Companies all over the world are making their operations work remotely for the first time. If you work in an industry where teamwork is crucial, a sudden request to work from home doesn't have to be a strain on you or your team. There are unique opportunities and challenges that come with working outside of a traditional office.

Here we define what remote teams are, explore advantages and disadvantages and how to successfully work from home.


First, what are remote teams?

The best way to understand remote teams is to think of them as small groups of people who are committed to achieving specific company objectives. They often work for the same company and answer to the same boss but live in different cities or even countries. You can also think of remote teams as being similar to virtual ones. The reason for this is because both deal with very similar opportunities and challenges. However the difference is that virtual team members answer to different managers while working together on the same project.


Advantages to working from home

Many people are discovering that working from home is a great advantage, and companies are inclined to agree. Hiring a contractor over an employee, and using that employee to build a virtual team for projects, is advantageous in a number of ways:

    • Improvements in employee work/life balance
    • Little to no travel time
    • Flexible work hours
    • Project collaboration and file sharing is easy now
    • Overall increase in employee productivity
    • Employee satisfaction
    • Easier to attain and retain top talent

While it is apparent that pulling in virtual workers for a team project is a great idea, it’s also important to make sure the business avoids the following possible overall pitfalls. If these issues are successfully deterred, then working from home in a team project works well.


Embracing the “disadvantages”

Most companies worry a remote team could take a lot of time and effort to get started because all team members must learn to effectively communicate and get to know one another. However, this shouldn’t be seen as “lost time”. In fact, this is far more beneficial to the company than anything else.

Since communication amongst remote teams is often dispersed across longer periods of time, team members learn to communicate deliberately. The result is employees with better communication skills and stronger unity. Remote teams are also capable of developing stronger bonds with one another because they learn to connect with one another on deeper levels.

Another common fear managers have when using remote teams is that team members aren’t synchronized due to their different time zones and work schedules. What many don’t realize is that this is actually a positive factor. Since consistent communication is difficult to maintain, it puts pressure on workers to complete work on time in order for the next to begin. This will prevent future delays or confusion.


Making remote work a success

Setting up a remote team is the first step but once you have it up-and-running you’ve got to know how to make it successful. There are a few things you need to keep in mind during the start-up phase and all throughout the rest of its development:

1. On-boarding
Home cannot be forced upon member of your team: whoever prefers a detached, professional collaboration with no soft commitment will eventually have their way; but on the corporate side it should encouraged and tied closely to corporate culture and values, to a strong branding and to on-boarding. Based on how this process pans out, both employees and consultants can either feel important contributors to the organizations or just another fly on the wall.

Supportive communication has an enormous importance. How well you welcome and integrate members into the team, make requests for feedback or encourage spontaneous interactions are fundamental elements leadership should consider. It’s important to advocate autonomous work while keeping track of progress.

For that reason, the integration of collaboration tools and project management technology is particularly relevant in the project leader portfolio. A potential tool to help facilate this process is ITM Platform Teambot. This is an app for Slack that enables our user base to review their current projects and tasks, report hours, track progress and interact within the platform without ever leaving Slack’s IRC-type chat interface.

Combining the collaborative power of Slack with the PPM capabilities of ITM Platform is a great example of keeping all project members on the same page, multiplying team interactions and ensuring that project planning and execution are strictly aligned.

ITM Platform Teambot with Slack

2. Stay Focused
When you work from home, losing focus is more of an issue than in an office. No matter how dedicated a worker is to a project, staying on task might become challenging. Avoid this situation by remaining highly professional when it comes to work. Becoming exceptionally organized, and understanding your role on the team. This will help you maintain focus and stay on task with the project, because you will avoid being frustrated with lack of understanding.

3. Be Flexible
Today’s virtual world runs on a global scale. Be mindful of the cultural differences and communication barriers that you may encounter. Anyone who has been on a virtual team understands this issue. While the project is in the planning stages, remain professional. Speak on a professional level, and use textbook English in all written communication. It is important to do this to avoid as many misunderstandings as possible. As the project moves forward, make sure communication barriers are broken down by asking for clarification when necessary. Most businesses will appreciate a question over having to redo a portion of a project due to a misunderstanding.

