I've made no secret in this forum for my support of remote work. It's efficient, cost effective, green, and - IMO - better allows for project manager to effectively manage multiple projects consisting of a geographically diverse resource pool.
However, I'm really just talking about home base when discussing virtual or remote PM work. It's still understood and expected that PMs are onsite with the customer when needed - especially to kickoff the project or to kickoff particular phases like design, development, testing, etc.
I've worked with and for companies where the PM did most of the traveling. Often times, however, the business analysts are the bigger bridge between PM and the technical solution and therefore spend more time traveling. It depends on the customer, the delivery organization, and the specific needs of the project, but usually there is at least one member of the delivery team that ends up doing a decent amount of traveling.
With information based on an article found in InformationWeek in late 2008, I'd like to discuss five ways to best prepare your project road warriors in your organization to be as productive as possible when traveling for work and trying to juggle those various project responsibilities. Now, we'll cover IP Telephony and Disk/Data Encryption.
Enterprise IP telephony has gone from fad to necessity in a relatively short period of time. Voice over IP is one of the few areas in IT where the up-front capital expenditure can be quickly paid back with savings over traditional telecom operating expenses. These potential savings are much greater if you have a large contingent of workers overseas who need to stay connected or home-based office staff. It can be particularly beneficial to PMOs with a sizeable portfolio of projects and project personnel dispersed across the US and/or globally.
Cisco and Avaya are top providers I the unified communications and VoIP space, and both have impressive arrays of products designed for the road and the home office. On the home front, Cisco's Unified IP Phone 7985G should satisfy even the most discerning executive. For video conferencing - which may allow further cost-saving measures by making some of the later-phase kickoff sessions entirely remote - the 7985G has an 8-inch LCD and built-in camera capable of providing 768 Kbps of IP video yielding 30 frames per second using H.263. The built-in two-port, 802.1Q-capable, 10/100-Mb switch allows for seamless quality of service and provides for convenient connectivity to a networked printer at the home office.
Avaya is releasing the IP 9670G Executive Touch Screen phone, which provides full touch screen access to all standard voice-mail system functions, as well as a standard suite of applications. For something more portable, Avaya offers the 3641 IP Wireless Phone resembling a traditional cordless telephone - however it connects to 802.11 a/b/g wireless networks.
Preventing data leakage is quickly becoming a top priority for IT, and there's no better place to start than with staffers who are taking your most sensitive material outside the corporate walls. In today's world, much of the workforce is leaving the office with a $300 piece of mobile equipment in hand that has access to possibly $300M in valuable corporate and customer data. It needs to be protected...no question.
If you own a copy of Windows Vista Enterprise or Ultimate, you already own an out-of-the-box system for full disk encryption via BitLocker. However, for true enterprise-ready encryption and data leakage protection, look to products from companies such as GuardianEdge Technologies, Mobile Armor, and Seagate Technology. GuardianEdge allows you to encrypt the local hard drive and prevent leaks of data via external devices, keyloggers, screen captures, smartphones, and more.
Disk/data encryption won't safeguard you against every possible leak, but it's definitely a step in the right direction of protecting your valuable company and customer data.
We have 3 more ways to equip your mobile project staff (PMs, BAs, developers, etc.). So far, we covered IP Telephony and Disk/Data Encryption.
Now, we'll discuss Virtual Desktops, Remote Office in a Box, and Printing and Power. Again, this information is based on an InformationWeek article from late 2008 and re-worked here to apply more to the project workforce assuming a remote and geographically dispersed team that must travel to customer sites as needed to perform tasks related to design, development, testing, deployment, etc. of planned solutions.
The idea is to ensure maximum productivity to the workforce that is likely largely responsible for most of the organizations project revenue so while budgets must be watched and maintained, there are certain prices that just must be paid.
Full disk data encryption will help IT breathe easier in the event of hacking and theft, but it offers little help to the traveling project manager who just lost his laptop in transit and has a project kickoff meeting tomorrow at the customer site. The wonders of desktop virtualization and advancements in flash memory are bringing new options to on-the-go employees who've experienced digital disasters.
When corporate applications are difficult to deploy via Terminal Services or application virtualization, complete virtual desktops environments can be the answer for off-site project workers who need quick access to custom computing environments from a public PC. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) platforms are bleeding-edge technology in the eyes of many, but they're evolving quickly and are based on proven server virtualization technology.
Remote Office in a Box
Vendors have finally heard the cries of many over the countless hours full of lost productivity and connectivity on the road. The remote office access systems available today are incredible compared to what was available just a few years ago.
Aruba Networks and Cisco are among the players in the remote access market that are making life on the road more bearable. With Aruba's line of Mobility Controllers and Remote Access Points, the days of troubleshooting VPN client problems are gone. Simply supply your mobile workforce with small access points that plug into any wired Ethernet connection. The AP finds the mobility controller located at corporate headquarters and builds an IPsec tunnel that's actually an extension of your enterprise wireless network. The Aruba AP is VoIP-friendly and quality-of-service-aware, so users can put down the expensive hotel phone and simply utilize a wireless IP phone.
Printing and Power
A good printing option for the mobile project workforce is the 5-pound HP OfficeJet H470wbt Mobile Printer. With its built-in Bluetooth and WLAN capability, coupled with its ability to print directly from a memory card, PDA, or digital camera, and powered by an optional cigarette-lighter AC adapter, you can now print 18 pages per minute in color, or 22 ppm in black and white, while stopped at a traffic light. Of course, if you try that too much you may be printing while stopped waiting for the officer to finish writing your ticket.
The HP printer lists for $350 - a small price to pay if you're trying to rely on finding a nearby copy center that is still open late at night when trying to print on the road.
Don't forget it also takes power to maintain productivity. Macs are offering up to 7 hours of battery life on new Macbook models. And HP appears to be leading the way overall with its EliteBook 6930p laptop, which has an optional expansion battery that can provide up to 24 hours of uninterrupted usage.