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The Importance of Project Management Tools in Virtual Teams

The Importance of Project Management Tools in Virtual Teams 24.05.2019 - 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?
 
Project management tools are online tools that help you keep track of 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?
 
Many project management software tools are available in the market and finding the right fit for your business is not that difficult. Companies that specialise in providing virtual assistants to businesses like The Virtual Hub use Asana — it’s free, easy to use, and has proven very effective for the company. Other project management online tools that their clients use are Trello, Podio, Basecamp, and Slack. What software to use in your business really depends on the features you’re looking for and the solutions you expect to get.

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.


What are the benefits of using project management tools?
 
Ease of use & accessibility
  • Project management tools have a simple and straightforward interface that lets you and your team start on tasks right away.
  • They are web-based and need no installation, accessible by computer and mobile apps.
  • They give you the capacity to share files within the tool and provide team members easy access to these documents. 

Keeps you organised
  • A project management tool can serve as a central database for all your project information.
  • You have full control over your documentation.
  • You can oversee and track your team’s progress with the use of one system without having to check your emails and other communication channels for updates. 

A great onboarding tool
  • A project management software offers a snapshot of a project from start to finish, giving new team members an overview of the lifecycle of a project.
  • It can provide new team members a look at your current workflow, getting them up to speed on the details of your ongoing projects.
  • It’s easier to orient new virtual team members because all the relevant information (i.e., instructions, documents, and reports) is already available online. 

Better task delegation
  • With a project management tool, you can quickly create tasks (even while you’re on the go) and your virtual team members will pick them up, with all communication lines going through one system.
  • It helps your team members understand their roles and responsibilities better, especially when their task priorities and deadlines are well-defined.
  • By assigning roles in the project management tool, each team member has access to necessary information and will know who to contact if they have questions or concerns. 

    NOTE: Before you start delegating tasks to your team, 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
  • Web based project management tools 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.
  • For times when you can’t quite call your virtual team for a check in, you can still be in the loop with them and their progress using your project management tool. 

    NOTE: 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
  • Project management tools give your virtual team a way to collaborate on projects by sharing documents, timelines, and status updates — it helps improve productivity among team members and assists teams in discussing issues in real time. 
     
Project progress tracking
  • A project management tool gives you a centralised system where you can check updates on tasks assigned to your virtual team members.
  • It ascertains the schedules you set up with your team are up to date and that they have access to the same information. 

    NOTE: Your project documentation in the tool 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.
 
Standardised processes
  • Project management software tools help you document repetitive tasks that you and your team perform daily, weekly, or periodically (i.e., checking emails, maintaining websites, keeping your social media updated, booking appointments, or monitoring inventory.)
  • They 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 lists let your team know their specific duties and their deadlines, making their work more efficient and streamlined.
  • They automate your workflows, reducing the 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 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
 
Here are a few tips:
 
1. Identify your task list
As project manager, the first thing to do is to 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 extremely 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.
  
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.
 
3. Prioritise
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.
 

Final Thoughts

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.
 
This article was originally published at The Virtual Hub Blog. You can find the full version HERE: https://www.thevirtualhub.com/blog/importance-project-management-tools/
 
The Virtual Hub is a virtual assistant company based in the Philippines, Australia, and Ireland with a client base across the US, Canada, UK, Europe, UAE and Australia. Their mission is to eradicate small business overwhelm by simplifying the offshore outsourcing process and facilitating cost-effective business scalability. For more information about their services, visit their website at www.thevirtualhub.com.

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