4. Make sure you have the right tools
All project team members must have access to the right technology to do the job, such as survey tools or company passwords. Remote projects depend on this access almost exclusively to get projects finished. Often, businesses will set up secure passwords for each team member. This way, if a team member becomes dishonest and acts in an unethical manner, the company will know where the breach happened. Be sure to keep your security information secret, only use it to work on projects, and never act in a way that would cause anyone to question your integrity. Make remote team projects work by acting as you would if you were sitting in an office with a boss breathing over your shoulder.

Avoid messy digital communications. Emails, though important, is becoming a thing of the past when it comes to organizing and communicating with your team. With different time zones and locations, continuous email chains become difficult to manage. Maintain productivity by taking advantage of amazing project management softwares such as ITM Platform. This way, you can prioritize what’s best for your business, control project tasks and financials, and use real-time information to report how projects are performing.

5. Connect with your team
Lastly, you should think about ways to reach out and strengthen staff relationships. Oftentimes, remote teams organize staff retreats or even meetups for those who live nearby. If these aren’t possibilities then think about creating fun social media groups via twitter or facebook. This allows co-workers to share funny memes, gifs or videos; all simple ideas to help strengthen the bond amongst remote teams. Why not a virtual happy hour?

If you’re interested in creating your own remote team or successfully managing the one you currently have, sign up for a free trial with ITM Platform. Our team is here to support you every step of the way.

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Great user experience 2018, awarded by FinancesOnline

Finances Online, A reputed business software directory, has recently recognized ITM Platform for setting the gold standard for user experience in our niche. After conducting a thorough review of our project management software solution, FinancesOnline hailed ITM Platform with its Great User Experience award for 2018.

Rising star, awarded by FinancesOnlineAccording to the FinancesOnline review team, businesses can quickly deploy and utilize ITM platform’s various functionalities without breaking a sweat, all of which are available on a “highly competitive” ITM Platform pricing. Having an easy to use platform for managing projects allow for better agile portfolio prioritization, structuring of projects, and managing of financials.

Moreover, ITM Platform has been praised for its integrated features that provide users with access to all major frameworks, activity planning, collaboration and others.

FinancesOnline also underscored our advanced functionalities that help businesses make strategy-aligned project executions, which is one of the most important things to look for in project management software. With real-time data available at your disposal, you can make smart business decisions and stay on top of all your projects at every stage.

FinancesOnline awarded us with the “Great User Experience” award, their project portfolio management category, as their experts were highly impressed with ITM Platform’s overall design and functionalities. “ITM Platform is an ideal solution for managing online projects because of its usability, performance, scalability, and price,” wrote FinancesOnline.

ITM Platform also garnered an outstanding 98% user satisfaction rating on FinancesOnline and received the review platform’s “Rising Star award for 2018”. Positive customer feedback is one of the key indicators that oura business is on the right track, and we aim at keep improving on this front as we remain committed to provide all our users with a better project portfolio management system in the years to come.

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successful partnership, business people cooperation agreement, teamwork solution and handshake of two businessmanIn every career, there’s a range of qualities and personality traits that can make or break your success. Project management is no different—and there are certain characteristics that project managers need to have in order to meet proficiencies in various industries. With the help of a useful software that eases the organizational and methodological demands of the job, project managers can find the necessary foundation of support whilst honing their own regulatory skillset.

Whether or not you have enrolled in a college program dedicated to growing a project management skillset or you intend to independently learn the industry with the assistance of technology, there are specific qualities that need to be exhibited in order to be successful. Some of the desirable qualities include having a mentorship mentality and being tech-savvy, but one of the most vital skills for any project manager is negotiation. Without negotiation, project management strategies both interpersonally and online will ultimately fail, as achieving wise decisions based on an effectual negotiation is the staple of any worthy venture.

