Using PRINCE2 remotely White Paper
- White Paper
- Project management
- Project planning
- Project progress
April 1, 2021 |
6 min read
- White Paper
- Project management
- Project planning
- Project progress
Many organizations have found it challenging to manage projects remotely due to the pandemic. The world is constantly changing, so it is important to grasp what best practice looks like, while managing a project from home. Although working remotely can be enjoyable, it brings a whole new set of challenges, especially as a project manager.
Working remotely at Axelos
At Axelos, Adrian Crago-Graham, who is Head of the Project Management Office (PMO), is accountable for all projects within the business. He ensures that they have a strong level of project assurance, so that the team are continually learning lessons on how to manage projects better. The successful delivery of a project also includes providing updates to key senior stakeholders inside and outside of the business. Therefore, Adrian spends a lot of time advising project and programme managers (PM), providing insight for new projects, and supporting team leads and directors.
The PMO team have seen a significant improvement in engagement. In the office, people sometimes arrive late to a meeting or even miss a meeting. However, with remote meetings, staff tend to be better prepared, particularly when appearing on video. Although face-to-face is good, if you have a large group, some colleagues might not have enough spotlight on them (this has now been improved by recent updates to most video conferencing software). To increase transparency and engagement within the team, it is important to have cameras on. If team members have their camera off, then the team is unable to gain visual cues when communicating. Adrian believes that a significant amount of their communication is lost with a video turned off. Therefore, the team should be encouraged to turn videos on.
At Axelos, the working from home period has greatly increased the visibility of projects. Prior to the pandemic, the teams often worked from home and had the skills to enable a smooth transition for both the team and Adrian as he also worked from home 3 days a week on previous businesses.
Successfully managing remote projects
For some project managers, working from home might have come as a shock, especially if they were used to going into the office five days a week. To overcome this challenge, there are a range of things the PM can do to successfully manage a remote project. As the PM is responsible for managing and coaching the team, they need to create a comfortable environment, so that staff can still feel engaged and verbalize when things are going well or not. Sometimes, there are different reasons why people might not feel engaged. For example, they might not have an appropriate workspace. The PM should ensure certain measures are in place, use this opportunity to motivate the team, and enable them to see the benefits of the working environment. It is important for the PM to investigate if their team has certain measures in place, such as stable internet, desk, chair, screen, and so on, and if they understand how to use the tools that are in place.
Find a platform the team is comfortable with
When working remotely, it is vital to use a platform that is useful and valuable to the team; the team may not be comfortable with it at first, but gradually it will become second nature. When introducing new elements within a team, the best way is by showing them the benefits and highlighting how their working life can be made easier.
Adrian identified that with Microsoft teams, you can create threads and have conversations with colleagues, you do not lose information and it is easy to refer back as opposed to email. All documents related to the project can be uploaded onto the Microsoft teams channel where everyone has access to it. Various project updates can also be shared there. At Axelos, the PMO team only use Microsoft Teams to communicate, rather than email. PMs should ensure that they have a suitable platform and are utilizing it properly. Ensure that you understand the platform properly; if not, it is advised to seek training. Other platforms such as Zoom are also good for webinars and general workshops, and increase user engagement.
Maintaining project integrity when working from home
The people within the team are the most important entity within the project. To ensure that the project is not hindered while working from home, the team must be happy and feel supported wherever they are.
Meeting structures are important, with a large project such as delivering ITIL 4, there were 15 different work streams. In the PMO department, there is a weekly meeting and an agenda that anyone can add to. This allows the team members to be open and honest in the meetings. In addition to this, PMs should conduct wellbeing checks via meetings separately from work related meetings, as some team members may not be comfortable discussing issues in large meetings. It is important to factor in general conversation to break the ice, otherwise this will not work. The team must feel comfortable when talking to their PM. Essentially, a happy team is a productive team.
How PRINCE2 methods can help manage a project remotely
PRINCE2 methods can be very useful when managing a remote project. In particular, the communication approach is particularly important. More meetings are not necessarily beneficial, as too many meetings can be counterproductive. Rather, the focus should be on how the project operates. This depends on how the individuals communicate with each other. It is important to have multiple touchpoints that should be regularly scrutinized and reviewed. For example, initially x number of meetings might have worked in the beginning, but during the process it might be reduced. Therefore, the meetings need to be effective.
Some PMs have the tendency to undertake the project journey without regularly reviewing the business case, or only reviewing it at the end to ask if the objectives have been met; neither of these approaches are best practice.
Keeping the project on track while working
Although the pandemic has drastically changed the world, remote working should not change how projects are managed. This is based on the project controls and the communication approach.
As a project manager, it is important to have regular touchpoints and have a contingency plan, as well as constantly reviewing the plan.
As a project team at Axelos, Microsoft teams was used as the primary project application. This was enforced to allow flexibility and accessibility, so that a team member can still access documents and folders, regardless of their location. To follow best practice is to adhere to the principle and themes of PRINCE2, regardless of the location. Online tools should be used to make this happen.
By using PRINCE2 methods, managing projects remotely will be easier. Organizations can identify what works well and what keeps the team motivated; effective leadership is key to ensuring this. PRINCE2 principles will help with organization skills and enable you, as the project manager, to support colleagues.
Axelos (2017) Managing successful projects with PRINCE2®, TSO, London.
Projects – creating an environment where work succeeds. Available at:
https://www.axelos.com/news/blogs/march-2021/creating-an-environment-where-work-succeeds [Accessed 9 April. 2021]
Applying PRINCE2 principles working from home. Available at:
https://www.axelos.com/news/blogs/june-2020/applying-prince2-principles-working-from-home [Accessed 8 April 2021]
How to manage a global team working from home. Available at:
https://www.axelos.com/news/blogs/may-2020/how-to-manage-a-global-team-working-from-home [Accessed 8 April 2021]