This article shares best practices for supply chain leaders to implement to ensure successful remote projects.

Process changes are abounding in response to a persistent global pandemic and social distancing guidelines. Although the ability to meet in person ceased in spring of 2020, the need for supply chain projects was only exacerbated, driving companies to pivot to digital means of managing projects that would affect positive process changes in their supply chains. Many companies feared that important projects would not be able to move forward with the inability to meet with stakeholders in person, but remote project management is not impossible, in fact, it may be part of the future.

Key Remote Project Management Challenges to Anticipate

The first and most glaring challenge that companies will face when transitioning to virtual supply chain projects is the difficulty establishing a personal connection with project stakeholders. It is no secret that seeing first-hand the processes and facilities at the center of the project and establishing a rapport with the leadership are critical first steps in successful project management. Although teams are restricted in their abilities to meet in person, being able to accomplish those goals is still paramount.

Another key challenge that comes with remote project management is video conferencing burnout. A full day of in-person meetings is its own hurdle but talking to your computer screen for hours upon hours can be mentally and physically exhausting. In order to maintain the overall wellbeing of your team, and in turn productivity and motivation levels to ensure a successful project, it is important to find ways to combat video conferencing burnout while still accomplishing the necessary communication goals for the project.

Combatting Remote Project Management Challenges

While there is no secret sauce to mitigating the challenges of remote project management in the supply chain, there are several tools that can be of great benefit.

Leveraging video technology is a great way to allow all key project stakeholders visibility into the incumbent processes. Many companies have turned to using Go Pro cameras, which can allow in-depth video viewing of any facility or process in action. While seeing something over video may not be exactly the same as seeing it in person, there is an added advantage of being able to go back to that video, pause, rewind and hone in on certain areas as necessary throughout the project.

In order to maintain a good rapport among the project team, tools such as Zoom Video Communications, Microsoft Teams and the myriad of other video conferencing options are crucial. Encouraging the team to use their video cameras can help to mirror the feeling of meeting in person, increase attentiveness and foster a more personal connection with all parties involved in the project.

While it is important to leverage video communication in order to connect as a team, avoiding virtual meeting fatigue is crucial. Rather than spending six to eight straight weeks in planning-intensive meetings, it can be helpful to strategically place segments of individual work time throughout the project. Having a couple of meeting-heavy weeks, followed by a couple of weeks of individual work can not only help to avoid burnout, but can allow for the identification of gaps and challenges in between meeting times for more efficient and effective problem resolution.

Remote Project Management – Does it Work?

Many companies have opened their eyes to the importance of supply chain projects as market-wide supply and demand changes have increased the need for efficiency. While remote supply chain project management may not be the ideal scenario, it is certainly possible. In redesigning processes to better meet the needs of a digital project, companies can uncover new ways of managing their supply chain projects that could even continue to be utilized once in-person projects return. With the right amount of determination and creativity, remote project management is a viable solution to the enduring global pandemic and its associated restrictions.

Amit Kirpalani is a Director in enVista’s Supply Chain Solutions Practice. Amit has over 18 years of experience in supply chain technology systems implementation and program/project management. His experience ranges from managing/directing warehouse management system, labor management system, and Visibility software implementations to software selections. Amit has worked in a variety of industries, including Retail, CPG, Food and Beverage, 3PL, Direct-to-Consumer and Wholesale Distribution.