Why Negotiation Matters

Negotiation is an essential part of project management due to the on-going nature of negotiating within the projects, and software can greatly improve the systematic fulfilment of project objectives. Both informal and formal negotiations are typical in various scenarios, such as when dealing with providers as they agree to contracts (formal) and having discussions to obtain internal resources (informal). Project managers will therefore need to know how to negotiate and how to do it well for the sake of each step of the project.

Negotiation is vital in many facets of project management, such as conflict management, contract management, and stakeholder management. By being a strong negotiator face to face and online, you will be able to showcase excellent verbal and listening skills while setting and achieving certain goals and limits. Having this skill also means that you know when and how to close the negotiation, which can make a significant impact on the outcome of the project and how your company ranks online.

Tips for Being a Better Negotiator

If you want to develop your negotiating skills, there are many tips to consider. One is that you should always take the initiative and be proactive about your approach. By taking charge of the process, you will have the psychological advantage to shape its outcome. Many strong negotiators often utilize the “anchoring” technique, where you clearly state your intentions early on in the conversation so that your counter-party uses your opinion as their starting point.

Another tip is to use your body language to your advantage. Research in communication shows that a message is transferred 55% by body language, 38% by the way you speak, and 7% by the actual words. This means that your facial expressions and gesticulations can make you more persuasive in negotiation and more suggestive of your point of view.

Negotiation is a daily part of project management, both face to face and online, and it is crucial for people in the field to develop effective negotiating skills in order to be most successful at the job in addition to utilizing available organizational software.

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As a warm-up to our upcoming webinar, we discuss with Mats Malmström the importance of project value and project culture, and how they sometimes get thrown in as an afterthought. Mats is owner of LYM Consulting and a multi-talented management consultant with more than 25 years of experience as executive sponsor, program and project manager.

Hi Mats, let me just say I’m happy to welcome you to our blog and to kick-start our partnership.

Thank you Jaime, I am really excited to work with you at ITM Platform.

What attracted you most of ITM Platform when you first saw it, and what would you say that makes it different to other tools?

I have come across many PPM and PM tools during my years as project manager and executive sponsor. Some of these tools are extremely powerful and provide organizations with the functionality needed to be able to successfully manage projects.

What I like with ITM platform is that it allows you to manage your organization’s projects and programs in one place and to a reasonable cost.  The versatility and the ease of use of the software allows you to manage your portfolio, plan and monitor your programs and projects, communicate with your project team and stakeholders, and get an instant overview of the status of your portfolio and each project individually. Also, it allows you to manage any type of project, structured and/or agile.

“What I like with ITM platform is that it allows you to manage your organization’s projects and programs in one place and to a reasonable cost.” 

Each organization has its unique ways of working. Hence, another important feature in the ITM platform is that you can easily customize the tool to your current processes.


You come from a long career in the Information and Communication Technology sector. What’s your experience of the industry in how it relates to projects? Are there any specific challenges you wouldn’t typically find in other context?

This sector has a long history of applying project management principles successfully. Many companies have a high project maturity with well defined processes. Having said that, in my experience the main challenges many companies have are to follow and adapt their project management practices to be successful in a very disruptive and competitive market. These organizations have invested heavily in their current tools and processes slowing down the process of change that is desired. I have also seen at various occasions that tacit PM knowledge and best practices have been lost as a result of re-organizations.

“The nature of a project is to interconnect and involve various parts of the organization in the spirit of innovation and transformation to reach challenging goals that might not be possible to manage in the current operation.”

Would you say this is changing over time, or are any of those issues long-standing concerns?

These are challenges all organizations in any industry have. Today’s business environment does require organization to be faster and innovative to succeed, that goes for project management practices too.

The key to ensure that your project is generating the maximum value is to align it with the organization’s strategic plan and business goals. The nature of a project is to interconnect and involve various parts of the organization in the spirit of innovation and transformation to reach challenging goals that might not be possible to manage in the current operation. The project performance gives a good indication of how well or bad the whole organization is set up for generating maximum value.

We will discuss what it means to talk about the value of projects with a webinar on January 24. Why do you think this topic is so fascinating?

