Along with the general switch to a predominantly remote workplace comes every project manager’s worry on how tasks will get done in the future. Given the current situation, we find it impossible to predict the future of our projects precisely.
What’s affecting the people who drive the economy will also impact how we manage work daily. We’ve never seen such a rapid extension of events in our lifetime, with millions of people losing their jobs, going from their daily office job to a work-from-home opportunity, and finding new ways to survive and maintain business.
One thing is sure, though: companies are already preparing to face recession and a constantly changing workforce—each in their way.
We’re going to analyze how the beginning of 2022 has changed the face of any predicted project management trends and how you can prepare your project teams for the upcoming recession.
Cutting costs is a top priority
The first path to lower costs was laying off workers for most companies. It’s the end of overly extensive budgets and expenses you could have done without. This also reduced the need for more space to work from, and with everyone now at home, it seems like the 54% of people who’d like to turn this into a long-term opportunity won’t have to be brought back to an office that was already too costly to manage.
However, some things will have to remain, like wages, utilities, and mandatory software you simply can’t do your work without. Faced with this scenario, business owners and project managers will have to learn to prioritize where their money goes.
A good bet is just to assume what your bare essentials are: the costs and tools you wouldn’t be able to deliver work without. Starting with this list, you can narrow down your costs even more by simply considering how much value every spending is bringing in:
Every month you should be reviewing your company expenses to understand whether the decisions you made are financially sound or not. The recurring expenses are the most important here; ask yourself, “Am I getting the full value out of this product or expense?” if not, reconsider this expense. —Eden Chai
Doing this as early as possible will help you get your costs down to the minimum when a recession hits—even if it means not paying for that app you only used once last year. Also, consider how much money you can save by simply having all of your client meetings online and not having to visit their office now that we’re stuck in the digital realm.
EVERYTHING is now digital
All bummers aside, the Internet offers an alternative to everything you could do outside. And projects are now an entirely digital affair. No room with walls to hang out post-its? No worries, use online Kanban boards.
Kanban board example in Paymo
Start your free Paymo trial to test out the Kanban feature on your own projects.
But technology is now more volatile than ever, although many project managers are already familiar with this. There’s a new video call tool coming out every month as if the tech world is relying solely on this. Not to mention every other tool is launching new “remote work” features and Zoom integrations.
You’re probably familiar with tools you’ve been using at the office, specifically for administrative duties like your business’s financial or operational aspects.
Now that the balance between where we log in to work and how we communicate is lost, we’re rushing to get a better project management software suited for working remotely. You can pick your best tool from the list of project tools here. Alternatively, if you’re specifically looking for free software for teams, you can check this top of free project management tools worth a try. And in case you are looking for a solution to manage your business from planning work to sending an invoice to a client, you should consider looking at this list of invoicing software.
The biggest mistake you can make when choosing one is to go with the flow and opt for a well-known one, not necessarily right for your team. But how do you tell if an app is suitable for your team when it’s just been downsized?
Imagine you’d have to do all the work with at least five more team members. Will the tool still scale? How accessible will communication be? Would more data and tasks clutter the tool or create extra confusion?
When turning to a fully digital project management flow, the most critical question you should ask yourself before investing your resources is, ‘How will this work if I had three times as many people on my team?’ When you ask yourself this question, you start to think about the big picture and whether this tool can be a long-term solution or not. Incorporating new digital tools into your company processes is a huge decision and can significantly impact your revenue. Think about whether this tool is sustainable for a much bigger team, and if it’s not, look for a new one. —Eden Chai
Smaller teams, in general, won’t find it as challenging to get accustomed to a new tool, especially if you get everyone involved in choosing that new app. Once you’ve got a team of 50+ team members, you can bet someone won’t even open the app in the first month.
Beyond being a matter of reducing costs and making workflows more effective, choosing a new platform to work with on a company-wide level means you’ll have to sit down and listen to your employee’s needs.
Do they want to switch? Is communication tough with the old tool? What problems do THEY want to solve? So you don’t end up with a communication tool that makes it super easy for them to talk in real-time but crashes every time you want to upload a larger file.
Tweaking your preferred project management methods
Even with most of the work online, project teams are still looking for better methods to manage their projects within scope and deadline. So organizations are expected to become stricter when choosing the right processes for managing work remotely.
Finding a method that works for the team, doesn’t create extra work, and fits in with the company culture that is already there—something that motivates the team. For us, it’s working in agile sprints. So the team can encourage each other while working on the same project rather than having a silo and working on a project exclusively. This improves the quality of the code and delivers the project faster to the client. The team can upskill and learn simultaneously. The best part is that when projects or sprints are delivered, there is a good sense of achievement. —Paula Glynn, General Manager @Pixelstor
For one, the method you’ve already been using can most often be translated into its fully digital version. PRINCE2, the Critical Path Method, and Lean are just three of those with specific tools tailored to their demands.
More companies are expected to switch to Agile, whether it’s for design, development, or marketing tasks, instead of the more traditional waterfall approach that wouldn’t leave much room for changes. Commonly though, most teams turn to Agile, Scrum, Kanban, and even the less popular Scrumban. These allow them to work in iterations and focus on adapting to changing client and market needs [vital during recessions] while also delivering results regularly without the typical delays of non-iterative processes.
How the Agile methodology works in a series of sprints, each followed by team feedback and reviews
What having a set method of work does is ensure team-wide accountability. This is more important than ever within the uncertain environment that an economic downturn brings, but you’ll have to learn to keep track of every individual’s responsibilities.
Many work management software solutions are affordable and can keep everyone on the same page even if you’re all in separate places. Apart from this, they allow managers to analyze all tasks, statuses, and performance levels, preparing you to predict and face fast and unexpected changes.
