COVID-19 Guidance: How to Remotely Manage Your Project Portfolio

The Remote Working Challenges

The COVID-19 Lockdown Restrictions have enforced changes to working practices across the UK and around the globe. The challenges of remote working are well known and numerous articles have been published on how to effectively work remotely, and what disciplines team members and managers need to adapt to maintain productivity and a healthy work-life balance. According to a recent Gartner study, there are three key challenges with remote working under normal operating conditions:

1. “Mutual lack of trust undermines remote work good intentions. Stereotypes about what kind of work can or cannot be done remotely lead to unrealistic expectations and underperforming programs.”

2. “Creating a responsive technology infrastructure to enable effective remote work is complex”

3. “Employees unaccustomed to the demands of remote work lose enthusiasm and suffer from loneliness.”

That’s a useful start point, but for the COVID-19 lockdown, the landscape has changed. The perceived “privilege” of working from home has gone, and in its place is an extended remote working phase that invariably encompasses all an organisation’s office-based workforce. Also, the technology challenge has moved from a “good to have” supporting solution to a key enabler for an organisation’s ability to work. Even the final point “losing enthusiasm and loneliness” is now a shared experience and recognised centrally and likely to be addressed via company-wide initiatives.

Remote Portfolio Management

So for portfolio managers the challenges are now about retaining control and maintaining visibility in an enforced remote working environment. It’s worth separating these control/visibility requirements from the three challenges above. To explore the difficulties managers are now facing, we should first consider what working practices have now changed – both for portfolio management and systemic project impacts:

1. Portfolio: At desk chats and updates are no longer possible.

2. Portfolio: No other informal communication channels are available – corridor/water cooler/elevator conversations

3. Portfolio: Face-to-face meetings (portfolio boards / project and programme boards / project team 1 : 1’s) are not possible.

4. Portfolio: No information sharing via face-to-face team meetings

5. Systemic Project: No ability to manage challenging stakeholders face to face

6. Systemic Project: No ability to provide deskside support and floor walkers to support major portfolio change delivery

7. Systemic Project: Project Workshops can no longer be round a table.

Keeping these changes in mind, as we now look at how much remote working is impacting your ability to manage your team, and retain visibility and control of your projects. You may need to introduce a mix of changes to tackle the remote working challenge. These could include:

  • Increased reliance on technology and utilising multiple solutions to cover all communication needs
  • Daily team stand-ups
  • New and more frequent meeting schedules
  • Replace face to face meetings with video conferencing.

Example Gap Analysis:

Previous Working PracticeNew Working Practice
At desk chats and updates.Replace with daily stand-ups on desktop video conferencing (ideally) or audio.Instant messaging, ad hoc video or phone calls
Informal communication channels ie: corridor / water cooler / elevator conversationsVirtual team lunchesCall colleagues regularly for a catch up,Use MS Teams for informal conversationsPossibly set up a what’s app group to keep up communications (non-sensitive information only).
Face-to-face meetings (portfolio boards / project and programme boards / project team 1 : 1’s)Use of video conferencing and document collaboration solution
Information sharing via face-to-face team meetingsTeam meetings over VC
Manage challenging stakeholders face to faceStakeholder management plans to be redrawn.  Stakeholders will be more difficult to manage remotely.  Increased care should be taken to brief and check in with key stakeholders.  Ensure they have a voice and their comments are being handled appropriately.
Deskside support and floor walkers to support major portfolio change deliveryDeployment plans to be redrawn.  Use of virtual comms channels, video training guides and phone calls to impacted users.
Project WorkshopsConferencing and document management and collaboration tools

Roc can provide project and process consultancy to support moves to interim working practices whilst the lockdown restrictions are in force. In addition, Roc can provide remote working collaboration solutions that integrate process improvement with technology solutions, such as workflow automation, collaboration products and desktop video conferencing including WebEx, Skype and Teams.

If you would like to know more, please email