This is a Coronavirus update on Remote Project Management Software. Teams distributed across the world are anything but new. However, the bar was raised in 2020. We are now seeing deserted offices and individuals working remotely from their home bases. Could we see such an environment repeatedly in the coming years? If so, which Project (Product) Management software will stand the test of time?
Only today we brainstormed this at SoftwarePlant. Here is what we came up with. The following are four traits a decent remote project management software should possess. From the network load to the motivational aspects – what features does a Project Manager need to deal with individuals working remotely during a crisis, such as the current virus outbreak?
From file-based towards live-sync software
The following are the basics. As far as ‘efficiency’ of software is concerned, remotely working individuals could single out four types of project management software:
- ’email me schedule_final_v9′ file. Think good old MS Excel
- terminal server solutions. For reliable internet connections only
- cloud tools. Every time folks want to see updates, they need to refresh (F5)
- cloud tools with live-sync. Data gets refreshed automatically (in the background), as is the case with Google Sheets
The closer you are to 4., the better for a team of remotely working individuals. They used to gather daily in a shared office space, but are now placed in home offices scattered throughout a city or several counties. How are they supposed to run their planning sessions?
In BigPicture, we have introduced LiveSync button to the Board module. Anytime a team is on the phone/Google Hangouts, they should turn the LiveSync on. Once a person moves a ‘sticky note’, everybody can see it without refreshing their browser. Is your team just agile? Use Board for Sprint planning. Have you adopted SAFe? Notice the collapsible PI (Program Increment) layer on top of the Iteration layer. Of course, you can rename ‘Iterations’ to ‘Sprints’.
Are there many teams at your virus-stricken organization? An unlimited number of teams can enjoy a single instance of BigPicture.
Motivation and context
It’s a challenge to ensure that people, while at home, actually perform their duties. Other than posting a surveillance camera on each team member’s home desk, what can a PM do? Rather motivate than intimidate. BigPicture lends a helping hand in three ways:
- notice the colored dependency arrows on the Board (the screenshot above). A far-sighted Project Manager will use these arrows to let assignees know other people are waiting for tasks to get completed.
- have a look at the WBS widget within the Jira issue detail view (the below screenshot). Individuals working from home will be continuously reminded how their seemingly small task contributes to some high-level deliverable
- Resources in BigPicture have the ‘Individuals’ tab, in addition to the commonly used ‘Teams’ mode. Explore the capacity and allocation of each working-from-home individual independently.
Work from home on Live data – always
Have you heard of the cron jobs? Some computer systems use them to process data once a day, usually around midnight. So, most of the day, you don’t work on live data. Avoid such systems during a pandemic, when everybody works remotely. Plenty of confusion and frustration guaranteed.
With BigPicture, a Brooklyn team member will immediately get noticed when a New Jersey team member changes a task’s status from ‘In progress’ to ‘Done’.
Is the Risks module included?
Each Project Manager assessing risks? Of course, not, at least in peacetime.
Perhaps you should reconsider this statement in turbulent times. BigPicture has the sought-after Risks module. Many competitors don’t. Share your risk matrix with employees working remotely. Tell them, if these risks materialize, they might find themselves filing unemployment claims ;)
How about the post-virus age?
Once the vaccine is available, will there still be a need for remote-friendly project management software? Governments are likely to react faster in the future, so expect economies to be put on hold at first signs of future outbreaks. In other words, brace for intermittent quarantines in your city, county, or state.