Key Topics:Remote Work, Project Management
There’s little doubt in my mind that project management is a hard job. Despite this I stuck at it for over 20 years before becoming a consultant with the aim of helping others to learn from my successes and mistakes. In 2018 I ran a project with teams in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. The issues I encountered were more fascinating than the project itself, but left me convinced that remote work was the future and I published The Remote Project Manager in June 2019. Little did I know at that point what was shortly to come.
How did you get to become an expert in your key topics?
I’ve been in project management for over 20 years and run projects in a wide variety of business areas including IT, Business Change and Marketing. I’ve managed just about every size of project, from a few hundred days to a team of 170 staff spread over three continents. I may be well be able to claim that I was one of the first experts in remote work having run a home working pilot for a large UK insurer in 2005 to determine if staff could work productively from home for one day per week. The participants in the trial felt it was a huge success but senior management didn’t agree. To be fair the range of communication and collaboration tools available now hadn’t even reached the idea stage back then. Following that I’ve managed a number of projects with offshore teams and then in 2018 ran a team as a remote project manager based in the UK with teams in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. It was a really inspiring challenge and led me to publish The Remote Project Manager in June 2019 where I predicted that Remote was the future of collaborative teamwork. Events have proved me right, but rather more rapidly than I’d anticipated!
What sub-topics are you most passionate about?
Lots of subtopics within remote work. Hybrid work is the term being banded around by everyone right now but I feel very strongly that most companies are taking the wrong approach which is far too office-centric, when a model based around remote work and meet-ups is a far more productive way of doing it.
One particular beef in project management is the macho and controlling approach that is still endemic in parts of the industry. Project management is about persuasion not beating people over the head. The England Football Manager at Euro 2021 was a perfect example of how to manage successfully without screaming at people!
Who influences you within these topics?
In project management, I like reading Elizabeth Harrin’s blogs but there is so much good material out there that it’s hard to pick individuals out. This really is even more the case for remote work where there’s a torrent of material out there with both ideas and real experience being written up all of the time. I follow Hrishikesh Pardeshi from Remote Clan and have really enjoyed attending the remote work conferences set up by Running Remote.
What challenges are brands facing in this space?
It’s clear that a ton of venture capital is being poured into remote working tools. For instance, at the last count there were over 400 project management tools available and new packages for communication and collaboration are appearing all of the time. It can’t really carry on like this and eventually many are going to fall by the wayside, but it is exciting to see the degree of innovation going on. For companies looking to go hybrid or fully remote, the challenges are to organise themselves well and make use of the right technology to optimise performance and retain good staff. There’s a lot at stake here – the better companies can save huge amounts of money on office space – the second highest expense for most companies – while simultaneously increasing productivity. A finance director’s dream. It represents a massive opportunity for those brave enough to embrace the change.
What do you think the future holds in this space?
The immediate future will see a continued rush of innovation for suppliers of remote work tools. In the longer term a shake down is inevitable. The behemoths in this space – Microsoft and Google will continue to enhance their remote work offerings, absorb some of the innovators and accelerate the shake down in the market. The future looks bleak for big cities who are going to have to adapt to a lot fewer workers commuting into work and using the services on offer there. Office rentals are likely to fall with a lot of office space left sitting empty. Offices are likely to become homes to meeting spaces where teams can get together periodically rather than permanent or hot desks. Apartment rentals in San Francisco and New York are falling as people leave the big cities. Rural and coastal communities are seeing a boost with former city dwellers buying up properties to work remotely. Communities everywhere will see changes that no-one could have visualised happening only 18 months ago.
What brands are leading the way in this space?
Companies like GitLab with over 1300 employees and not a single office are leading the way in remote work, others will follow. I really like some of the smaller companies who are launching products in this market Remeet are trying to revolutionise meeting culture, Employee engagement is key whether you go fully remote or hybrid and 15Five is a superb package for this. Companies should look to reduce dependence on the knowledge often held in a few key individuals heads’ by building knowledge bases and Notion and KBee look good in this space.
If a brand wanted to work with you, which activities would you be most interested in collaborating on?
I’m open to participating in podcasts, webinars, whitepapers, speaking opportunities, product innovation, video interviews. I always find it fascinating talking to new companies in the remote work market. I’m regularly interviewing their owners and am happy to provide feedback on their products and how well I feel they sit in the market.
What are your passions outside of work?
I’m a keen (my wife says obsessed!) tennis player – getting out on the courts 3 or 4 times per week. I’ll watch pretty much any sport, but particularly like football, rugby, tennis and Formula 1 motor racing. I support Queens Park Rangers FC in the English Championship with the pandemic allowing the opportunity to watch every single game they played in 2020-21 without leaving my sofa, but I’d much rather have been in the ground watching them live. I live on a canal in England and am helping the charity who run it raise £200,000 to buy an all-electric trip boat (all contributions welcome!). I speak OK French but keep trying to expand my vocabulary and enjoy attending a French conversational group weekly. Finally, I’m trying to write a novel – infinitely more difficult than producing a non-fiction book – I’m in awe of those who have succeeded. And somehow I find time to enjoy life with family and friends as well!
What would be the best way for a brand to contact you?
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