A project getting off of its timeline is the kind of thing that makes project managers wake up in cold sweats. Once one part of the project runs late, it throws some or all subsequent parts of the project off of their timeline. That not only frustrates the project manager, but it inevitably incurs ire from above and annoys the client.
Fortunately, this isn’t an unsalvageable situation and remote workers can help get you back on track. Before leaping into remote work as a solution, though, let’s take a quick look at why projects get off their timeline in the first place.
Projects can run beyond their projected finish dates for several reasons. Some of these you can predict and avoid and some of them you can’t.
Scope creep is one of the most common, if not the single most common, reasons that projects run long.
An internal or external client comes to you and describes a piece of software they want. You agree on the functions and overall look of the UI and build a timeline with deliverables. Then, the inevitable happens, and they come back with another feature they simply must have in the software or app. The customer is always right, so you agree. Then, they want more additions. Before you know it, the end product will only sort of resemble the initial description.
This often means reworking existing code to build in the new features the client wants. Yet, the client wants the end product finished on the same timeline.
Another common reason why projects get off their projected timeline is that the original timeline wasn’t realistic in the first place. Maybe the project manager underestimated the work involved or maybe someone else committed you to a timeline that wasn’t realistic because they didn’t understand the work involved.
You can see this when you assume you’ll use one technology stack and the client later informs you that you’ll need to work with a different technology stack. For example, maybe you normally use a LAMP stack and the customer needs the project done with a MEAN stack. Even if your team can work with the MEAN stack, it will take longer if it’s not your daily grind.
You may also run into a problem with unclear goals. Poor communication can drive this problem. Sometimes, though, the project wasn’t clearly defined in the beginning.
With external clients, you can often avoid the problem by drilling down with them in terms of their final needs and wants.
With internal clients, this can prove more of a problem if a higher-up assigns a project with unclear goals.
All too often, project managers get told what the project will be, how long they have, and what resources they’ll get by someone else. In these cases, the project can run long because the project didn’t have enough resources allocated right from the outset. With some of the common reasons for project delays covered, let’s look at how remote workers can salvage your timeline.
When someone else allocates you too few people for the project and not enough time, the best you can do is raise those objections in writing at the start of the project. Send an email to get it on record. Then, when the project falls behind later, you can point back to it to cover your back and team’s backs. With any luck, you’ll be able to use that to leverage more resources in terms of bringing in more bodies. Those extra bodies on the project are often the solution to a lot of project delays.
You will need to loop in your team and remote workers on a daily basis about what needs to be done. You should also create easy communication channels, such as a slack channel, where the remote workers can meet the in-house team, pose questions, and make suggestions. Once those remote workers are up to speed and working daily, it can help put your project back on the projected timeline.
When scope creep rears its ugly head, again, more bodies are often the solution. Even if it’s all work that your in-house people can do, remote workers can take the pressure off by helping to rework existing components or working on new components of the project.
In some cases, you discover that while your team is proficient in development, what you really need is an expert of some kind. Maybe your company branched out into doing work for a new industry.
For example, let’s say your company writes software or does web development for small businesses. Up until now, they worked primarily with restaurants or small retailers. What if the next project is for a medical practice or finance company?Medical practices and finance companies must meet regulatory demands for things like data security and privacy.
This is a case where you can find someone who works remotely to help you understand how those regulatory demands intersect with the development process. You may also want a cybersecurity expert to consult with you and your team remotely to understand what hurdles the software or application might face. In situations where you’re working with a less familiar stack, bringing in an extra body or two remotely who normally work with that stack can help smooth out the rough edges of your development process.
You may also run into situations where you just need someone with expertise in a specific application of a programming language. For example, maybe you people on staff who use Python. If they use it almost exclusively for front-end development, they’ll face a learning curve if you ask them to deal with it for server-side development. Bringing in a backend Python developer may prove the most efficient solution for getting the project back on track.
It doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes a key employee just up and quits in the middle of a project. When projects get off their timelines, it increases everyone’s stress level. That can prove enough reason for someone who was already considering leaving to make the jump.
Other times, the employee just leaves for reasons of their own. When that happens in the middle of the project, though, it can send the project into a complete tailspin. It affects morale and that employee likely takes important skills with them.
While it’s not the ideal solution, you can often find remote workers with identical or nearly identical skills as a departing employee. It can take a little while for them to get fully up to speed on what the leaving employee was doing, but they can help keep the project on track or get it back on track. Bringing in a remote worker with the right skills is also faster and likely a cheaper solution than trying to recruit and hire a full-time in-house employee.
Delays in project timelines can come from lots of sources. The timeline might have been flawed from the outset, driven by project creep, or suffered from a lack of resources. Remote workers provide you with a way to shore up the number of people working on the project, which can help you meet an otherwise unrealistic timeline. You can use remote workers to get access to expertise in a topic or skill.
A remote worker with the right skills can also step in to replace a key employee who leaves in the middle of a project. Just make sure that you provide remote workers with the tools to get the job done, particularly communication channels that let them access other team members.