With one-fifth of the world’s GDP being spent on projects, and with business focus shifting in recent years away from operations, towards innovation, change and competitiveness, driving a project forward has never been more important.
What is a virtual project manager and why is it important?
A virtual project manager is the right hand person you have been searching for.
They ideally come in when you have a project that needs managing. Something that you don’t need to oversee, that you can outsource to an expert. They take all the mundane (mundane for you anyway) day to day jobs and they run with them.
Have an office of fulltime, part-time, freelance, remote and agency staff? Let the virtual project manager be the sheepdog to round them up, and then be the orchestra conductor who gets them all to play their part, at the right time, in the right key.
As a business owner, the chances are you will have more than enough to be getting on with, like growing the business and driving it onwards and upwards. You don’t have time to be the office manager too. And no, you don’t have to have that right hand person in the office beside you, reporting back to you.
Like the majority of workers today, they are virtual for a reason. They don’t come in, they don’t need an office or a desk, they use their own computer, in their own space. All they need from you is to be able to get hold of you and to have a project management system in place, whereby they can execute their role seamlessly.
What will you do as a virtual project manager?
As a qualified project manager you will be responsible for seeing a project through from conception to finish: you will plan it, implement it and sign off after every stage is complete.
You will likely be in control of:
- The budget
- Running risk assessments
- Managing the team responsible for undertaking the project
- Quality control
- Providing feedback up the chain
- Ensuring successful completion of the project
- Working with and managing all of the project’s stakeholders
And you will do this using your project management skills, knowledge and techniques that you learned whilst on your project management course.
How do you become a qualified virtual project manager?
Being able to efficiently manage projects is one thing. And to have time management, negotiation and problem-solving skills are beneficial, as is being an expert listener and communicator, but you need qualifications if you want to get anywhere.
You can do a degree or masters in project management, or you can undergo a recognised course in order to get the required qualifications, which are:
- APMP/ APM PQ (practitioner qualification)
- APM RPP (registered project professional)
- PRINCE2 practitioner
- PMP (certified project management professional)
- CMI diploma in project management
You don’t have to do all of these courses, but it can be beneficial to have both APMP and Prince2, but it isn’t necessary, it just depends on what type of industry you want to project manage in. Typically project managers are required in Finance, Property, IT, Administration and Construction.
Either before or after you have newly qualified, try and get some work experience in a project team, or as a project officer. Once you are comfortable in the project environment, will it then be advisable to start applying for project management roles?
What are the pros of being a virtual project manager?
- You get to decide what projects you want to work on. If you like the sound of a project, in a field that takes your fancy, why shouldn’t you get involved? You aren’t committed to it for the next however many months or years, just for the contract or the length of the project, whichever you agreed to.
- You get to decide who you want to work with. If you don’t like the people you work with, you don’t have to work with them again. Just say no, and find another project to work on.
- You get to dictate your salary. If you know how much you’re worth and what you need to earn to make it work, then you set the lower limit and don’t work for anything below that. (As a benchmark, starting salaries are approximately £25,000 and can go up to £50,000 or beyond, depending on the industry and the work involved).
- You can work from anywhere. This is the beauty of working virtually, there is no requirement for you to come into the office. So if you don’t need to come into the office, you don’t need to be in the same city, county or country for that matter. You can work from that beach in Bali, that chalet in the Swiss Alps, or your mum’s spare room.
- There is no commute. You can drift from the bedroom, to the kitchen to the living room if you want. You don’t have to ever leave the building to do your work.
- You don’t have to get dressed, or get out of bed, if you don’t want to. Why should you? Unless you’re having a video conference call, in which case at least put a shirt on.
- You can fit your work around your life. As long as deadlines and schedules are being adhered to, there is no reason why you can’t do your work 6am-10am, then spend the day doing something else, then do it 6pm-10pm, when the kids go to bed. Or whatever hours you prefer to keep. No one is judging you and no one is dictating your work routine to you, within reason.
What are the cons of being a virtual project manager?
- You don’t get the security of a regular paycheck. You work each project from start to finish, and when it’s done you have to find another one. You constantly have to be thinking one step ahead, when your project is coming to an end.
- You don’t have the team around you to bounce ideas off and to visually check that everyone is OK (93% of daily communication is nonverbal).
How do you work as a virtual project manager?
The clue really is in the title. You work virtually, remotely. And this is enabled by the myriad of fantastic project management tools, apps and software that are so widely available and easily accessible. The key to successful virtual project management is excellent communication.
- You will need a way of working collaboratively and to store all work remotely.
- Google apps for work. It is just amazing. Not only is it a cloud drive, has Google hangouts for easy communications, but you can work on documents simultaneously and you can see edits as they happen. The last edit is always the one that is saved, so you don’t end up with thousands of versions of the same document, spreadsheet or slide.
- Dropbox. A great cloud storage system, plus they’ve recently announced a similar collaborative working approach like google drive, called Paper.
- You will need to be able to communicate instantly, as if you are in the same office.
- Slack. There are company wide channels and team specific channels. It’s also ridiculously easily integrated into other programmes you might use too.
- HipChat. Easy to use app that offers collaboration with other tools. You can use the app either straight from the website or you can download it to your servers.
- You will sometimes need to chat to someone, face to face, so video calls are essential.
- Zoom. Not only allows you to have up to 100 interactive participants, you can have up to 10,000 view only attendees too. Works brilliantly with Slack, you just have to type /zoom in a Slack chat to get a meeting link.
- Skype. The original video conference caller. Good for smaller teams and the sound quality is crystal clear. Its main advantage is that you can dial landlines.
- You need a way of tracking projects and their progression.
Where do you find work as a virtual project manager?
There are so many places to hunt work out:
- Tap up your contacts. Ask anyone you have ever project managed for, or whose team you have worked in, to write you a reference, or to ask around if anyone is looking for a project manager. A great recommendation can really open doors.
- Find and make connections on LinkedIn. Research and contact companies that you would love to work for. Send them a prospective letter of introduction explaining why you would like to work for them, and why you would be a great fit to lead their project requirements.
- Look on the large job boards such as Indeed or Reed.
- If you know which industry you would like to work in, be very specific in your search.
If you require further information, or you need to hire an experienced project manager, or are looking at getting coaching or mentoring in project management, then do get in touch.