Virtual Project Teams & Their Problems. In times where the world has become a global village, the way of doing things has changed drastically. For instance today when someone introduces a person as their colleague it may not necessarily mean that they are located in the same office. In fact they may be working together in one team from two different continents. This has become possible due to a phenomenon call “Virtual Teams”.
A virtual team can consist of people who are located in different offices, building and even continents. The team members coordinate with each other through various means of technology; have virtual meetings, share work on emails or shared file systems in order to achieve their targets and goals.
The concept of virtual teams is being very much used for software projects nowadays. Companies are now hiring highly talented people in different parts of the world to work in virtual teams to work together in developing single software.
In order to manage a virtual team one also needs a Project Manager that has the required skills and ability to ensure that the project schedule is followed properly and that all deliverables are submitted on time with complete requirements.
- 1 Problems in Managing Virtual Teams
- 2 Important Tips to Manage Virtual Teams Effectively
Problems in Managing Virtual Teams
Having worked on various projects with people from many different counties as a “Virtual Project Manager” I feel that there are a few major problems that need to be dealt with properly in order to successfully complete a project:
No Formal Training
Since virtual project team is a relatively new concept therefore it’s somewhat difficult for Project Managers may find it difficult to manage people in virtual teams. This is not because they lack the competencies to manage a project team, but related more to the fact that there is no such formal training give to these Project Managers. Virtual teams are essentially different than co-located teams and thus the principles of managing them efficiently & effectively are also different.
I think the second & biggest problem with virtual teams is the lack of communication or direct communication to be exact. It can be due to the fact that team is not co-located or because of language barriers. Because of these issues it is difficult for the Project Manager to ensure that each team member has the same understanding about the project requirements which can lead to project delay or complete failure.
Information sharing is another very important aspect as this is what keeps the Project Manager informed about the actual status of the project. Since everyone has to share the information on their work therefore if effective information sharing rules & procedures have not been decided, the Project Manager will have no clue on where the project is headed.
Commitment& Focus is another problem with virtual teams. Sinceall the team members are working at their own locations in their specific time zones, therefore it’s sometimes becomes hard for them to maintain a focus on the target & create an environment where one is self-motivated to complete their work properly and on time.
Important Tips to Manage Virtual Teams Effectively
In order to deal with the said problems here is a list of my essential tips to effectively manage virtual project teams:
Establish team objectives
Clearly define & describe team objectives in a written document that is available online to the team all the time. This way every team member will know and understand what is required from them as individuals and as a team, creating a synergy among team members & a productive work environment.
Establish ground rules
Always establish ground rules on Day 1 of the project to avoid any problems at any stage of the project. You should define things like work hours, team meetings schedule, turnaround time, information sharing procedures etc. so that no one has any confusions from the beginning. Setting ground rules will also help in establishingyour authority over the team and will help keep all the team on track.
Having an effective communication plan is fundamental for every projects success. In virtual project management a Project Manager needs to be extra proactive in communications.Createopportunities for your team members to interact or talk with each other both formally and informally over chat, phone or video calls. Have regular team meetings over video conferencing as it gives a feeling of being co-located as everyone can see everyone else.
Make effective use of chatting, video conferencing & project management tools so that the team can bond over work & also have a personal relationship with each other. This will help in creating a very healthy & productive environment, reducing the communication gap between the team and also with the Project Manager.
Shorter Tasks Assignment
When assigning work to virtual team members you need to be very Be precise and clear. Instead of assigning huge tasks and wait for the project deadline, it is better to divide the tasks in smaller bits and assign them one by one. This way you will be able to monitor project progress more effectively and avoid chances of delays at the end
People you work with may be from different countries, having different cultures and complete different time zones. What is convenient for you might not be convenient for your team. As a Project Manager you need to be sensitive to all these aspects. Try to understand the problems and personalities of each of your team members so that you can manage the team in a way that makes them feel comfortable & motivated.
In order for your team to perform at maximum productive levels you need to make sure that you constantly monitor their progress but do not go overboard with it. Make sure you implement proper systems and that everyone follows them. Have somewhat flexible hours but ensure that everyone is putting up their required hours and no one is slowing the other people down. Track the progress of each team member on the schedule given to them for each task, give them feedback at the end of each task and have regular meetings with them to ensure that they are on the right track.