Managing any project team can be challenging. Managing a distributed team is a challenge cubed.
In any project, coordinating the workflow among your resources is almost always difficult. When multiple teams are involved, that challenge is multiplied; if those teams are distributed across various campuses, countries or even continents, the effect on complexity is exponential, escalating the challenge in three dimensions:
Poor communications: When you collaborate across distances, bringing everyone together for meetings or calls may be difficult or impossible, compromising the decision-making process.
Distance adds delays: Every mile adds minutes (or hours, days and weeks) to the workflow. Working across multiple locations means additional wait times for parts, information, decisions, responses, plans and more.
Too many variables: For managers, there are simply too many moving pieces, too many parts (tasks, supplies, locations and resources) and too much data to manage project information effectively among all the players.<
For distributed team management, the ugly truth is that traditional tools (such as spreadsheets, groupware, SharePointTM, and ad hoc meetings) fail to master the project execution complexities imposed by multiple tasks, resource groups, and locations. The combination of data profusion and location confusion makes it difficult for managers to balance load and capacity: the resources available for the work at hand.
There are any number of tools that might help, but a truly effective solution must give you the power to control the four most urgent challenges faced by managers of distributed teams:
Synchronization of work and resources
Managing deadlines –commitments and delivery of internal and external task completion dates dictated by the project
Reconciliation of resource capacity with work load
Managing risk – understanding the level of uncertainty in the project plan to effectively manage execution
I will expand upon each area further in the coming weeks, but if you want to jump right to the solution and learn how to get control of your distributed teams, read our newest eBook, Remote Control: How to Get Productive Teamwork from Distributed Project Teams.