Project management is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to remote teams. Hubstaff itself is a fully distributed company and we know how hard it can be to stay on top of things and move forward in an orderly manner.

If you are reading this post, you’re likely thinking of establishing a remote team, or working as part of one. You might have already checked out the most popular remote project management platforms as well, but still aren’t sure which ones to use.

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How remote project management differs from traditional methods

When you’re managing projects and teams in different locations, it can be harder to stay on top of tasks and deadlines. 

Without regular status meetings or seeing colleagues every day in an office, the chance to answer questions or check in occasionally doesn’t present itself as easily.

This is where Agile methodologies shine. By taking a more nimble approach to how your team operates, you can keep work moving without the traditional necessities like traffic meetings or daily status calls. 

Interested in diving into different project management methodologies? Check out our complete guide to project management to see which style best suits your team. 

No matter what approach you take, you need to make an effort to ensure the following stays top-of-mind when establishing your remote project management.

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Timelines and deadlines
  • Project budgets
  • Team engagement

If you stay focused on these different aspects of remote work, your team (and your goals) will benefit.

The strengths and challenges of remote team project management

If you’re used to managing busy teams in a distracting office setting, managing remote projects will feel like a breath of fresh air. 

For one, your team will likely be working when they’re most productive and with fewer distractions. This can be both good and bad. 

Your team might be online at different times of the day, which can make it difficult to schedule meetings or stand-ups. That said, you can usually find overlap even for international teams. 

On the positive side, you may notice your team accomplishing more because they have the flexibility and freedom to organize tasks and work productively. 

Other factors that can influence the success of managing a remote team include:

  • Outlining clear processes for each role and project
  • Ensuring deadlines are set in advance and agreed upon
  • Finding a project management approach that empowers your team to get more done

The good news is that you can find the right tools to make all of these easy and streamlined.

The importance of remote team software

For remote project management, you will need tools that will help your team collaborate easier. Your team should be able to handle tasks in a timely fashion, and be in-sync with everyone. And you, as the project manager, should be able to track the progress of each project and have the necessary information to ensure that everything goes as planned.

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Managing remote projects is a breeze

With the Agile PM software, Hubstaff Tasks

It is important to have a remote project management platform in order to accomplish work as efficiently as possible, while being able to easily monitor progress and costs. Communication is an essential factor in the entire duration of the project as well.

This might seem ambitious, but it doesn’t have to be. The simple truth is that although there are some pretty amazing tools out there, only a few of them may fit your unique requirements. It might be better to combine a set of tools and platforms to manage your remote team project rather than look for a single app loaded with all the features you need specifically.

We put together some of the best software solutions that can simplify task management, improve productivity, and help in optimizing your remote team’s overall performance.

What features do you need for remote project management?

You need to have a clear picture of what you really need your tools to be able to provide. Here are some sample questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How many people will use my platform setup?
  • How many projects can I fit into my subscription?
  • How do I make sure that all communication is in one place for easy backtrack and review?
  • How do I track cost, progress, and delivery?
  • Can I make a full project backup?

There are certainly many other questions you can ask yourself. Every project is different, so is every remote team. Basically, you’ll need to know your team and your work inside and out. You can then correctly determine what you need, and make decisions from there.

A bonus tip

Now that you have a prioritized list of your desired features in a project management platform, finding the right apps will be easier. A quick tip is to create a simple spreadsheet and list them in one column. Use the rest of the columns to rate accordingly the platforms and tools you have found and list their unique features. 

It is also very important to make sure that all these online tools can work together seamlessly. If you are to create a chain of tools working together, you don’t want to have glitches along the production line. So, be sure to create a column listing which tools cooperate with each other one or two ways.

Project management tools for remote teams: The top choices

Now that you have a prioritized list of your desired features in a project management platform, finding the right apps will be easier. A quick tip is to create a simple spreadsheet and list them in one column. Use the rest of the columns to rate accordingly the platforms and tools you have found and list their unique features. 