Expected/ desired/ value has always been a deciding factor for what we do and how we invest our resources. Organizing the work to be done as a project has been shown over the history of mankind as the most powerful vehicle to drive and create value for an organization in a reasonable time frame. However, the notation of value is relative in time and in context. Organizations need a systematic approach to assess, prioritize, monitor and communicate project value, or rather, the value of their investments. It shall to embrace the whole organization.  In today’s knowledge based economy, it is more important than ever to ensure that everyone understands what we mean by value in a given situation to contribute to maximizing value in the project at all time.

I have led cross functional project teams with a consistent focus on value creation resulting in, for example, shorter time to market for new product releases, better margins and break-in contracts.

“Whenever project value is perceived differently or known too late, the impact on results is disastrous”

Perhaps it doesn’t seem like a priority… Do you think there are different perceptions between employees, project managers and portfolio folks?

I would not say that the expected value is a not priority in the project. What happens sometimes is that project value, translated to project goals are taken for granted and the project’s attention is steered towards executing the project schedule and firefighting. I have also seen in projects that value has not be clearly defined and broken down in order to effectively communicate it to the project and all stakeholders. These two situations lead to the project value being perceived or understood differently or known too late.  In some cases, it had a disastrous impact on the project result.

What do you recommend to someone that wants to improve project culture at their organization?

It’s interesting that you mention project culture. Project culture is what I would call the organization’s soul, it ensures a common understanding of the value of projects, and how to work and build the capabilities in the organization to realize that value.

I would recommend that you start with understanding where you are today and from there define what is the correct strategy for your organization. I will share with the webinar participants a simple and at the same time quite effective assessment tool to measure the organization’s project culture.

“Always make sure you communicate project value to your stakeholders. The worst possible mistake of a project manager is to underestimate the importance of communication.”

Are there any don’ts / terrible mistakes?

I would say that you should never underestimate the importance of communication. We as project managers spend more than 80% of our time communicating. Make sure that you communicate clearly the project value at all time to your stakeholders.

I’d like to discuss yet another topic before we part ways. You have experience on both sides on the Atlantic and in LatinAmerica, as well as the US. We know Anglo-Saxon markets are more mature, but what have you learned in LatAm that you wouldn’t have otherwise?

I have met many highly skilled and successful project managers and PMO managers in Latin America leading the implementation of project management best practices in their organizations. The challenges they have are related to the culture and the structure of business, making it sometimes more difficult to get consensus about the value of projects and to develop a strong project culture.

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Magnifying glass, looking at graphs, reportWhy make status reports?

Every project needs a status report , also known as progress report, in which the status of the project is clearly, accurately and objectively reported.

Start feeding your project status reports with live data on ITM Platform.

A project status report is intended to provide an evaluation of the progress and communicate execution details. Therefore, the development of the progress report is of great importance, since it is vital that it be carried out following a predetermined model. Only in this way will the users of the reports be able to compare them with each other:

  • Comparing status reports for different phases of the same project gives you a better idea of the distance covered, analyzing how far future projections from previous phases have been verified or denied
  • Comparing reports from different projects is crucial, especially among similar projects using Gantt charts, to understand where discrepancies between estimates and real data are

If you do not have a reporting model in your organization, you are missing out on the advantage of being able to compare reports. To make matters worse, homogeneous models allow users of such reports to find the information they need quickly, as they know how it’s structured. This is one of the aspects where by a Project Management Office can bring great benefits for internal communication in an organization.

A status report contains a brief description of the main elements of the report, establishing causes and explanations that justify and give context to the data. Metrics and graphics will allow the user to understand the progress of the project in a very short time.

The executive summary: Basis for monitoring a project

This section requires an objective description of how the project is running . The summary should present clearly and simply the most important results of the project, including:

  • Milestones fulfilled
  • Deliverables and quality
  • Risks or unforeseen events
  • Relationship between estimates and real, in at least three aspects: resource allocation, costs and deadlines
  • The difference between the estimated progress and the progress to date. If the date of delivery is considered unrealistic, this alarm signal is the first step to alert the customer and negotiate a new date with him.

