# Challenges in Virtual Project Management

Virtual project management is the process by which one manages projects via remote or virtual teams. When teams are distributed across different time zones, they still need to get assigned tasks and that work must be monitored and tracked to make sure it stays on schedule. As more teams work from home, virtual project management has become more defined. While the basics remain the same, such as the life cycle of the project and the various disciplines that go into controlling every aspect of a project, there is a difference. And it’s a big one. Those teams being managed are not in one place, but rather scattered over across the four corners of the world (ProjectManager.com, 2020).

As remote work becomes more of a reality than a passing trend, project managers are going to need newer strategies to manage virtual teams. Generation Z—those born between the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2010s—has a strong preference for remote work, and Gartner states that by 2030, that preference will increase the demand by 30% (Gartner, 2019). So, if you’re a project manager, you need to be prepared to handle what’s coming your way.

In this blog post, we will discuss some of the common challenges of virtual project management and how managers can overcome them.

## Maintaining effective communication

Communication is a challenge for a virtual team as they don’t have the opportunity to interact with their colleagues or managers as frequently as a co-located team could. This can leave team members feeling disconnected and lead to poor communication within the team. As a result, important project communication can be overlooked, not necessarily owing to neglect by employees but because the channels and processes of communication are not conducive to virtual project management (Capterra, 2020).

As a manager, you should strive to facilitate communication by creating an environment of information transparency and providing the team with the right communication tools.

– Create information transparency: Managing a virtual team requires doubling down on the efforts to keep the channels of communication open. This means you should communicate with team members more often, encouraging them to ask questions on process workflows and collaboratively finding solutions to bottlenecks and issues. You should also share project updates, feedback and expectations clearly and regularly with the team, using multiple modes of communication such as email, chat, video call and phone call.
– Provide the right communication tools: Communication tools are essential for virtual project management as they enable team members to communicate effectively across different time zones and locations. You should select the tools that suit your project needs and preferences, such as instant messaging apps, video conferencing software, cloud-based collaboration platforms and project management software. You should also train your team on how to use these tools effectively and establish some ground rules for communication etiquette, such as when to use which tool, how to respond promptly and how to avoid distractions.

## Overcoming cultural differences

Cultural differences can pose another challenge for virtual project management as they can affect how team members perceive, interpret and respond to information and situations. Cultural differences can include differences in language, values, norms, beliefs, behaviors and preferences. These differences can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts and reduced performance if not managed properly (Axelos, 2016).

As a manager, you should strive to overcome cultural differences by fostering a culture of respect and inclusion and providing cross-cultural training and support.

– Foster a culture of respect and inclusion: Respect and inclusion are key values for any team, but especially for a virtual one that consists of diverse members. You should demonstrate respect and inclusion by acknowledging and appreciating the contributions of each team member, regardless of their background or location. You should also encourage team members to learn about each other’s cultures and perspectives, and to celebrate their diversity as a source of strength and innovation.
– Provide cross-cultural training and support: Cross-cultural training and support can help team members develop their intercultural competence and awareness, which are essential skills for working effectively in a global environment. You should provide team members with opportunities to learn about the cultural dimensions that affect communication and collaboration, such as power distance, individualism vs collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity vs femininity and long-term vs short-term orientation (Hofstede et al., 2010). You should also provide team members with guidance on how to adapt their communication style and behavior according to the cultural context of their counterparts.

## Building trust

Trust is another challenge for virtual project management as it can be harder to establish and maintain when team members are not physically present with each other. Trust is the foundation of any successful team, as it enables team members to share information, collaborate effectively, support each other and commit to the project goals. Lack of trust can lead to reduced motivation, engagement and performance, as well as increased conflict and turnover (Plaky, 2020).

As a manager, you should strive to build trust by creating a sense of team identity and providing frequent feedback and recognition.

– Create a sense of team identity: Team identity is the extent to which team members feel a sense of belonging and attachment to the team. Team identity can enhance trust by creating a shared vision, values and goals for the team, as well as a sense of interdependence and accountability. You should create a sense of team identity by involving team members in the project planning and decision making process, setting clear and realistic expectations and roles for each team member, and creating opportunities for social interaction and bonding among team members, such as virtual icebreakers, team building activities and informal chats.
– Provide frequent feedback and recognition: Feedback and recognition are important for building trust as they show team members that you care about their work and appreciate their efforts. Feedback and recognition can also improve trust by providing team members with constructive guidance on how to improve their performance and skills, as well as positive reinforcement on what they are doing well. You should provide frequent feedback and recognition by setting regular check-ins and reviews with each team member, giving specific and timely feedback on their work, acknowledging their achievements and challenges, and celebrating their successes and milestones.

## Conclusion

Virtual project management is not a fad but a reality that project managers need to embrace and adapt to. By overcoming the challenges of communication, culture and trust, managers can lead their virtual teams to achieve project success. The key is to leverage the benefits of virtual project management, such as access to global talent, cost savings and flexibility, while minimizing the drawbacks, such as isolation, misunderstanding and mistrust. By doing so, managers can create a productive, collaborative and satisfying work environment for their virtual teams.

## Bibliography

– Axelos (2016) Challenges of virtual teams in project management. Available at: https://www.axelos.com/resource-hub/blog/challenges-of-virtual-teams-in-project-management (Accessed: 16 November 2023).
– Capterra (2020) 3 Challenges of Virtual Project Management and How Managers Can Fix Them. Available at: https://www.capterra.com/resources/virtual-project-management-challenges (Accessed: 16 November 2023).
– Gartner (2019) Gartner Predicts 30% of Gen Z Will Work Remotely by 2030. Available at: https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-11-07-gartner-predicts-30–of-gen-z-will-work-remotely-by-2030 (Accessed: 16 November 2023).
– Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G.J. and Minkov, M. (2010) Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. 3rd edn. New York: McGraw-Hill.
– Plaky (2020) Virtual Project Management: Everything You Need To Know. Available at: https://plaky.com/blog/virtual-project-management/ (Accessed: 16 November 2023).
– ProjectManager.com (2020) Virtual Project Management: Benefits, Challenges & Tools. Available at: https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/virtual-project-management (Accessed: 16 November 2023).

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