The Importance of Project Management Tools in Virtual Teams
The Importance of Project Management Tools in Virtual Teams
Overseeing projects is a complex undertaking. Business owners need a reliable system to help them plan and execute all parts of the project management process and be able to communicate properly with those involved at the same time. Communication is key when working on a project with a team, even more so when working with a virtual team. Traditional methods of resolving project conflicts like in-person meetings can’t be implemented with virtual assistants due to them being in different locations and time zones. But with online project management tools, we’re now able to curb the limitations of non-face-to-face interactions with virtual teams.
What are project management tools?
Traditionally, project management entailed translating brain power onto pen and paper and loads of spreadsheets, emails, and various messaging platforms. While these methods still work for some people, tracking projects through these means when working with virtual assistants can be messy because there’s so much backtracking to do, and important information can get lost in between going through emails and checking multiple communication software.
Project management tools help you keep track of those tasks and projects in one place. They are web-based, widely interactive tools you can use to plan your entire project from beginning to end, manage your project’s schedule, and collaborate with your virtual team. Their online nature allows you to upload and share files with your team, create and manage different projects at one time, and communicate with everyone involved. Online project management tools have become fundamental for businesses to optimise their processes and be more efficient and effective in carrying out their tasks.
Having the right platform is critical when team members don’t work in the same location. Using project management tools is key if you are running virtual teams, as it will give you something that brings everyone together.
What project management tool can I use?
There are several project management software tools available out there and finding the right fit for your business is not that difficult. At The Virtual Hub, we use Asana — it’s free, easy to use, and has proven very effective for the company. Other project management online tools that our clients use are Trello, Podio, Basecamp, and Slack. What software you can use in your business really depends on what features you’re looking for and what solutions you expect to get.
To help you choose, check out this list of the top project management tools from Capterra).
Choosing the best project management tools for your business begins with finding out what your team needs and doing research on specific tools that can provide you solutions. After all, it’s only the right software if it works for you and your team.
Here are some basic functionalities to look for when choosing a project management tool for your business (via GetApp):
You can see the full list of project management software basic functionalities here.
“Project management tools are especially crucial for medium and large-sized companies, as without proper tools, an ingenious idea may turn into a mess. This can result in ruining relationships with clients and returning zero deliverables. The solution is to get project management software.” — Anastassiya Walsh, Project Management Professional
Benefits of using project management tools
Ease of use & accessibility
Project management tools are typically designed to get you started with your team’s tasks right away, usually with a simple and straightforward interface that enables teams to adopt them easily. They are also web-based and require no installation, accessible by computer and mobile apps and available 24/7 from any location, as long as you’re online.
These tools for project management also give you the capacity to share files with your team and have common access to vital documents without the need for a third-party cloud service.
Keeps you organised
Tracking emails for tasks and documents relevant to your project can be quite chaotic as it does not give you the proper workflow your team needs. A project management tool can serve as a central database for all your project information, allowing your virtual team to work more efficiently because they have access to the same data in one place. This unified system can also improve communication between team members as some tools have commenting and messaging features.
You also have full control over your documentation in online project management tools. You can oversee and track your team’s progress by logging into one system regularly, freeing you from the burden of having to check your emails (and other communication platforms) just for updates.
A great onboarding tool
When you hire a virtual assistant to join your already established team, it’s usually a challenge to get the VA up to speed on all the details of your ongoing projects because there’s a lot of information to cover. This is where a project management tool can be used to onboard any new member of the team.
A project management software offers a snapshot of a project from start to finish, and with this snapshot, your new virtual assistant can know the lifecycle of a project and will understand how to proceed in the ongoing workflow. Having a project management tool brings structure to the onboarding process, making it easier to orient new team members because all they need to do is check the tool and they would find all required instructions, documents, and reports that were already collated.
Better task delegation
The primary purpose of working with a virtual team is to help you with the heavy lifting so you can concentrate on the more revenue-generating tasks for your business growth.
Using a project management software will help you delegate tasks more easily to the right people. You can quickly create tasks (even while you’re on the go) and your team members will pick them up, with all communication lines going through one system. It also helps your team members understand their roles and responsibilities better, especially when their task priorities and deadlines are well-defined. And by assigning roles in the system, each team member has access to necessary information and will know who to contact if they have questions or concerns.
Before you start delegating tasks to your team, however, keep in mind that you’ll need to invest the time to think about the tasks that need to be done for your business and what the essential steps are for each task. It won’t help you and your virtual team if you just dump whatever task you can think of to them; like with any business process, task assignments need structure, too.
