Think about your dream project management experience. What does it look like? A talented team of self-motivated individuals, working in harmony to reach a common goal? Complex requirements simplified? Resources well-allocated and costs kept well within budget? Issues handled without deadlines being disrupted, leading to a smooth road to completion?
In reality, we know that projects seldom work like this, and working with a remote team of freelancers creates its own challenges. The chances are you’ll have to select people with the right technical skills, so there won’t be an issue.
The key to success, however, will be creating effective communication and collaboration between internal and external stakeholders. These two factors will make the difference between an efficient, project and one which is stressful and hard to manage.
In this article, we’ll look at the keys to streamlining outsourced projects.
1. Let them know who you are
Start with the basics. With the right team in place, it’s essential to ensure that they all understand the fundamentals of your business before kick-off: project objectives, clients, processes, and internal stakeholders.
Sharing as much relevant information as possible about your company culture and strategic goals will ensure that freelancers and external agencies are aligned to create value for you via their project work.
2. Ensure the scope is clear
Clarifying the scope is also basic. What may be clear for those of you inside the business may not be so obvious to those coming in for a single contract. While it may take time to agree on the exact nature of deliverables, and achievable timelines, clarifying these will prevent delays and hitches as the project progresses.
3. Identify risks in advance
One of the advantages of working with freelancers is that they arrive with a diverse perspective. They may be able to identify the risks which could prevent them from progressing towards their milestones. You’ll also be able to involve them in identifying solutions.
In every project, unexpected issues can arise and disrupt the schedule, or budget. This is why all stakeholders should be involved in identifying potential roadblocks before the project starts so that in case they arise, you can be agile in taking action to mitigate their effects.
4. Use a powerful PM software tool
Trying to manage even a simple project via email is a nightmare. Once the project kicks off, ensure that the team is using project management software (such as Asana, JIRAm, or Monday.com) that encourages collaboration and ensures real-time access to project data.
When all team members have visibility of the project, the information required, and the progress, everyone is more likely to stay on track. As a project manager, you’ll be able to ensure that things are on schedule, identify any potential pain points, and support as required.
5. Control payroll costs
Hiring freelancers for specific projects is an effective way to control the payroll costs associated with a permanent in-house team. However, there is also a fear that, when paying by the hour, any delays can result in spiraling costs. Keeping track of freelancer hours with excel sheets is time-consuming and unnecessary.
Instead, powerful cloud-based, interactive timesheet software can be a great investment, saving your time, ensuring data accuracy, and making resource planning easier. In addition, interactive products allow freelancers to switch their tracking on and off, can empower them to work when they’re most productive, and maintain a healthy work/life balance.
6. Stick to meeting schedules
Especially important if you’re working with teams across different time zones, is to create (and stick to) an effective communications schedule. Whether you check in on a daily or weekly basis, the rule is to be disciplined and to insist that the key players are present every time – accept no excuses (and don’t make any yourself!).
Establishing a rhythm for your meetings is vital when you’re working with remote employees or freelancers. Ensure that everyone involved uses the same app for their project communication to minimize wasted time and streamline responses.
7. Talk face-to-face
Freelancers are like everyone else, they need human interaction and a sense of connection to others. Tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts, which have become commonplace over the previous year, can help create a sense of community and shared goals. Plan a mix of group discussions and one-to-ones.
Bringing stakeholders together on video helps to build a sense of trust and community. You’re expecting your outsourced team to behave as project partners, so find time in your hectic schedule to find out who they are, and what’s going on for them. This works both ways, as they also need to understand the situation from your perspective.
Video chats will help to encourage open conversation. If you’re looking for professional and reliable freelancers to work with on an ongoing basis, it’s worth investing time and effort in getting to know them.
8. Protect your business-sensitive data
Projects which involve the sharing of sensitive data between the team, especially if some or all of them are outsourced, presents additional challenges. You need people to have easy access to the information they require, but the last thing you need is a data leak.
Most project management software facilitates data sharing, but remote workers using their mobile and networks may create a risk. Information needs to be shared, but before starting ensure you have appropriate controls in place so that business-sensitive data is secure and correctly backed-up. MS OneDrive for Business, Google Drive Enterprise, and Dropbox Business, among other solutions can provide a central location for safe storage and access of your files.
When managing a project with an outsourced or freelance team, great software is an essential tool for managing tasks and controlling budgets. But what will define whether the project is smooth, and creates minimal stress, is how the human beings involved are handled.
All too often, while virtually every aspect is planned down to the last detail, communication and collaboration are left almost to chance. Place them at the heart of your project plan and you’ll streamline every process as you move towards completion.