In many ways, technology has become a strong asset to middle market firms that are competing with larger enterprises. Besides tech applications that improve interactions between company and customer, other applications that allow employees to work together from different locations boost the innovation and responsiveness of companies of any size.

There is, however, a significant complication associated with having far-flung employees work on projects together: Traditional techniques for office management don't apply. In fact, trying to apply those techniques to a remote-team situation will almost surely bring inefficiency, confusion, friction, disengagement — and failed projects.

Here are a few considerations to make when managing a project entrusted to employees in different locations:

  • Rely on a chosen project management system. Members should be trained in and start using the system well ahead of the project. Within the system, employees can post important data and information, comment on progress and make decisions on next steps. This medium is a good hub of communications and opinions while showing how each team fits into the big picture. Rather than relying on email, the people involved have access to a centralized area concerning the project. It also allows managers an efficient means of making adjustments if needed.
  • Teleconferences are the best way to hold progress meetings. A study featured in Harvard Business Review that dissected best cases in remote project management found that the "level of attention paid to soliciting and discussing everyone's opinions makes for a far more detailed conversation than the sort teams have when they meet in person (or via video), where they can be led astray by excessive politeness," as well as body language and other visual cues.
  • The initial team teleconference should set the tone. A manager should introduce the plan and its schedule of deliverable dates so that all members understand the objectives, everyone's roles and the best communication methods. Everybody on the call should introduce themselves and shed some light on their expertise. Because people won't be working face to face throughout the project, it's important for them to get as familiar as possible throughout the series of meetings (which should be held regularly). In fact, overcommunicating is best in order to ensure clarity and prevent team compartmentalization.
  • Limit teleconferences to a few important purposes. As the Harvard Business Review study noted, the project teams that worked best "did not report on the status of assignments during (a teleconference). Instead, most relied on virtual work spaces, posting their work in progress and examining their colleagues' posts in advance." Thanks to the project management system, teams should already be up to date on the overall status of the project. Teleconferences are for hashing out disagreements and finding solutions through the input of every team member. As Harvard Business Review details, "Leaders typically start teleconferences with an unexpected query or bit of news and then introduce a topic they knew would generate some heat." All teams should have a few representatives that give their opinion on hot topics. At the conclusion of the meeting, leaders should outline a road map to the next meeting to break the project down into shorter-term goals.

Remote project management is quite different from traditional office management because it's more difficult to ensure that everyone is on the same page. A communication platform is key to keeping each worker updated, and you want to make sure different voices are heard when everyone gets on the phone. Midmarket companies have the technology needed to run a tight ship, even if half the team is on the East Coast and the other half is on the West Coast. If communication is open and goals are clear, employees will be properly motivated, and your company should have all the tools in place to complete a project successfully.

Is it a good idea to get the entire project team together in person? If so, is this a better initiative to take at the beginning, middle or end of a project? Let us know what you think by commenting below.

Rob Carey is an NCMM contributor and a features writer who has focused on the business-to-business niche since 1992. He spent his first 15 years at Nielsen Business Media, rising from editorial intern to editorial director. Since then, he has been the principal of New York–based Meetings & Hospitality Insight, working with large hospitality brands in addition to various media outlets.