A PM is responsible for ensuring a team gets results. It’s no surprise that employers would be reluctant to outsource these responsibilities to virtual talent.

Choosing a managed solution like Wing Assistant means you’re working with qualified professionals. Wing Assistant clients include investment firms, medical services, e-commerce retailers, talent agencies, startups, and more. No matter the size of your company, you’ll get the help you need.

Keep in mind also that you’re not alone in managing your PM. Each Wing Assistant virtual PM is overseen by an experienced operations manager so you can be sure tasks will be completed in a timely manner.

Overcome Challenges with the Right Virtual Project Manager

The right virtual PM will be prepared to tackle all of these challenges. As part of the vetting process, you should look for a remote PM who has the soft skills to take on these obstacles, as well as the experience to execute.

Here are some of the soft skills a good VPM will have:

  • Excellent communications skills
  • Top-notch organizational abilities
  • Leadership potential
  • Solid interpersonal skills

If you’re hiring a remote PM, you could spend weeks or even months sifting through resumes to find a candidate with the right mix of qualities. Luckily, there is an easier way. Choose a managed solution like Wing Assistant, and you’ll cut your search time down significantly.

Virtual Project Management is a Breeze with Wing Assistant

Wing Assistant makes hiring the right VPM easy. After a 15-minute introductory call to learn about your team’s goals, we’ll connect you with a Customer Success Manager. Your CSM can help you set up your Wing Assistant account and begin moving tasks off your plate.

Utilize our proprietary software tools to contact your assistant, securely share passwords, manage workflows, and more. Hand off unlimited work to your dedicated virtual project manager and you can get back to focusing on the important work of building your business. Schedule a call to get the ball rolling today.

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