It is also very important to make sure that all these online tools can work together seamlessly. If you are to create a chain of tools working together, you don’t want to have glitches along the production line. So, be sure to create a column listing which tools cooperate with each other one or two ways.

Project management platform: Hubstaff Tasks

Hubstaff Tasks

Since this is the most important part of our equation, let’s first look at the basis of our remote project management – the platform. Hubstaff Tasks has all the features you’ll need to maintain a steady flow of work. 

Hubstaff Tasks is a team project management software that’s designed to help remote workers collaborate better. It simplifies task management and keeps everyone in the team updated on all the tasks they are involved with.

With Kanban boards and focused sprints, Hubstaff Tasks provides a visual project management tool with Agile principles at work.

Hubstaff Tasks has all the features you need to collaborate better, such as checklists, labels, comments, and the ability to move tasks from one stage to another with a simple drag-and-drop. Keep projects moving with just one click, with Hubstaff Tasks’ custom workflows.

Pricing plans:

Hubstaff Tasks has two pricing plans: Basic and Premium.

The Basic plan is free, and it comes with a complete set of features and allows unlimited projects. It can be used by up to 5 people, and comes with 100 MB of storage.

The Premium plan has all the Basic plan’s features, but can be used by more than 5 people, and has unlimited storage for only $4/month/user.

Time and cost tracking tool: Hubstaff

Hubstaff

One of the toughest challenges of managing remote employees is making sure that no time is wasted, and that your expenses don’t blow through the roof. The perfect solution for this is Hubstaff, a time tracking solution with several useful features for remote work.

Hubstaff accurately tracks how long your team has worked on each task. With its optional screenshot capturing, keyboard and mouse activity monitoring, and detailed dashboards, you can easily see what your team is working on, and how well they are making progress.

With its project budgeting feature, you can set time and cost budgets. Hubstaff will automatically notify you if an employee is about to reach their maximum allowed hours, which allows you to stay on top of your expenses and make the correct adjustments.

Pricing plans:

Hubstaff has three plans to choose from: Free, Basic, and Premium.

The Free plan comes with basic time tracking and activity monitoring features. Best suited for solopreneurs looking for an easy time management solution.

The Basic plan has all the Free plan’s features, plus customizable screenshot features, per user settings, and support for one integration. For teams the size of 5-10 people, starting at $5/user/month.

The Premium plan has unlimited integrations, GPS location tracking, fully automated payments, invoicing, more powerful activity tracking and more, starting at $10/user/month.

Communication tool: Slack and Flock

The next step is choosing a communication tool that will handle all your discussions and online brainstorming. Slack and Flock are two of the most widely used apps in this category.

Both tools are simple and easy to use, and have good free plans. Both allow one-on-one conversations with teammates, as well as custom channels for specific purposes. File sharing and video conferencing are also supported.

Slack supports more integrations than Flock, but both offer integration with major file vaults like Box, Dropbox and Google Drive.

One of the notable differences between the two is that Slack has a cleaner-looking interface. All of its features are easily accessible, but Slack manages to do this without cluttering the menu with distracting buttons.

Flock doesn’t support threads within conversations. Replying to a previous message in Flock sends an entirely new message in the original conversation. Slack, on the other hand, allows you to start new conversations within messages, allowing for more organized discussions.

However, Flock’s free plan is simply better than Slack’s. Flock doesn’t have a hard limit on the number of integrations you can use, whereas Slack only allows 10. 

Pricing plans:

Slack has 3 pricing plans: Free, Standard, and Plus.

  • Free: $0
  • Standard: $8/user/month ($6.67 if billed annually)
  • Plus: $15/user/month ($12.50 if billed annually)

Flock has 3 pricing plans as well:

  • Free: $0
  • Pro Plan: $6/user/month ($4.50 if billed annually)
  • Enterprise: Contact their team for pricing

Which one should you use?

Use Flock if your team your projects are relatively simple, or if you’re looking for just a communication tool with basic integrations. Use Slack if you prefer an easy-to-use interface and need to integrate with multiple apps.