A great communication tool
For a project manager, one of the biggest challenges of managing virtual teams is communication — communication can make or break anything. A key takeaway from the respondents of Capterra’s Project Management User Research Project:
“Project management software has the greatest positive impact on team communication.”
Web-based project management tools are a great way to keep your virtual assistants in the loop. They have streamlined and interactive communication features like commenting, tagging, and an integrated chat, enabling anyone in the team to easily reach out when they face roadblocks.
When working with virtual teams, we know how important it is to have regular check-ins by phone or video calls to get the latest updates on a project. But for those unavoidable times when you can’t quite make a call, you can still communicate with your virtual assistants and have a conversation through your project management tool. In some ways, communicating using your project management software is easier because you can refer to everything related to the project there, and in case of any issues, you’ll be able to address and clarify them within the tool itself.
Of course, while project management tools help in clearing up communication issues, it’s still recommended to keep huddles and 10-minute catch up meetings with your virtual staff each day.
Real time team collaboration
The beauty of getting into project management tools is it gives you clarity on who would be assigned certain things. You can get your virtual teams to work together by clearly defining their roles within the project. Project management tools give your virtual team a way to collaborate on projects by sharing documents, timelines, and status updates — it helps to improve productivity among team members and assists teams in discussing issues in real time.
Project progress tracking
Monitoring the progress of the work being done on a project is essential. Project managers and business owners like to be kept up to date, and online project management tools can help them keep track of the project’s progress in one place.
Using a project management tool to oversee the progress of any project ensures that you have a centralized system where you can check updates on tasks and that no detail about the project gets lost or overlooked in your emails and other platforms. It will also help you confirm that the schedules you set up with your virtual team members are up to date and that they have access to the same information. It’s important to note that your project documentation in the software should be properly organised from the start to make sure all pertinent details are included so that when you do a quick review now and then, you’ll be looking at the overall picture of your progress.
Project management software tools help your business run on autopilot in many ways. They help you document repetitive tasks that you and your team perform daily, weekly, or periodically, which can vary from checking emails to maintaining websites, keeping your social media updated, booking appointments, or monitoring inventory.
They also create a system in your business that your virtual team can run for you, with deep recurring task lists and step-by-step processes that will be easy to follow for new team members. These recurring task lists let your team know their specific duties and their deadlines, making their work more efficient and streamlined.
Project management tools also automate your workflows. This reduces instances of mis-stepping and second-guessing in your team. Team members will know instantly what to do next in the process. Repeating tasks are also added automatically to task lists, making it easier for your team to accomplish their duties.
How to successfully use project management tools with your team
Now that you know how you can benefit from a project management tool when working with virtual teams, how do you successfully implement it in your business?
Here are a few tips:
1. Identify your task list
As the project manager, the first thing to do is reclaim and understand what you do on a daily basis. When you have a concrete idea, you’ll be able to work out which tasks you’re responsible for and which ones you can delegate to your team. Take your time in building the tasks out; once you have a workable list, you can then key them into your project management software and distribute them to your team.
2. Be specific and provide clear instructions
You need to be specific with tasks and instructions when working with a virtual team. If there is a task that you think should be done a certain way, show your team how to perform the task by recording yourself in a video/audio walkthrough, breaking it down in screenshots, or writing it in a step-by-step process that your team members can understand. Your virtual assistant doesn’t think the same way you do, so it’s best to be clear with what you want them to do from the start.
It’s important that you provide very specific step-by-step instructions when you assign a task to your virtual team in your project management tool. You can’t just leave one or two general sentences about the task and expect your virtual assistant (especially if they’re a new team member) to pick it up and fill in the gaps with no clear direction.
Giving precise and detailed instructions ensures that your VA will fulfill the tasks properly and give you the outcome you want.
Prioritising tasks is key in project management success. Set a realistic number of deliverables at any one time. When projects and tasks sneak up on you, don’t just give the new extra tasks to your team and expect them to finish those along with everything else within the allotted time frame you specified — this could cause overwhelm and potentially slow down your project’s overall progress.
Instead of adding more things to the plate with the same deadlines, identify which tasks you want to be completed first so your VA is clear on what to prioritise for that given time.
Online project management tools can be just the solution you’re looking for in handling your virtual team and your projects. They can provide the structure you need in your business processes that will improve our team’s overall workflow and make everyone’s contribution more timely and efficient.
Choosing the best tool that works for you and your business will depend on the functionalities you require, the number of people you have in your team, and the cost that fits your budget, but most software out in the market have similar basic features that you can use, so picking the best one won’t be that hard.
Ultimately, a project management tool will give you an effective project management system in place that can help you lead your team better and reach your business goals faster.
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