Friday, January 31, 2014

The Traveling PM: Conducting Multiple Projects on the Road

When a project manager (PM) is part of a Professional Services Organization (PSO) or a Project Management Office (PMO), there may be a project(s) where the PM needs to travel out of town or even out of the country. When that happens, the busy PM may have that gripping feeling of fear of what to do with all of the other projects the PM is responsible for.  Now, a good PM, when given this project, begins to plan immediately on how to provide the other projects with leadership in the PMs absence.

Your associates and peers should step up
It usually is no secret that you will be out of the office on business. You should be putting together a list of current projects that need support in your absence. Most likely, your associates know all the hot items on your projects since they have probably heard your updates at meetings. In the group meetings that follow, you have to begin laying the ground work and getting volunteers to manage your projects in your absence. Now, there may be one or two projects that in the launch stage. In that specific case, the Business Analyst (BA) or Subject Matter Expert (SME) may be the lead for that project. However, a  you as the PM may be needed to manage the process. So you will have to request help from other PMs who may not have a lot of time on their hands.

I would strongly suggest that the  you first discuss this with the PM’s immediate manager. You need the manager’s support on the plan you have come up with. The manager may know who is busy and who has the bandwidth to support you. With that information, and before the next group meeting, you should speak to the PMs that the you believe can best support your ongoing projects.

You must leave clear instructions in your absence
You must put all of the projects in flight in order of importance and execution. What I mean by that is you must communicate which project is of higher priority and why. Is one project close to signing off on their user acceptance test? Is one project in the beginning phases of execution? Is another project close to finalizing their training sessions? All of this must be documented with the BA and other project team members must be made aware that you are traveling. Also, you must identify the key stakeholders for the client/end-user.

With this documented, and with clear instructions, you can now petition the other PMs with the request of back up and support.

Ensure that you are kept informed
Before leaving for the business trip, leave clear instructions on how to contact you if there is an emergency. After the back-up PMs are identified, you must then communicate the plan to the in-flight project team members with documented communication plans that include contact information. Most likely, you will have contact via email during non-business hours and/or a smart phone. You must note that communication will not be immediate and will be only if necessary.
Once this are all established, then and only then is the PM ready to travel.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.


  1. These good tips are not only for the traveling PM. They should also be used for any manager of a product, team or staff that travels.

  2. Benny - great points and, as usual, spot on. But here is where your experience and mine overlap to combine for greater value. The PM and his colleagues should be making use of the cloud to ensure that there is only one set of files associated with the projects and that they are easily accessible, with proper credentials, by anyone and from anywhere. It does no good to have multiple versions of specifications, schedules or other documents stored on different computers. The traveling PM and his associates should all be working with one truth.

  3. Great ideas Benny, and thanks Joseph for the comments about using the cloud. I clearly need to start making use of that. I have been in denial long enough.

    Benny, some of my readers could use some advice and guidance on setting up a project team...determining roles, selecting team members, developing plans and monitoring them, etc. Can you share some of your expertise on this subject so I can refer them on to your blog?