On the other hand, the executive summary is very effective for a detailed follow-up of the unplanned challenges that arose during project development, as well as actions to be implemented in the short term , so that any eventuality can be mitigated.

The purpose is to ensure that the project continues on the path to success, delivering the project on time, with the expected quality.

Project progress reporting: steady progress assessment

The constant evaluation of a project is vital to know what countermeasures should be taken to make the project successful. Hence the preparation of this section outlines the most problematic areas of the project.

Likewise, suggestions and corrections can be advanced to solve a specific problem. As the project, often, cannot wait to receive feedback on these aspects, decisions are already taken, so this point can delineate already decided actions.

Registration Template: Project Control

The status report should generate relevant information about the risks recorded. It is advisable to start from a registry template by means of which you can retrieve useful information in an orderly way. This registry template will contain:

  • Project Risk Factors,
  • Probabilities
  • Project impact

You can visit ITM Platform’s free risk assessment matrix to compile this information quickly.

Know all about metrics: Promotes project tracking

Managing a project is only possible if you have the tools to quantify the different parameters involved, offering objective and comparable data. Thus, you can measure, for example:

  • Delivery times
  • Quality of the deliverables, based on the number of requirements included
  • Costs incurred to date
  • Percentage costs over total
  • Amount of unanticipated costs incurred
  • Hours worked, either per worker or by professional category

Result indicator

If the result is not a material product but a service, and the project covers the phases of implementation and marketing, there will be a large number of quantifiable aspects related to the result, such as the number of users, their average cost, and so on. These indicators will serve to measure the quality of delivery.

If you are interested in knowing which indicators you can use to manage your portfolio, you can continue reading these articles:


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remote working imageProject managers and PMO officers muster a highly technical skill set. However, the soft skills in which they need to be well-versed in order to be recognized as leaders have become one of the toughest areas of excellence for any project-based organization.

The problem has become even more urgent with the digitalization of intellectual work: workers and experts can now be brought into a project remotely across countries, languages and a myriad of different cultural elements. How to turn delocalized networks of diverse people into robust teams is one of the standing challenges for a modern project leader.

The stepping stone into project leadership is to find support in the use of technological systems designed to support and enhance intensive collaboration, like ITM Platform’s PPM software.

But besides that, if they want to succeed project leaders will have to recognize that external consultants and remote teams have different support needs than the traditional, internal team members.

Invite all your collaborators to ITM Platform and power your projects with a PPM tool with in-built social communication.

Is project leadership the same as traditional business leadership?

“Project members may feel the disorientation that comes with the lack of a stable home”

According to an already classic research paper, “Transformational leadership in a project-based environment: a comparative study of the leadership styles of project managers and line managers”, the project leader can have the same authority and recognition as the leader in a functional organization; however, the nature of project-based work sets barriers for transformational outcomes.

In fact, many project members unbound to a department feel the nausea or disorientation that is related to the lack of a stable home: a permanent work station; a group of colleagues to relate to and build confidence with over time; or even a geographic location and a predictable daily routine. In absence of all these coordinates of professional stability, leaders will find that it is harder to motivate employees, oversee their careers, and make them understand their place and importance in the overall scheme of things.

Similarly, all modern organizations suffer under the inescapable dooms and benefits of technological innovation: nowadays, a team member can be recruited for a short-term engagement from a different country on the other end of the world. Usually, these relationships are based on the demand for readily available and highly qualified talent, which can literally be found anywhere thanks to the existing collaboration hubs. While this trend was barely emerging in the early 2000’s, it has consolidated as a clear business model with a myriad of online platforms, such as freelancer or 99designs for designers, twago or Upwork for web and software development, or even NineSights or kaggle for innovation and big data contests.

While hiring talent from across the globe is easier than ever, this frictionless environment shifts a strenuous pressure into the coordination needs with newcomers. And, paradoxically, at the same time it's becoming increasingly difficult to retain talent and meet the professional expectations of millenials in terms of flexibility, work-life balance and career development. This guide on working with technology that is suited to millennial culture can help your company overcome this challenge.

