The Virtual Project Manager

The fact that the modern world is fast becoming a global village is by no means a new concept. The steady rise of countries like China, India and various former Warsaw Pact nations like Poland and Russia has greatly expanded the reach and investment of companies and venture capitalists. With this expansion and the corresponding influence of the internet, the concept of virtual teams has become very common-place. Disparately located individuals, whether they be engineers, QA, marketing or sales representatives has added an additional level of complexity for the project manager, who must now contend with timezone issues, cultural differences, and simple logistical concerns of managing individuals who are not co-located.

With that being said, how does the ‘Virtual Project Manager’ prepare themselves to adequately deal with these new challenges? What types of concepts, ideas, methodologies and tools can the Project Manager leverage in order to be able to run virtual projects smoothy?

Utilize and Implement a Successful Infrastructure

Whenever dealing with a virtual team, it is important that you leverage the tools available that will allow for succesful communication and information sharing between team members. A teleconference system that can support active dialing from various global countries is a must. Content sharing technologies like WebEx, LiveMeeting or Cisco Telepresence are invaluable for being able to convey live content. Additionally, leveraging webcams or having access to conference rooms that support live video chat will give the dialog a more personal feel.

Have an Effective Communication Plan in Place

The team members will need to have some agreed upon communication medium that will allow for back and forth dialog. Email is an obvious choice, especially when dealing with timezones. Additionally, a wiki or messageboard style system or tool will allow for a running history of the discussions between team members. Whatever, the medium, what is most imperative is that it is implemented and used consistently. If members of the same team begin using disparate methods of communication, it will be far more difficult for collaboration to occur as well as making things harder for the project manager to maintain.

Continuously Monitor Status from Remote Team Members

Holding regular status meetings or receiving status updates from team members will ensure that progress is being monitored effectively. Additionally, if tools such as version control, bug tracking or test case tracking are being used, the project manager should have accounts to all systems so that he/she is able to easily draft reports from the systems. (And of course, make sure that the same tools are being used by all members of the team)

Implement a Scalable Process

Not all process methodologies are created equal. And certain ones simply do not scale well in situations where the team is disparately located. The project manager should evaluate the process they are planning to implement and ensure that it is something that will function adequately in this environment. Remember that an effective process is one that functions well for the current situation; and that means that not all cookie cutter processes should be adopted simply because they worked in other scenarios. Process is one of the most important aspects of a successful project and great care must be taken to implement it successfully.

What a Project Manager Wants for Christmas…

christmas_presentsIn lieu of the holiday season, I thought it might be both whimsical and informative to determine what might be on the average project manager’s wish list when it comes to the type of ‘presents’ they would not mind receiving.

Unfortunately, most of the types of things a project manager might wish for probably do not exist in reality. Nonetheless, as a bit of tongue and cheek homage to the holidays, here are some of the things I certainly would not mind receiving for Christmas not only for their ability to make my job easier, but because they would be cool. πŸ™‚

Feel free to add some of your Project Management Wish List ideas in the comments section.

My Top Ten Holiday Wish List

1. Electroshock Through Telephony Device


For those frustrating meetings where someone just refuses to shut up or is being stubborn. How nice would it be to be able to press one button and send them some gentle encouragement regarding their viewpoint. Just be mindful of which button you press lest you accidentally shock the project sponsor. πŸ™‚

2. Scope Creep Magic Eraser


Make that pesky scope creep vanish before your eyes! Let’s face it, there isn’t a project manager on this planet that hasn’t come close to having a stroke every time a team member, stakeholder or sponsor has decided last minute to add that ‘one little thing’. And of course, always ensuring us that the change is ‘minor’ and will have ‘little impact’. Guess our notion of the words ‘minor’ and Β ‘little’ are a tad different from those we often work with.

3. Resource Matter Transporter & Replicator



Actually a combination of two technologies: a replicator, that can create or duplicate objects from a template and a transporter to send objects anywhere. Gone will be the days where resources are a limited concept; instead,Β they can be shifted and moved at a moments notice. Need a resource? Fire up the replicator! Need that resource to be in New York tomorrow? Fire up the transporter! (Note: if I could actually invent either of these devices, I would not be a project manager anymore; I’d be lounging on Richard Branson’s island having margaritas with the Swedish Bikini Team)

4. The TARDIS from Doctor Who


Travel to any time or any place. Imagine being able to take the project stakeholders for a ride into the future to show them the project failing due to scope they just asked to add. Or go back in time to tell yourself that some of your resources will be taken away shortly, so adjust your schedule ahead of time! Mind you, if I had a TARDIS, I would probably just travel back in time and tell my younger self to go to Med School instead. πŸ™‚

5. A Star Trek Phaser


It’s a phaser. Do I really need to say more? And note: this is not a cheesy JJ Abrams pee shooter or a lame Next Gen Dust Buster. I am talking old school, solid beam of vaporizing energy phaser of the Kirk era. Can stun a Klingon at a hundred yards. And also, I am pretty non-violent, so I would only vaporize non-organic things, like a TPS report or the latest HR newsletter. I would have fun with the stun setting though. If someone really gets under your skin, you could zap them all day. πŸ™‚

6. A Crystal Ball

crystalballMoving from the science fiction to the fantasy fiction realms, how handy would it be to just ‘know’ the future? To be able to gaze into the haze of a swirling mass of vapor within a spherical shell and be able to ascertain EXACTLY how elements of your project and its timeline will unfold. To be fair, I have come across many individuals in Northern California who claim they have seen ‘amazing things’ after having partaken into inhaling vapors from some of the local fauna in the area. Not exactly the same thing, I know.

7. Romulan Cloaking Device


The ability to become invisible at a moment’s notice. Comes in handy when you are attempting to get through the day with minimal interruptions. (Note: the cloak from Harry Potter would work here as well, but I wanted something that could make a large area invisible, in case you need to hide more than just yourself)

8. Vice President & Executive Universal Translator


Vice President: “We need to a adopt a more transparent, cloud-based implementation strategy and adjust our technology paradigms to meet the shifting needs of our organically growing customer segments. ”

Translation: “Me and the rest of the VPs heard a bunch of buzz words at the latest tech conference. We have no idea what they mean, but we were hoping you guys could figure it out.”

9. Personal Robotic Assistant


This one is virtually a no-brainer. A robot that never tires and is available at a moments notice to help with those last minute rush operations that come down the pipe-line. Now why did I choose V-I-N-C-E-N-T from the Black Hole instead of the more ubiquitous and well known R2D2? Simple. Vincent has lasers…

10. Luxury Supercar


Ok, I will admit there is little value add here from a project manager perspective. Then again, if I do opt for the James Bond Aston Martin with all its bells and whistles, I am sure there would be one or two gadgets in that vehicle that would be beneficial to a project manager. Plus, it will make date night all the easier. And believe me, as a project manager and self-described ‘nerd’, I need all the help I can get.

Have a GREAT holiday season everyone! See you in 2017….