A huge number of tasks on your schedule can take time away from running your business or focusing on your core responsibilities, but few things are more time-consuming than managing projects.
The solution is to find a project manager — and there’s no need for this person to work in the office with you or even to work full-time hours. You can have a remote contract worker by hiring a virtual project manager.
What Is a Virtual Project Manager?
Virtual project managers coordinate teams without carrying out any work that directly relates to the project. They do all this remotely by using project management tools, ensuring that team members upload files to the cloud, and holding meetings over video chat.
Your project manager will work with you before the project even begins (for instance, in the risk management stage) and will continue to monitor progress until completion of the project.
This will involve setting start dates and deadlines, assigning tasks to the right team members, ensuring everyone has the information, accesses, and documents they need to carry out work, and checking that work is completed to appropriate standards.
Your project manager will take into consideration factors like employees’ skills, responsibilities at the company, and time zones, which tasks are critical (and therefore need completing first), the goals of the project, the quality you require, your timeline, and much more.
Virtual vs In-Office Project Managers
A virtual project manager is an option whether your team works remotely or in the same office.
It makes sense to have a virtual project manager in either case since this will mean you avoid needing to find extra office space and paying for equipment.
In fact, you’ll see all the same advantages of outsourcing as you would with contracting any role. This is especially important if you only need a project manager occasionally or on a temporary basis.
Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Project Manager
In addition to the advantages of outsourcing in general, there are some specific benefits of having a virtual project manager.
1. Receive the Qualities You Need in a Project Manager
Assigning the task of the project manager to someone already at your company or taking over the role yourself can be a risk. Project management requires a unique set of skills that you or another employee may not possess.
Whereas skills relating to time management, organization, and communication are useful in all workers, they’re essential in a project manager. In addition, the ideal candidate will be honest, good at problem-solving, and able to motivate others.
2. Find the Right Fit
You’ll also be able to find other qualities you want in a project manager if you look for someone to work virtually. You may want someone with experience in your industry, managing similar types of projects, or using a particular style of project management.
You may also want someone who speaks certain languages to lower the risk of miscommunication, such as if you have a global team. Finally, you may have particular budget requirements. Whatever you need, the likelihood is there is someone out there who fits your criteria.
3. Better Employee Retention
Working on poorly managed projects can be frustrating for your employees. If they find it too stressful, they may even leave the company.
Adding a team member who is dedicated to project management can take the pressure off your employees and ensure everything runs smoothly.
Virtual project managers are often even better still, as they can relate to what your remote staff is facing. As a result, they’re able to set reasonable demands, know how to motivate remote workers, and can help employees avoid burnout.
4. Higher Productivity
More engaged employees are more productive. Plus, assigning the role of the project manager to someone else means that everyone on your team will be able to fully focus on their own tasks. You can often see even higher productivity when you contract a virtual project manager for two main reasons.
First, remote workers tend to be more productive than in-house employees. Second, most virtual project managers work on several projects for different clients at the same time. It’s in their best interests to be as productive as possible, both to earn more and to retain more clients.
Challenges of Working with a Virtual Project Manager
Of course, you will need to overcome some challenges if you choose to have a virtual project manager instead of an employee working in-house.
Difficulties Monitoring Progress
Team members will need to be diligent about updating their progress on tasks and storing files in the cloud for others to access. This is important not just because your project manager needs to know if individuals are meeting their deadlines; it’s also important for any upcoming tasks that are dependent on access to completed work.
Trust and Accountability
Employees may be more comfortable receiving guidance from someone they already know than from an outsider.
You’ll need to help team members build a sense of trust in your new project manager. In addition, it’s crucial that employees see your project manager as an authority and produce work to the same standards as if you were overseeing the project.
Lag in Communication
If you choose to contract a project manager in a different time zone — for instance, to save money — there’s a risk of delays in communication, which could slow down progress on a project. This is particularly a risk if employees may need to ask the project manager questions regularly.
You can overcome this challenge to an extent by providing employees with clear instructions from the start or by requiring your project manager to be available at certain hours.
You’ll need to consider if others at your company — particularly executives — will accept having an external project manager. Companies that are more traditional in their culture may be opposed to handing this role off to a contractor.
Furthermore, whomever you do contract will need to be a good fit for your company culture, although this should be less of a problem considering the wide pool of candidates you have to choose from.
The Best Tools to Use
The increase in businesses working either partially or fully remotely has led to a huge number of high-quality project management tools. An experienced virtual project manager will have used all of the following.
Most importantly, you need a tool where your project manager can assign tasks to team members. You have various options, but a top choice is Asana. The software allows you to customize how you display tasks and it’s easy to move tasks from one person to another or one stage of the project to the next. You can also attach files, leave comments, and add dependencies.
There’s no need to look further than G Suite for a cloud solution. As well as being able to save all your project files in Google Drive, you can take advantage of compatible apps, provide your project manager with a company email address, and organize events in Calendar.
Whether you need to make voice calls or have a video chat, Zoom tends to be a favorite in the business world. It’s ideal for everything from one-on-one chats to large meetings with the whole team.
Plus, you can schedule meetings in advance, use breakout rooms for small group discussions, and add password protection to meetings to ensure no one turns up who shouldn’t be there.
To stay in contact with your team on an ongoing basis, Slack is likely your best option. You can create channels for subgroups of your team, discuss different aspects of the project, and just socialize.
In fact, having a place to socialize can be useful for making your virtual project manager feel more like a team member than an outsider — particularly if everyone else has known each other for some time.
Salary of a Virtual Project Manager
There’s no need to pay your virtual project manager a salary if you outsource the position instead of hiring a remote employee. With a contract worker, you pay an hourly rate — and you only pay for the hours you need.
You can find project managers available at a range of rates. Project managers tend to set their rates according to factors like experience, location, and skills.
You can expect to pay about the same as what you’d pay for a virtual assistant — which is anywhere from $3 to $75 an hour. For an experienced project manager who will keep your team on track and who has knowledge of concepts like the critical path method, you should search for someone nearer the middle or upper end of this range.
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