Planning a Project with a Remote Team: How to Get Started

20 Sep 2023

With an offshore team, you have the opportunity to work on projects with bright minds from all over the world. It may be overwhelming to know where to get started and how to build a system of communication. After all, one of the biggest challenges with working with a remote team is consistent communication. But, we’re here to give you that quick boost that you need. Let’s get this project off the ground with tips on how project planning works with a remote team. 

We’ll be keeping in mind the three main things that should help you with planning a project. Much like every project you need to align your goals, establish a system for deliverables and find the tools that will help you out along the way. All of which should lay the proper groundwork for a successful project.

Planning Project Objectives Should be S.M.A.R.T.!

Let’s talk about project objectives. Your objectives will serve as the overall foundation for your team, and act as the driving force behind all deliverables. A clear and actionable objective can help steer your team without too much intervention that may be difficult to have when working with a remote team. A fantastic way to delineate your goals is through the SMART framework:

Specific: Make Objectives Concrete for your Remote Team

While it’s nice to look at the bigger picture, we need to remember that we work best with concrete ideas. A vague goal is a confusing goal, after all. Clarifying what the project endgame is and painting a clear picture of what you’re working towards lets your offshore team know what they’re working towards.

Measurable: Planning for a Quantifiable Success

How will you be measuring your success toward this goal? As with all projects, the steps you take should be quantifiable to track your progress. It can be difficult for your team to know if their day-to-day workloads are working towards anything. Especially if they’re unaware of the completion progress for the project.

The best way to beat this is to inform your team on the project progress. Let your offshore team know that their input and efforts are valuable by example! Showcase the progress of the project through visual metrics. There are tons of ways to measure project progress such as the Incremental Milestone or the Start/Finish method

Achievable: Always be Realistic!

Realism is your fresh cup of coffee when it comes to project planning with a remote team. It’s easy for us to get swept away by huge or challenging goals. Not only should you consider timeframes and resources, but human efforts, too. The deadlines and workload should be sustainable, where you can still meet your goals without burning everyone out. 

Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew in the initial project planning phase. That’s why it’s important to genuinely ask about your teams’ mental health and the sustainability of your project deliverables during virtual catch-up sessions.

Relevant: Project Planning for Today

The goals you set for your project should align with your teams’ or your organisation’s current project. Let your team know why the project is relevant and what it will be working towards. While making goals as a challenge is great, it’s better to set tasks that are beneficial right now. 

Time-Bound: Give Your Remote Team Deadlines

Time-bound. Always work with deadlines! Whether it comes to the overall project end-date or any deliverable, deadlines are always important. Deadlines communicate expectations and give direction to a team. Communication may be key when working with a remote team, but constantly checking-in on their progress can dampen a productive day. Always set deadlines, and trust that they are working within those deadlines.

Give yourself a deadline for every milestone and deliverable!

Additionally, determine if your project can be done within a month or a few. It should always be realistic with allowance for adjustments when need be.

Create a Work Breakdown Structure for your Project

With your goals set, let’s look at how to properly break down your tasks. Again, as much as we should always have the big picture in mind, it’s best to simplify the project into smaller tasks. 

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) breaks a project down into a hierarchy of deliverables. It takes the overall scope of your project, – the objective established – and breaks it down into small chunks, and even smaller ones until you get individual tasks to work on. The visualisation works on a tree-branch level where your remote team can see what tasks they need to do to fulfil which overarching part of the project.

Visualising deliverables makes it easy to remember your tasks.

For a remote team, a WBS acts as a basis for task-alignment and work monitoring. It can also streamline communication and information sharing between teammates. The visuals act as an easy reminder to know what’s going on, what needs to be done, and what you have achieved so far. There are different charts to structure your WBS: 

The Outline View. The simplest WBS chart, the work here is formatted like a tiered bulleted list.

The Gantt Chart. A cross between a spreadsheet and a timeline, the Gantt chart lets you see a timeline of deliverables alongside its dependencies and deadlines as a bar graph.

The Branching Diagram. The most common WBS chart, this represents the organisation workflow with each larger workload branching into smaller and smaller tasks.

Set Your Sights on a Project Management Tool

A WBS is only effective when you use the right tools and platform to connect your remote team. Based on your chosen chart, there’s always a project management tool to assist you, through the magic of the internet. 

As much as these platforms excel in keeping your team productive and giving a visual reminder of deliverables, they help in communication. A good platform lets people openly give feedback, approve, and ask for revisions on deliverables effectively, and in a streamlined fashion. 

Ask yourself the following questions to know which platforms you should consider:

  • How do I organise my WBS, and will the platform accommodate that?
  • How large is my team?
  • Is the platform easy to use?
  • Will I use the platform as storage for the project deliverables?
  • Do I want to be hands-on with the tool or will I want an automated process?

You can check out this comprehensive list of great project management platforms that offer a range of different tools and interfaces. 

Remember, these platforms serve as the deliverables side of your virtual office and should not be your only means of communication. Project management tools should only be used to monitor, collate, and give feedback on deliverables. We suggest using instant messaging tools for easy and quick relaying of messages – not only is it faster, but it’s more personable than solely relying on email.

Remember: Communication and Preparation with your Remote Team is Key

We know that project planning with a remote team can be difficult and overwhelming to get things off the ground. But, a remote team gives you the chance to work with some of the most brilliant minds. Their input and contributions will be invaluable to your project – all you need to do is communicate.

These beginning steps are crucial to efficiently and effectively collaborating with your offshore team. Openly communicate with them about the project, hear their opinions and feedback, and establish a working relationship of trust. You may be managing the project, but they’ll be of great help to you along the way.

If you’re curious about starting a remote team, Diversify can also help you out! We might just have the perfect people for the job, and we can assist in setting them up for success with the right equipment. You can contact us through this link to get you started with your offshore team.