Virtual Project Management

Leveraging Digital Resources to Lead Effective Projects



By Evan Piekara

Washington, DC, USA



Adapt to the “new normal” of remote work and virtual project teams to accomplish project goals

In the winter of 2020, our project team faced a tight timeline for a large-scale digital transformation effort. As COVID-19 cases trickled upwards across the country, the team had to quickly adapt its onsite instructional training to digital and align the scope of the project with the client and project team remotely. Many project teams have faced, and are currently facing, the challenges of evolving their projects to a remote environment. The “new normal” of virtual teams opens a host of opportunities while enhancing risks to project milestones, quality, cost, and scope.

Virtual Team Benefits

While this quick adjustment to the project led to short-term struggles, it did open a number of individual, team, and client benefits.

As an individual, I was able to save nearly an hour and a half of commute time and repurpose that time to working on the project, self-care, and spending time with my family. Time and frustration spent in traffic was no longer lost productivity. Being home enabled me to take micro-breaks and recharge with smiles and hugs from my five-month old daughter. Moreover, I no longer felt restricted to trying to fit all work into the traditional workday schedule. The silver lining of being part of a virtual team was more family time, greater comfort, and a more flexible schedule.

While it took some time initially to calibrate, the team was able to align work schedules, cadence, and work productively. People were able to reallocate commute time to the project and addressing other needs and adjusted their time to meet the needs of the project team. When we needed to crash project resources on certain areas, the team was able to align hand-offs so that personnel were able to get up early or work later and finish an aspect of the project before handing it off to other project experts or the client for review.

Several members of our team were already working remotely prior to COVID outbreaks. This enabled our team to not be bounded or limited by geography when making hiring considerations. Having a broader radius for talent enabled our project team to identify strong performers with the skills needed to drive project results.

With onsite instruction transitioning to digital training, the client was able to save thousands in travel costs for the nearly thirty people who would have needed to travel for a four-day training. Digital training was recorded to provide learning artifacts for the client. Moreover, the blended learning model enabled the client to learn at their own pace and enabled them to limit the opportunity costs of their time and hours spent in an on-site instructional training.

Acclimating to a virtual team environment can open opportunities for flexibility, productivity, and comfort, but it also opens a number of risks and challenges to the project team.

Virtual Team Risks

Being mindful of the risks of virtual work can lead to better planning and risk mitigation. We certainly experienced our share of these risks.

Digital communication platforms like Zoom are not always the best substitution for a face-to-face conversation. While these platforms do enable you to capture crucial body language features such as tone and facial expressions (a step up from the phone or chat function), project teams do miss out on the more personal touch and added body language of posture. Digital distance can lead to challenges in communicating with the client and amongst the team and can pose a challenge to relationship-building. Moreover, these platforms can sometimes be unreliable when a lot of members are using at once. We actually had one virtual training drop and needed to be restarted because the platform’s bandwidth was overtaxed. This led to some momentary confusion and loss of flow. Be prepared for Murphy’s Law to surface and bandwidth issues to occur at the worst possible moment and have a plan communicated in case critical virtual meetings do drop.

Morale can certainly be affected as team members and the client may be bearing a heavier burden while working remotely. Team members and the client may not have adequate childcare, may be facing added anxiety and stress over the pandemic, and may miss the emotional recharge of connecting with co-workers at the proverbial water cooler. Calendars can quickly be overloaded with meetings leading to digital fatigue and team members can be stuck in a work vortex forgetting to take breaks for self-care or to recharge. Make sure employees are building in breaks throughout their day so that they do have time to refresh from screen time. Designate some time to checking in with team members to learn how they are adjusting and to connect on a more personal level.


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How to cite this article: Piekara, E. (2020).  Virtual Project Management: Leveraging Digital Resources to Lead Effective Projects, PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue IX, September. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/pmwj97-Sep2020-Piekara-virtual-project-management-advisory.pdf



About the Author

Evan Piekara

Washington, DC, USA


Evan Piekara, MBA, PMP is a consultant and project manager with nearly 15 years of experience leading strategy, change management, and digital transformation efforts. Evan leverages change management and project management principles in working with government, nonprofit, and commercial clients to solve complex business challenges, align actions, and optimize impact. Evan holds an undergraduate degree from Connecticut College, a Master’s in the Science of Teaching from Pace University, and an MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Evan is passionate about using business to support his community and currently serves on the boards of four nonprofits. He is the author of Case In Point: Government and Nonprofit.

Evan can be reached at evan.piekara@gmail.com.

To view other works by Evan Piekara, visit his author showcase in the PM World library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/evan-piekara/