The Opportunities Provided by Virtual Team

In an increasingly globalized economy, businesses are looking for innovative ways to drive down costs while maintaining an organic and authentic presence in markets worldwide. Particularly in areas where linguistic or cultural norms are unfamiliar, having local team members can help to streamline and accelerate the process of sustainable organizational development.

Even enterprises contained in one location are finding ways to use virtual teams in their strategic planning. These teams connect over the Internet, mediated by the latest conferencing technology and empowered by a growing abundance of wireless connectivity. Using virtual teams allows enterprises to tap professional resources worldwide.

 What Challenges Are Involved in Using Virtual Teams?

 Cultural Fit and Cultural Sensitivity

Introducing personnel from outside a company’s home geography — team members who might never meet their colleagues in person — presents complex issues including misunderstandings related to culture. Intention and meaning may be misunderstood, and this can be magnified when communicating online.

Technological Compatibility

Technological compatibility between central systems and end-user systems at the periphery of operations is truly essential. If globally distributed virtual teams are unable to access the same resources as “fixed location” personnel, they will not be able to contribute to their utmost, regardless of what skills they might bring to the table.

 International Time Management

Time and space introduce their own complications. If a contributor is several time zones away, he or she might have limited opportunities to communicate with colleagues even when this is facilitated by technology. Operational strategy needs to incorporate new processes and paradigms for ensuring efficiency and coherency of effort across distance.

The Role of Project Management in Virtual Teams

These challenges can be mitigated via development of a cohesive project management approach for dealing with the nuances of international and virtual efforts. Both communication and trust are different in virtual teams; leaders must account for this in both their policies and their style. Virtualizing teams represents a new business model and a long-term learning process. As long as the enterprise maintains the flexibility and focus to integrate lessons learned, implementing virtual teams is the gateway to significant competitive advantages. Let’s explore some of the crucial benefits of these teams when well-managed.

 The Benefits of Virtual Teams

Greater Access to Technical or Professional Proficiencies

Often, virtual teams can take advantage of technical or professional skills, such as software development, at cheaper rates than those prescribed by the local market. Though there is a trade-off in terms of granular control of the team and its long-term development, this is often offset by savings in the context of a short-term or mid-term project.

 Reduced Physical Space and Improved Corporate Greening

Virtual teams may also be appropriate for enterprises seeking to streamline their physical footprints. While payroll is often the largest expense in an organization, rent and utilities also represent major overhead. While some companies are successful using temporary space, removing the need for office space entirely is the most comprehensive solution possible.

 Improved Leadership Capital and EQ for Central Leaders

Managing international virtual teams has advantages for leaders in the central location. Technology-mediated communication is challenging, and working with these teams can naturally enhance project management skills, cultural sensitivity and overall emotional quotient (EQ). This contributes to the development of valuable soft skills that can strengthen an enterprise.

Better Preparation for International Expansion

When international virtual teams are fully integrated into business operations, they represent an important window into the norms and nuances of their local markets. Simply having a virtual team can help the organization gather important intelligence and lay the groundwork for further expansion in a given country or region.

International virtual teams offer a tremendous opportunity to innovate and accelerate processes throughout an organization. From small businesses to Fortune 1000 enterprises, leaders are looking at new ways to integrate talent beyond borders. Project and program managers should ensure they have the competencies necessary to inculcate best practices among diverse stakeholders — across time, space and culture — to align all team efforts with the strategic vision.

Learn More

Founded in 1948, Brandeis University is an internationally recognized research institution with the intimacy and personal attention of a small liberal arts college. Brandeis University is pleased to offer its M.S. in Project and Program Management (MSPPM) in a convenient online format for working professionals interested in project management.


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