Have you ever tried to run a project with insufficient budget, too few people, missing tools, or insufficient critical skill sets? If you’re nodding along or thinking about that one project (you know the one) that was extra challenging because it wasn’t resourced correctly, then this article is for you!
Running a project without the right resources is a challenge, but running a project without the right resources AND having team members who are spread across the country or world is an even bigger one. So let’s address both challenges with one article.
What is Resource Management?
In the context of project management, resource management is the process of ensuring you’ve got the right people, materials, and enough cash (read budget) to complete the project you’re charged with delivering.
In an agency setting, this often starts with the budget. Before the scope of work is approved, you should be working with whoever leads business development in your organization to ensure the estimates are accurate so that the company can bill the client enough to cover the cost of doing the project (labor, tools/resources, overhead, etc.).
Before kickoff and during project planning, you’ll work with leadership to determine who on the team will work on the project and what tools or software licensing they might need.
During the project, you might need to coordinate with team members or other project managers to ensure there are no scheduling conflicts and everyone has clear expectations of what work will get done and when. It’s also important to find out if certain projects have higher priority over others and determine how that could impact your timelines.
When working on a project as an in-house project manager, or if you’re being charged with an internal project where you aren’t billing clients, this might look a little different. You might simply start by bringing together your project team to determine what each person will do, how they will do it, and if there are other tools or resources the team might need in order to complete the project in the needed time frame.
Your team makeup might be assigned by different department heads, especially if the project is a cross functional team effort.
How To Do Resource Management Remotely
The key concepts of remote resource management aren’t much different than doing it in the office, but the nuances add some complexity.
This is where creating a company culture that prioritizes flexible work arrangements can have a big impact. It’s worth advocating for some of these policies and practices within your sphere of influence:
- When managing remote teams or working from home yourself, communications and collaboration protocols sometimes need to change. For example, proactively communicating with remote workers about schedules and staffing assignments can help facilitate a company culture that allows for flexible work arrangements.
- You may need to consider some organization-wide work policies to ensure fair and consistent staffing in remote work environments. This includes policies for onboarding and managing performance (without micromanaging).
- When managing monetary resources, you may find that less of your budget is going towards physical workspaces and more to collaboration tools, like video conferencing software.
6 Considerations For Managing Resources Remotely
1. How remote collaboration time will impact the budget
There may be additional (or different) budgetary considerations when working with remote employees.
Having enough time for good communication and regular check-ins is a high priority in a remote working environment. Make sure you’re not skimping on communication and collaboration to save some hours or dollars–it might end up backfiring when people are missing key updates or deliverables have to be reworked because someone was out of the loop.
Since billable rates can make meetings feel expensive, you want to ensure you’re budgeting for meeting time in your estimates. It might make sense to have some more frequent meetings at the beginning of a new project to help make communication between members run more smoothly, but you don’t want to go overboard here.
A seven-person team with each member billing $100 per hour means your one hour meeting is going to cost $700. Multiply that across a six month project and with one meeting a week you’re looking at $16,800 of your budget just spent on a weekly meeting.
2. What materials or supplies are needed to complete the work (including hardware and software)
Obviously, it's important to make sure you're using an effective resource management software system to manage your work. (See our picks for the The 10 Best Resource Management Software & Tools Of 2023.)
But that's not all that you'll need.
In order to facilitate good communication you will need to add some collaboration tools to your stack. Some of the most commonly used tools include Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom, but many other tools or supplies might be needed to help a distributed teamwork through a project. This might include visual collaboration tools like mind mapping or whiteboarding software and physical items like laptops, additional monitors, and speakers.
For digital projects that run as apps on a phone or even a kiosk, specialty hardware and software for testing and QA might be needed to ensure the final product is perfect. These items may take up a hefty portion of the budget, so it is critical to account for these needs when planning resources.
When setting up the project plan, remote teams may benefit from leveraging templates designed specifically to manage their work and communications. This could include project plan templates and workflows, meeting agendas, and even status updates used to keep stakeholders in the loop throughout the project. As the project manager, you might also want to factor these needs into the materials list.
3. How to plan for synchronous and asynchronous work across different time zones
As the project manager, when starting up a project and allocating resources and project team members, consider the time zones of everyone involved and try to get as many overlapping hours among the team members as possible. You may be able to ask people to flex their schedules a little to allow more time for collaboration when needed, but be strategic about this. No one wants to work late (in their time zone) on a Friday night!
In projects where work is passed from one team member to another as it moves through a process, time zones may be less important. However, when team members need to collaborate in real-time, like two developers participating in a pairing session, they’ll need to coordinate intentionally to schedule enough collaboration time during overlapping working hours.
These collaboration needs should be considered when planning a project and choosing your resources. Using a project management tool for remote teams can be helpful for planning your workflows and allocating tasks, too.
Asking your New York-based developer to get up super early to accommodate the Paris-based developer’s schedule or vice-versa is a recipe for burnout or at least less work-life balance for at least one team member.
4. The roles needed on the team to complete the project
When managing resources needed for projects on remote teams, start by thinking through the roles and skills needed to complete the work. Since you’re likely dealing with a set budget and possibly other projects and priorities for your agency or business, you want to look at team members’ capacities when staffing new projects.
A few things you might want to consider include:
- What skills can each person bring to the table?
- How much availability does this person have (per day, week, or sprint)?
- Do parts of the project need additional resources or specialized skills?
- Are there any time zone, communications, or language barriers to account for?
- Does the client have any requirements about where team members are based?
- What will the working hours be for this project?
- What happens if someone leaves the company or team during this project?
5. How employee engagement will be handled
While many people prefer the flexibility remote work can provide, if there are not opportunities to collaborate and engage with others, it can be very isolating and lead to burnout. So, when planning resources for remote teams, this needs to be considered and planned for since it won’t happen organically.
Carving out time for team building activities during team meetings can be a way to address employee engagement. If you’ve never done this or your icebreakers are starting to feel stale, try some virtual games. There are many short, online games that can be played with virtual teams, like a quiz show using Kahoot or Minute to Win It. Another good thing to do when managing remote employees is to ask them what they might find engaging or what they need.
Taking a periodic “temperature check” on engagement throughout the project is a good practice for project managers and leaders in the organization. If you learn that something is particularly challenging for your team, work together to resolve the issues. Conversely, if something is working really well for the team, consider how it can be leveraged in future projects or scaled across the company.
6. What happens if performance issues arise
Preparing for the worst but expecting the best might be a project leader’s mantra. So, when managing resources on remote projects, we might want to assume good intent and that everyone is showing up fully each day and doing their best work. But what happens when that isn’t the case?
It’s not like in an office where you can pull team members into a private space to chat about performance issues if they arise. So, how do you handle them during remote projects?
Remote managers should use one-on-one meetings or check-ins over video chat to discuss performance issues or challenges across the team. This could include addressing employees' availability during work hours, time management, skill gaps, or even communication misses. For really big issues like a missed deadline or a team disagreement, a meeting between all involved parties should be arranged via video conference or in-person if everyone can meet at a central location or an office.
It’s important to shut down any gossip or back-channel conversations and address issues head-on. This helps build trust among remote team members. Have the conversations directly and summarize the discussion and next steps in writing.
The Rewards For Managing Remote Project Resources Well
Being able to manage projects with globally distributed team members and other resources is a skill that takes some practice. With benefits ranging from more flexibility, to greater access to talent, to better work-life balance, it’s a skill worth developing as a project manager.
If you want to learn more about managing remote team members or sourcing the right tools, we have articles on a variety of topics to help. To get these tips delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop!