4 Tools You Need To Work Remotely

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Working from home comes with its own numerous challenges. What this means is that you will need a set of unique tools specially designed to tackle the challenges of working from home. As more and more people are being ‘forced’ to work from home as a result of the current state of affairs, remote working seems to be the new norm. So, in this article, we take a look at some of the essential tools you will need to make working from home less stressful. 

1. Reliable internet service

Working from home is hardly possible without any source of reliable internet service. If you are already used to working from home, then the chances are that you already have a workstation at home with a stable internet connection. But if you work with a team, then everyone else on the team should have, for good measure, a secure internet connection. There are several kinds of portable internet devices that you can easily use to connect to the internet on-the-go. There are also other types of devices that require a cable connection. Depending on the kind of work you are into, any of the tools is okay to have. However, it is best to have multiple options available, just in case one option is not available.

2. Cloud-based learning management system (LMS)

Working from home should not mean that you cannot train your team or take up training courses from your employer to help build capacity. This is where cloud-based or online learning management systems come in. With several types of online management systems available to choose from, these business must-haves are helping to make online training as easy as they can be. These platforms make it possible to plan, create, and schedule training courses and materials and make them available to all target workers. It matters little whether you are tech-savvy or not; these platforms come with user-friendly interfaces that are easy to navigate. Cloud-based LMS have racked up loads of positive reviews, and you can check out Mindflash LMS Reviews, for example. 

3. Project management software

You can still take on those work projects that come with a vast number of tasks from the comfort of your home. With various types of project management software to choose from, you can handle even the duties that come with complex time management requirements. When picking out the right project management software, it is important to opt for software that is easy to navigate and helps to accomplish work projects as efficiently as possible. It should also be able to help you monitor the costs of projects as well as their progress.

4. Video conferencing software

Distance does not mean you cannot have those important business or staff meetings. Video call apps and software have made it possible to have that important facetime with your colleagues or clients. Popular apps such as Zoom and Skype come with other features that offer clarity and allow you to perform different functions while having the video call. Plus, most video conferencing apps are mobile-compatible and can be used even while on-the-go.

The Stages Of Project Management

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Getting your project right from start to finish comes down to planning. There are a few stages that every project will go through and that you should be aware of. Project management is not just about managing people, it is about taking care of all the little details too. You will use all your skills and tools to manage people, techniques, hiring, and more to bring your project to fruition.

Initiation

In the early stages, your project might be quite messy. The goals will be defined at a broader level. Plenty of research will take place to see if the project is possible. Some feasibility testing will take place too. 

The critical decision-makers, like stakeholders and board members, will also need to do their own due diligence at this point to decide if the project will go ahead. If everything appears to be in order, there will be a project initiation document arranged that will outline the purpose and requirements of all parties involved. 

Project Planning

Now is where it starts to get really interesting. Most project managers find this a very enjoyable stage. A guide will now be developed for all key players to follow. A few of the most opted for methods are CLEAR and SMART. Here is a quick breakdown:

SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely

CLEAR – Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable, Refinable

By now, the complete scope of the project is clear. All of the roles and responsibilities are cemented, and everyone is now accountable. The following will need to be written up:

  • Work Breakdown Schedule
  • Milestones
  • TimeLine
  • Communication Plan
  • Risk Management Plan

Execution

All of the deliverables are on paper and completed. Most of the work will now take place in this phase. There will be many meetings, performance updates, status updates, and hiring too. Many moving parts mean it will be all hands on deck. 

The team will be developed now. The first people in will likely be contractors and surveyors like Thurlow. You might also need designed, extra assistance and more skilled workers too. 

  • Resources being assigned
  • Execute the project management plans
  • Procurement if required
  • Tracking
  • Status meetings
  • Continuous updates of the project status

Execution and performance will overlap. 

Performance

This section will have already been running for some time, but now it will be time to take note of the progress that has been made and the performance of all. This is a phase that focuses intensely on KPIs. These KPIs were outlined in the first stages. Here are a few of the way that project performance will be checked:

Adjustments will take place here as required. 

Closure

All hired contracts will now come to an end, and there will likely be a celebration of the success of the project. An evaluation of what went well and what needed adjustments will be made, and a final report will be drafted. Typically there will be a follow-up plan and a structure in place to keep the project secure.

SMEs And Project Management

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You may be mistaken for believing that project management is just for big companies, and that project management training is simply for those that work at big firms. However, this could not be further from the truth. Project management is just as important for small businesses, and it is something they need to get right from the very beginning. Read on to discover everything you need to know.

Using a project management tool

There are many benefits associated with adopting a project management solution in the beginning. This includes the fact that you will find it much easier to collaborate and to manually track the likes of budgets, time and project tasks. Effective project management is imperative for scale and work quality.

A project management solution will ensure that you effectively keep on top of all of the different projects you are working on for different clients. You won’t need to refer to different files and dashboards for each client, which can be exceptionally time-consuming. Instead, with most project management software solutions you will benefit from all of the following in one place: company branding, apps integration, websites built, centralized data storage and document management, standardized processes and workflows, budgeting capabilities, file sharing, collaboration and team communication, as well as user permissions customization, task management, Gantt charts, employee and team time and tracking. These systems are also web-based, meaning they can be used anywhere at any time, and they are scalable to any number of users.

The human side of project management

With such a tool at your disposal, it is not easy to see how projects will become much more efficient and quality will improve. However, having a project management tool in place is not enough. You cannot expect it to do all of the work for you. The human aspect is just as important, if not more so. This is why all small businesses need to consider hiring a project manager. Alternatively, you can train someone in-house to manage all of the projects your company is in charge of. You can easily do a MBA online degree program today, so training in-house is more realistic than ever before.

This is an individual that will be knowledgeable and experienced in the likes of budget setting and management, time management, objective setting, managing client expectations and much more. They will also ensure that team morale and productivity levels are high, and that the right people are working on the right tasks so that resources are efficiently allocated. Combine this with quality software, and your small business will be able to handle any task that is thrown your away, and you will do so quickly and effectively.

Budget management

Budget overruns happen frequently. After all, very few businesses have an unlimited budget, and when project scope creeps in or changes are required, it can result in too much money being spent. This is bad news for any business, as clients and project stakeholders will see a budget overrun as a colossal failure. On the other hand, get it right, and you will have achieved a great success, which will enhance your reputation going forward. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five of the best ways to manage your project budget:

1.   Make sure everyone is in the know and accountable – A key part of staying on budget is making sure all team members know the current budget status. The project budget forecast is something that the project team needs to be informed about. After all, a team that is informed is a team that is empowered. If your team is aware of the budget status, they are going to be more inclined to watch their project charges, and they will charge less for extra ‘grey area’ hours.

2.   Develop relevant KPIs – The next step in managing your project budget effectively is establishing key performance indicators, otherwise known as KPIs. KPIs will help you to determine how much has been spent on a project, as well as how much the actual budget differs from what was initially planned, and much more. Let’s take a look at some KPIs that are commonly used and are vital when it comes to successful budget management in any project:

a.   Return on investment (ROI) – This shows the profitability of a project, as well as whether costs have been exceeded by the benefits.

b.   Planned value (PV) – This is the budgeted cost of work scheduled. Essentially, this is the estimated amount for project activities that have been planned.

c.   Earned value (EV) – This is the budgeted cost of work that has been performed.

d.  Cost variance (CV) – This indicates if the estimated cost of the project is lower or greater than the baseline that has been set.

e.   Actual cost (AC) – This shows how much money you have spent on the project to date. It can also be referred to as actual cost of work performed, i.e. ACWP.

3.   Budget for surprises – Projects very rarely go to plan, and there are often a lot of surprises along the way. You need to build in contingencies if you are to stay on budget. Factor in things that are outside of your control, for example, currency exchanges, financing, resources, and external environmental considerations that could impact the price of supplies.

4.   Understand the true needs and wants of your stakeholders – Last but not least, what stakeholders claim to want and need in a project aren’t always as straightforward as it seems in the beginning. This can lead to expectations and goals that have not been identified on both sides, which causes projects to run over budget. You need to make an effort to understand the true needs and wants of your stakeholders from the off.

Hopefully, you now have a good idea regarding why project management is crucial for small businesses, and why you need to get it right from the very beginning. One way to get started is by taking one of the project management training courses that are available. This will help you to get to grips with the ins and outs of project management and the different techniques and tools that can be used for managing client expectations, budget, time management and all of the other components that determine project success. Alternatively, you can do some research online, as there is an abundance of articles available.