Even without a definite risk management feature, the role of any project or work management tool during an economically restricted period is to help project managers spot potential bottlenecks and prevent their projects from failing or losing the budget before delivery. In 2019 alone, 63% of companies already included change management as part of their projects, which should only increase as we prioritize any risk and change plans.
Re-building your team
With people laid off, many teams will have to start over. The upside is that the talent pool available now is more varied than ever, so recruiters have more leeway than ever. It’s the onboarding step and those first months when everybody is just doing their own thing because they haven’t figured out the new processes that will take longer to manage.
To prevent this from happening, Domantas Gudeliauskas, a Marketing Manager @Zyro, emphasizes the importance of holding on to your talent:
At this time, it’s imperative to maintain whatever employees you have at the moment. The biggest capital you can have right now is a reliable team member. Personally, I’d opt for slowing down a project if that means keeping employees in their positions. Building an efficient team is difficult, so going into the gig economy might be quite a struggle.
So what will project teams look like?
We’re faced with an unprecedented opportunity for us to bring different departments together. While this used to be a best practice for growth hacking and agile management, more organizations will turn to this to solve the labor shortage.
This takes us to—
Preparing for the boom of the gig economy
The Great Resignation statistics show us that employees fed up with rigid work models and subsequent toxic culture will turn to fully remote gigs or hybrid work models despite job shortages.
Many organizations have already been working with gig workers before the recession and COVID-19 pandemic, whether they wanted to reach out to the best talent pool or just cut down on costs. Even project managers were freelancing before, so companies looking to work with top experts have to be open to accommodating the needs of external collaborators.
This shift does bring in a whole new set of challenges: How will you communicate? What are the legal aspects? How do you make them feel like they’re part of the team?
To face these, start by putting down the entire process from the moment you begin working with an independent contractor to any potential consequences of them ending your partnership.
We cover all the basics when working with freelancers—starting with a non-disclosure agreement. Treat the freelancer like a short-term employee. Prepare onboarding materials or guidelines for them. If you see their potential, keep working with them and provide feedback. It’s much more financially sound to have a great freelancer that you train to produce what you expect. Some patience is required from both parties, but this kind of long-term collaboration is, in my opinion, the best way to work with freelancers when you need support for your team. —Domantas Gudeliauskas
Facing manager worries
Time has been on everyone’s minds lately. Whether we’re asking ourselves, “How much longer is this situation going to last?” or we’re just too caught up with work and always trying to motivate ourselves to work extra hours and hustle our ways out of the situation.
With most companies now remote, managers are finally face-to-face with their biggest concern: What are employees doing with their time?
Time tracking is one of these solutions you might not have necessarily seen as mandatory when in the office. The entirely different present context can give managers the peace of mind they need and keep employees [or freelancers] accountable.
Time tracker in Paymo
Read more on how a time tracker will solve most of your worries, whether they’re related to remote or office work.
In Paymo, for instance, all time entries are automatically registered in timesheets. Then on, managers can put together detailed time reports to evaluate performance, make sure you stay on budget, and avoid burnout.
Stronger project planning
Incorporate historical data to make better time estimates for your future plans, even though they’re likely to change more often in the upcoming months.
As project managers, we learn early on that we do not have a crystal ball, and there can certainly be issues that arise which were not anticipated. Planning can help us control some of those unexpected changes. Planning helps us determine what might happen, and if it does, what will we need to do? Planning includes a series of discussions with the project team (including other stakeholders like vendors, consultants, funders, partners, etc.) revolving around risk, quality, communication, and change. Also, by having these talks, we remain adaptable and flexible in how we respond to those unexpected changes. —Mary Beth Imbarrato, Founder and Owner @MBI Consulting, LLC
Consequently, planning ahead of time and preparing for any potential risks and challenges is the key to keeping worries at bay. Just like the agile methodology is highly focused on using data to back up all changes, analytics and reporting will hold a much larger role in the future. While schedules and resource availability remain the core of any project plan, companies will look for new tools that can offer innovative reporting at lower costs to ensure all KPIs are met with as few issues as possible.
Are you considering switching to a project planning tool? Read our full beginner’s guide to choosing one.
More emphasis on online security
With everything moving online, the issue of cybersecurity is also garnering more attention than ever before. Data breaches and even the personal info of your workers are now at a higher risk than ever since all collaboration is done via intermediary apps. Choose apps that offer two-factor authentication (2FA), don’t let users set passwords that can be guessed easily, and have fast-response support teams to troubleshoot anything in no time.
You’ll also want to instruct your team on the basics of keeping information secure. Here are a few things to advise your employees on:
- Always keep your laptop in sight and lock it before you leave [make sure the password you’ve set is difficult, so it can’t be decoded].
- Change all passwords regularly and especially when you’ve received an email or notification from a website or platform you’re using related to a potential threat.
- Avoid Wi-Fi in public places since it isn’t protected.
- Update your antivirus software whenever a change is available.
- Steer clear from unsafe and illegal software or file downloads.
- Take the time to update all software whenever a new version rolls out.
- Use VPN services like TunnelBear or NordVPN to encrypt traffic.
Start preparing now to face challenges with no issues in the future
Every year we come across new project management trends that might become a reality or not. But in 2022, these trends are changing more rapidly than ever, and we can reasonably assume that any speculation will in many ways become a fact.
So if you’ve been leaving risk and change management out of your project plans, it’s time to start crafting a solid action scheme to prepare for unexpected future challenges.
Above all, we all learn to be a bit more empathic in our day-to-day work. Projects can only succeed when the people on your team are happy. If they’re enjoying working remotely, make sure to accommodate these needs. Future projects result from every individual’s skills and personal values impacting our work.
First published on October 24, 2020.