Automation app: Zapier and IFTTT

Automation tools improve your team management experience by connecting your tools with each other. Choosing one can be tricky depending on your unique set of tools, but in this category, Zapier and IFTTT are widely regarded as the top choices.

Both tools have an abundance of hacks to create the integration you need and trigger data exchange. They require a bit of learning investment, but you will be able to get around it in no time.

Zapier can only be used through a web browser, but it supports many more integrations than IFTTT, which makes it a safer option if you’re using (or planning to use) several other apps.

IFTTT, on the other hand, can be used on mobile devices, but has fewer integrations. It isn’t as complex as Zapier, but it’s also easier to learn.

Pricing plans:

Zapier has five pricing models. Free, Starter, Professional, and Professional Plus are for single use. If you’re leading a team of at least two people, Teams is your only option. 

  • Free: $0
  • Starter: $25/month ($20 if billed annually)
  • Professional: $62.50/month ($50 if billed annually)
  • Professional Plus: $156.25/month ($125 if billed annually)
  • Teams: $312.50/month ($250 if billed annually)

IFTTT’s pricing plans are much simpler: there’s a Developer plan, and a Business plan. You will need to contact their team for information on either.

Which one should you use?

If your projects heavily rely on several apps working together to run efficiently, Zapier is the better option. Use IFTTT for smaller projects, or if you only need to use a minimal number of tools.

Complete projects with outstanding efficiency

Kanban boards, Agile sprints, and automated workflows with Hubstaff Tasks

Bonus: Integrating Hubstaff and Hubstaff Tasks

You can integrate Hubstaff and Hubstaff Tasks so you can achieve higher levels of productivity. After you’ve set up your projects and tasks in Hubstaff Tasks, they will appear in the Hubstaff desktop, mobile or web timer app. You can then start tracking the time you spend working on each task by choosing one from the list with just a click.

From there, you can generate detailed reports with the tasks worked on, the number of hours worked on each, and the total expenses. You can also automate your payroll by setting hourly rates for your team, as well as create invoices for clients after a project has been completed.

Before you get started: Things to watch out for as a remote project manager

Whether you choose to go with a single project management platform or a combination of tools, it’s recommended to stick to your selection. Things pay up in the long term, not in the short. Persistence is a virtue.

Also, remember automation (and integration). You want to make communication between platforms and tools happen on the spot, as well as between remote team members. You don’t want to lose track in the middle of your important project.

Finally, keep accountability in mind. Keeping track of progress and cost is vital to a good remote project management. The last thing you want to have on your hands is a project running out of budget before you get an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) out of it.

Narrowing down your choices

Now that you have a list of tools you’re interested in, start taking a closer look at the column listing integrations. There is no point in choosing a standalone beautiful tool that does not work with any of the other tools in the chain. Remote project management is supposed to bring the team to work together, not make it a struggle.

Are the tools you’ve listed free or paid? What is the annual cost and how does it look against your budget and possible product future market value? Can you add other users to the workflow without incurring extra costs? Can you do that further down the project? Are there any geographical restrictions for using the tools?

These and other questions based on your own team will help you narrow down the choice to just a few before you take the next step.

Try before you buy

Before you settle and pay for a particular tool, be sure to take it for a spin and make sure it will do the job you want to be done. Testing is the absolute best way of discovering the full capabilities of any tool.

Also, try out how the tool communicates with the other ones down your production line. You don’t want bugs and unstable or sluggish transfer of data to become an obstacle once you start running the remote team’s project. And don’t be afraid of experimenting with your tools; just don’t do it during a crucial phase of a project.

Wrapping it up

Your decision about which tools you want to use shouldn’t be based on whatever is cheaper, or has a higher number of features. Ultimately, it boils down to which ones you’re most comfortable with, and which one your team can bring out your team’s best performance.

Are there any tools you use to manage your projects that we didn’t mention in this post? What are the most important things you consider when looking for a remote project management solution? Tell us about it in the comments below.

This post was originally published September 8, 2016, and updated July 2019.