Achieving Seamless Project Management In a Virtual World

Marketing project manager working at home to build PM systems internally

Let’s get it out of the way and state the obvious - we’re living in a new normal that has fundamentally changed how we work with one another. Teams that once occupied the same office space are now distanced. 

You can no longer pop your head into someone’s office to find out the status of a project or see if they will be ready with their deliverables in time for the next meeting. Scheduling has become a nightmare for most and the absolute last thing people want is another video conference that could have just been an email.

With the new virtual work environment most are living in, marketing and project managers (if you have one in-house) now face new challenges opportunities. Mainly, those involve keeping momentum going on projects and your eye on all work currently in progress. Sometimes, it seems to be a fool’s errand to keep track of who has what and what the next steps are.

Ultimately, it comes down to how you set yourself and your team up for successful project management when you:

  • Lack visibility that was once there by physically being together
  • Lack face-to-face time, which may lead to serious communication issues
  • Lack processes that were not previously needed when everyone was in the same location

Luckily, there is a solution! Implementing a solid project management tool can drastically aid in achieving seamless project management in this work-from-home environment. There is a lot to consider in this process, so let's dive in.

Make a list of criteria

First things first: make a list of criteria. To do this, ask yourself and others who are closely working on project or account management: what problems are you trying to solve? How does your team work? What is the typical workflow like?

Consider your must have features, nice to haves, and icing-on-the-cake features. This will help when you begin to evaluate systems. Criteria may vary depending on your workflow, but it may look something like the following:

Must haves

  • Basic task management
  • Assign responsibilities and due dates
  • Monitor workload of the team to make sure you aren’t overloading one employee and leaving another with little to do
  • Visibility of all work in progress
  • Ability to comment/communicate on a specific project/task

Nice to haves

  • Task dependencies
  • Multiple views (list, Kanban board, timeline)

Icing on the cake

  • Client portal or feedback tracking system.

The benefit of listing your criteria first is it forces you to evaluate what really matters. It helps you identify what the real problems are that you are seeking a solution for and which problems are most critical to solve first.

Consider investment

How much budget is your company willing to dedicate to solve the problems you are encountering with workload visibility and project scheduling? Is your current tool or process time-consuming and draining your human resources? 

Although process updates might be the cheapest solution and require little to no change management, it might still prove to be more expensive in terms of human resources. Whoever controls the budget may need some convincing of the value of a new system. Outline for them what the tool will help solve, how it can improve efficiency, and even save the company money, time, and resources.

Knowing how much you are willing to invest upfront will help you rule out options as you consider each tool that meets your list of criteria. After all, there are literally hundreds to consider, and having a budget in mind will help you rule some out quickly.

Research and compare

This part of this process might take the longest: however, it is important not to rush. After all, the last thing you need is to choose the wrong tool for your team and end up causing more inefficiencies or communication issues.

Research and evaluate the tools you are considering based on your criteria and budgetary constraints previously outlined. Sites like G2 and Capterra are great resources to get started. Also, speak with others in your field or consultants that have experience with different tools to see which ones they might recommend or advise you to steer clear of.

Implementation and documentation

Once you select the project management tool that is best for you and your team, map out a plan and timeline for implementation. Inform your team about the change coming so they have time to wrap their brains around a new way of working together. No one loves change, and we’ve all had a ton of it lately. So take it easy on them by giving them enough time and space to process.

Select a smart time to transition. Do you have a big project ending that could be the launching point of your implementation efforts? Do you experience any periods throughout a standard month or quarter when you are less busy?

Prepare documentation as you go through the process of setting up your new system. This will save you the effort of going back to do it after the fact and allows you to think through processes and how your team will use the tool.

Demo the new tool for your team. Allow them to ask questions and be open to compromises to accommodate different styles of work and ways that people process information.

Lastly, find team members that are genuinely interested and excited! These will be your early adopters and you can praise their use of the new tool as a way to encourage others.

Although DemandLab has been 100% remote for over two years now, we recently revisited our PM processes and took a critical look at our PM management system/tool. By going through the steps outlined here, we were able to clarify our needs and identify a replacement system that has greatly simplified the work for project management and for our consultants/project leads. The new system supports our need for streamlined system integrations and fewer human resources to maintain it, all at a lower cost. Win, win, win.

Once you've managed to make the case internally for the technology, the next step is to ensure you have the skills to lead this effort. For tips on how to succeed in your marketing project manager role, no matter what your title is, find out the 9 Skills All Project Managers Must Perfect.

About the Author

Kimberly Hemesath

Kimberly is a Project Manager at DemandLab. She brings nearly a decade of account and project management expertise, five of which were earned in a high-volume agency environment where she had an opportunity to work with national brands.

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