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A beginner’s guide to virtual project management

Megan Webb-Morgan
October 12, 2012

Managing a project remotely can seem like an intimidating and overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. Virtual project management can result in lower business costs, access to a wider pool of talent, and increased flexibility for everyone involved.

While specialised software can help you collaborate effectively, understanding your needs and the needs of your team will make your project a success.

Remote management tools

To effectively manage a project remotely, you need a method of communicating and sharing with your team members. For the simplest of projects, phone or email contact may be all you need.

However, for anything more complex, specialised project software can help your team be more communicative, efficient, and successful. A number of web-based and platform-based applications exist to help you.

  • Free tools: The cluster of free online services offered by Google is one of the simplest ways to foster teamwork remotely. Team members can share documents and edit them together in real time in Google Drive (formerly Documents). They can also use features like chat, calendar, and email to keep track of the progress of their project.
  • Paid tools: Web-based tools offer varied pricing depending on amount of use. Some offer chat rooms for multiple participants and projects; files and images can be shared directly in the chat as well. Other features include online document sharing, message boards, progress tracking, and shared to-do lists. Team members that are familiar with Google will have little trouble adapting to a service like Basecamp’s expanded set of features.

Understanding your needs

As a virtual project manager, you’ll first need to answer a number of questions: Are you managing a small one-time project, a larger, more involved project, or a series of collaborative programs? Are you working with a few individuals or a larger group? How much virtual project experience do they have? The answer to these questions will help you determine the best practices for managing your remote team.

Collaboration tools and software come with a variety of features that manage schedules and resources, save documents, and track issues, task lists, and workflow. Software can either be based on the web or hosted on premises. Prices vary; some software is free while others provide tiered monthly usage plans. Hosted on premise programs come with the greatest variety in features, as well as a hefty price tag.

Whether you use specialised software or simple phone and email communication, your project always needs good planning, well-defined project specifications, and a measurable goal.

By following the best practices for virtual project management, you can save time and money by employing the best people and using the right tools. Assess your needs and choose a collaboration method that works best for you. With good planning and the right tools, you can make it easy for individuals from all over the globe to collaborate on a remote project.

Megan Webb-Morgan
Megan Webb-Morgan is a web content writer for Resource Nation. She writes about small business, focusing on topics such as HR outsourcing and business phone systems.
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