Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

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Project Management Goes Live With Virtual Team Collaboration

~ By Rachel Lane

Business meeting in a virtual space

Teams make faster decisions using dynamic web conferencing with VoIP and video. The ability to make fast decisions is essential in delivering a project to specification on time and on budget. However, the internationalisation of many projects coupled with a greater emphasis on outsourcing has meant project managers must supervise an ever-increasing number of dispersed and external stakeholders. This can dramatically affect their ability to respond to the many situations that can arise during a project.

Web collaboration technologies enable project management teams to meet virtually with full audio-visual interaction, irrespective of their multiple locations. These solutions work by allowing one team member to share their desktop and its content in ad-hoc or scheduled meetings with their colleagues securely, and allow anyone to access and contribute to the information in real-time. This ability is enhanced through live video and audio conferencing, so the team members can see and hear each other while looking at the same screen.

Faster Decision Making and Issues Response

Empowering project managers with web conferencing technologies enables them to work directly with team members in real time. They can host spontaneous, interactive meetings with regional or internationally based team members to extract status updates or overcome obstacles. The ability of a team to collaborate on a single record vastly reduces the risk of version control issues that can arise when multiple team members contribute in a team meeting. When coupled with the ability to share leader control of an online meeting with a co-moderator if necessary, these technologies streamline project administration and minimise the impact of interruptions during meetings.

Interactive Video-Enabled Meetings

Interactive video-based meetings add significant value to a live project management meeting. Many web conferencing solutions include multi-video display, which allow a number of simultaneous participants to see each other in real-time video windows enabling the face-to-face communication. The ability to have face-to-face exchanges, seeing gestures and expressions increases the effectiveness of communication and can assist in building team spirit, making for better online meetings.

Reducing Planning, Implementation and Evaluation Costs

The ability to host effective virtual meetings greatly reduces the impact of travel costs on a team budget. Team members no longer need to travel as often to meet with other team members, customers or suppliers to assess the project specifications, provide milestone updates or review the outcome. In addition to the direct costs of travel, hours of otherwise unproductive time is recouped.

The latest web conferencing technologies are making expensive teleconferences a thing of the past. The market leaders offer high-quality multi-user speech through VoIP, which eliminates the telephone charges that add substantial cost to conventional online meetings using a separate telephone conference system.

Integrating Web Conferencing into Other Project Management Tools

When evaluating a web conferencing technology, project management teams should seek a flexible solution that integrates with other communication technologies. Many web conferencing systems can integrate seamlessly with project management software and plug directly into the popular telephone and instant messaging programs such as Skype and email and scheduling solutions like Microsoft Outlook. Such integration means users can start instant web conferences directly from their project management tools or from within Skype, and dynamically update their team's Outlook calendars with full details of planned web conference meetings.

Web Conferencing Just as Common as Email

Making a meeting via live web conference has become as common as making a traditional phone call - with the latest systems it takes just a couple of clicks to start a web conference.

Managers looking to improve the communications on their project should take the plunge and test some of the latest web conferencing solutions to see how they benefit their project. Embracing these technologies will assist project managers to improve their agility, ability to maintain oversight and fully resolve issues as they arise. This will save them time and money on travel, be better for the environment and reduce phone costs.

The greatest benefits will come from tools that can be used internally and externally without all parties needing new software installation or pre-configuration. With the right solution, project managers will begin to wonder how they ever lived without web conferencing.


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