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How to Keep Your IT Projects on Track while Working Remotely

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For the first two months of 2020, I was on between two and four airplanes each week while working remotely and traveling to customer IT projects. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, I’ve only left my house once in the past five days, and that was to drive maybe a half a mile round trip.

Overnight, the term ‘working remotely’ has taken on an entirely new meaning. This new ‘quarantine consulting’ in my industry has resulted in IT projects being executed nearly 100% remotely via video conferencing, online share sites, and virtual communication.

Some of us are accustomed to working from a home office; others are trying to find a new normal routine. In addition to all this change, we have the challenge of global markets being impacted, causing new levels of tension among coworkers and customers.

For anyone launching, maintaining, or considering a new IT project, here are 6 tips to help you better manage your IT projects and teams online:

6 Tips to Keep Your Remote IT Projects on Track

1. Master Video Conferencing

One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is the difficulty of expressing and interpreting all aspects of non-verbal and verbal communication. Looking people in the eye and showing your expression of interest are proven ways of connecting and earning trust. This means even if it feels awkward at first, we all need to overcome that initial fear and turn on video.

Granted, video conferencing cannot replace in-person contact. However, if your only option is to work with people remotely, this is an extremely important factor to connect and build rapport.

Our team uses a number of video conferencing platforms, including Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom depending on our customer’s preference. My colleague, Andrea Velicevich, recently walked everyone through features of Zoom, such as using background images of an office to offer a level of privacy. Collaborative polling features on both Zoom and Microsoft Teams encourage virtual participation, a key component to improving the quality of remote meetings.

You can enhance the quality of your video conference with Bluetooth wireless headphones and an external web camera. These come in handy if you are on video multiple hours in a day.

2. Organize Information with Document Sharing

To me, this is actually one of the perks of working remotely. When it’s mandatory for cross-team project participants to access a share site for project documentation, these solutions help keep everyone organized and IT projects on track. We recently kicked off a new SAP Cloud for Customer (C4C) project and are using SharePoint with encrypted access to manage project files, streamline onboarding, and stay on top of deliverables.

3. Get off Email and onto Group Chat

For those of us who get hundreds of emails each day, this can be another benefit to working remotely. When a project is 100% remote, chat is a more natural and less burdensome source for quick questions. Apps such as Slack help teams stay updated on information and offer a smoother path to real-time communication.

4. Take Advantage of Modern Technology

Not only are tech companies offering better remote platforms than ever before, but companies such as my employer, SAP, are offering them at no-cost right now. Here are a couple options we are making available to customers for the short-term:

  • Remote Work Pulse by Qualtrics supports organizations in understanding how their employees are doing and what support they need as they adapt to new work environments, helping them close experience gaps and maintain business continuity. In just four days, thousands of organizations have signed up for this free Experience Management (XM) Solution.
  • Tosupport businesses that are having to work remotely, SAP Litmos is offering a completely free Remote Readiness & Effectivity Academy, with training content for anyone, anytime, anywhere. The ready-to-watch video-based courses are designed to help establish best practices for remote work, maintain the highest levels of hygiene and mental wellness for workers, and develop leadership during times of change and challenge.

5. Stay to the Schedule

Not only is setting a regular meeting cadence important for any remote IT project, but setting your own daily schedule is also a key component for success.

“Treat working remotely as if you were going to your office,” says my colleague, Natalia Agrela. “Wake up at the same time each day, shower, and get dressed! Designate a space where you are going to work from and be serious about working your work hours. That is, set the work/life balance even if your office is now in your home.”

6. Find Creative Ways to Connect

Creative ways to encourage team collaboration and connection can be easily completed online. One example could be to have teams create a Spotify playlist and share songs for team relationship building. You can also use whiteboarding tools through Zoom or Microsoft Whiteboard to bring virtual teams into a boardroom-like setting. The key is keeping people active and helping them to feel included when not physically all together.

The Silver Lining

For those of us who work in IT projects, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to help maintain business and markets across the world. Now more than ever, it’s important we stay optimistic when ‘quarantine consulting,’ hold our teams to realistic standards, and go ahead and be brave…turn on that video.

Do you have additional recommendations to promote virtual team productivity? Please share any new ideas in the comments, and message me if you have questions on SAP tools currently being offered at no-cost.

Jennifer Espelien's picture

Thank Jennifer for the Post!

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Discussions

PJ Davis's picture
PJ Davis on Mar 23, 2020 11:33 pm GMT

Great Post Jennifer! Thanks for taking the time.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 24, 2020 11:56 am GMT

Designate a space where you are going to work from and be serious about working your work hours.

This is definitely important, but it can be difficult for people who were thrust into a work-from-home arrangement when their homes weren't built to have one or two full time remote workers set up. Any creative advice for those in smaller apartments or cramped space?

Jennifer Espelien's picture
Jennifer Espelien on Mar 24, 2020 5:58 pm GMT

Thanks for your comment, Matt. Yes, I've been there - working from home in a small condo can present additional challenges. Couple things that worked for me:

- Face a window to mentally escape from home surroundings.

- Use plants or other visually-appealing decor to create barriers between your desk and surrounding space.

- Try to avoid working from the dining table. Buy a small desk, or install a folding desk top that can be stored away when not in use.

- Invest in noise-cancelling headphones to help you focus while family or roommates are nearby.

Hope these help! 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 24, 2020 9:30 pm GMT

I love it-- thanks a ton!

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