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I am interested in hearing experiences from others having experience in doing remote PM work. As it is very important for a PM role to have direct, face-to-face communication with the team members and the stakeholders. What kind of PM activities can be performed virtually? Can those activities be fun to do and value add for the project?

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I'm currently managing some infrastructure work where the Unix specialist is in India, the Middleware specialist is in one city in the UK, and the hardware is installed in a different city in the UK. I am in the same city as the Middleware guy, but in a different office. This actually works surprisingly well as long as we have a daily audio conference to monitor progress and align our plans.

On this basis, I would suggest that planning and monitoring can be done remotely, and that as long as everyone understands the need for a disciplined approach, the work can be both effectively managed and fun to do. We don't usually need long daily meetings - it's more like a scrum meeting - but it is important to talk every day, and use emails and instant messenger as well as audio to keep on top of issues or to share detailed plans.

  • In regards to the "disciplined approach", whatever tool is used to record the routine status updates (work packages completed, issue tracking, etc.) must be used by all team members. Inconsistent use will degrade the function of a remote team. – SBWorks Oct 25 '11 at 11:33
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I've done this a lot in my previous assignments.

My feedback : everything can be done remotely, with some areas of focus :

  • ensure at least 1 face to face meeting / event occurs soon during the project : this single point I believe has the most impact on people willingness to collaborate : anyone is more likely to help someone they know than just a voice over the phone. It also provide great phone conversation starters, as you can start by 30sec not related to work, which eases the thing
  • depending on maturity of remote resources, organize frequent follow-up meeting
  • when you check up status, ask open questions, to force correspondant to phrase their mind (especially in some cultures, saying no is not a good thing, so you don't get "honnest" answers
  • Be wary that with phone meetings, you only get 30% of the message as people don't see you. Be careful with jokes, with positive / negative feedback. Feedback is very delicate matters : if you give negative feedback, it may sound very very negative on the phone...
  • Totally agree with your view. One face to face meeting per project is definitely a must do, especially at the beginning. Even if you can't do it at the start, you should do it as soon as you have the chance. You will get useful insights and meeting your team will definitely improve collaboration. Also, make sure you include some fun in the face to face meeting schedule. – Corporate Geek Oct 31 '11 at 17:45
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All PM work, all project work, all business, and any activity can be done remotely...so long as you have the capability of working remotely and you have no adverse sequelae.

This includes that the work does not require in any way work to be performed co-located. A simple example of this requirement is if the product being built cannot be easily shared across the team, e.g., a building. Another example might be if the customer simply requires it.

The proof is in the result, not in our opinions and experiences. If you are experiencing issues that can be directly or indirectly tied to, in total or in part, working remotely despite your capability to do so, then working remotely is likely not a great solution for that project at that time.

  • Was going to respond similarly... Too many variables to give solid, universal advice. I've seen great PM's and great teams work well remotely and also teams that couldn't function unless everyone sat at the same desk. (sequelae makes it sound disease related tho :-) – Al Biglan Nov 4 '11 at 16:15
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It is not recommended for short projects because of the time required to overcome infrastructure and collaboration issues. However, if you are working on a product then, with a proper setup, it can all be done remotely. I have been remote for about 6 years now with team members all over US, China and India. Yes, it can work out. When we do meet face to face, it is usually more fun than work.

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That is an interesting question. I personally think most of the PM work could be remotely done. It today's technologies you could meet via video conference calls, discuss, plan, control and every other aspect that PM work is described with. I think that is not a problem.

As far as I could see the problem and your concern... it is harder to get to know your team with distant communication. Being able to be a good PM you have to know your team and know each member's work habits. The other way around you are just a planner and controller.

If you are able to earn people's trust and commitment via distant communication, then there is nothing to worry about.

That's my opinion as far as I openly say that I do not have a lot of experience managing distant teams. I more often work with clients that are located around the world.

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If there are good tracking and reporting infra-structures as well as ability to conduct web-conferences/video conferencing . There should be overlap of working hours or else you as PM will need to work out-side of your work hours when conduct meetings.

We used Rational Team Concert which is really good to track stories, task, problem reports , create dashboards and assign tasks, doing queries and provide reporting.

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