Obviously, this pressure then translates into new styles of leadership; and it does it at a time in which often support systems for traditional, site-based project teams are still precarious.

In this context, it’s obvious that team management requirements have changed enormously, shifting away from the face to face authority of the office leader to the need to clearly communicate and align expectations to that kind of loosely coordinated network in which team members come and go.

Most often team members will fulfil specialized tasks, but entire projects with important co-dependencies can also be outsourced. In the latter case, that is when projects are tightly packaged before they are outsourced, the external player will have it easy: he or she shall only need to understand project scope, deadlines and budget.

However, outsourcing tasks within projects and externalizing a part of the project team is a much harder practice in the day-to-day of project leaders. If we go back to the initial metaphor, the leader will somehow have to reconstruct a home (or a temporary albeit comfortable shelter) for the external member so their engagement with the project is guaranteed.

1. On-boarding = constructing a home with corporate values

“Combining the collaborative power of Slack with the PPM capabilities of ITM Platform is a great way of keeping all project members on the same page, multiplying team interactions and ensuring that project planning and execution are strictly aligned”

While many full-time freelancers are likely to feel comfortable in loosely coupled teams with brief touching points and interactions, making sure any new node in the network knows how to proceed is a strong organizational priority.

The home cannot be forced upon the external member: whoever prefers a detached, professional collaboration with no soft commitment will eventually have her way; but on the corporate side it should be all about a seductive approach to persuasion that is very strongly related to corporate culture and values, to a strong branding and to the on-boarding. Depending on how this process work, employees and consultants can either feel important contributors to the organizations or a redundant appendix.

Under this light, seemingly secondary pieces of communication have an enormous importance. How you welcome members into the team, make requests for feedback or encourage spontaneous interactions become central elements to the leadership activity. It’s important to stimulate autonomous work while ensuring that there is a record of all vital progress.

For that reason, the integration of collaboration tools and project management technology is particularly relevant in the project leader portfolio. To support that need, we recently designed ITM Platform Teambot, an app for Slack that allows our user base to recall their current projects and tasks, report hours and progress and send contextual comments into the platform without ever leaving Slack’s IRC-type chat interface.


Combining the collaborative power of Slack with the PPM capabilities of ITM Platform is a great way of keeping all project members on the same page, multiplying team interactions and ensuring that project planning and execution are strictly aligned.

2. Self-management and discipline

“Sustained clarity into the processes, expectations and requirements are of particular importance for remote workers and external consultants.”

Much more than regular employees, who can embed their practices into the dynamics of the organization and rely on daily interactions to regulate inter-dependencies, remote workers and consultants need to self-manage their time and be very disciplined. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t need to follow external leadership: on the contrary, even the most disciplined professionals will be extremely frustrated in the absence of proper project leadership that doesn’t communicate a clear focus.

Although it obviously benefits from the magnetism of charismatic authority, project leadership doesn’t have to be very personal. Sustained clarity into the processes, expectations and requirements are of particular importance for remote workers and external consultants.

3. Strong processes embedded in top-value technology

“The technological backbone is a fundamental pillar of project management processes. Your ITM Platform environment will be the organizational home to your project activities”

Project management instruments, methodologies and templates are the core of a strong policy of validated processes that work throughout the entire organization. A fundamental pillar of those processes is the technological backbone that keeps track of the everyday progresses.

In project management contexts with remote team members, it’s vital to have a tool that covers that backbone and connects communicational needs with planning and execution:

  • Financial management: keeping track of all the costs incurred by the resources allocated to a given project
  • Time tracking: Control whether team members, particularly new ones, are as productive as planned, identify deviations and bottlenecks and assess their cause
  • Planning: Plan projects in the same environment your team members use to report their efforts. Your ITM Platform environment will be the organizational home to your project activities.
  • Communication: Direct messages between members, contextual messages related to any given task or project. The objective is to empower teams for conversations that are permanently relevant because they stored where the work actually happens.

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