July 27, 2017

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Working With Virtual Teams – Useful Tools

Working with virtual teams is a challenge that many project managers are facing today. Virtual teams are individuals or groups who dispersed geographically, but work together to accomplish a common goal or a project scope. These teams may have limited or no face to face interactions. Though the team members may be physically located in different geographies, they share a common goal and have roles and responsibilities defined like any other project teams.

virtual teams
Working with virtual teams is rapidly becoming a standard and is no longer an exception. Although the cost benefits of having virtual teams is a primary factor and business justification for working with virtual teams, knowledge availability is also a key driver. Sometimes the required knowledge and skills might not be available locally or at one place. In such cases a virtual team might be a very good option. Similarly, virtual teams are also created to address time zone related requirements i.e. where round the clock work is required. Then work is shared between teams located in different time zones.

Tools (Technology) for Virtual Teams

Let’s look at some tools that facilitate working with virtual teams. Useful tools include software, hardware and the underlying technology that supports or enables them. The tools also include the innovations in network infrastructure which is the backbone for virtual teams enabling organization to operate in a true border-less ecosystem. These tools are primarily technology driven and facilitate collaboration and communication between teams.
Collaboration Tools

Collaboration tools enable virtual teams to accomplish the common goal. Virtual teams need to interact in the same manner as other traditional teams, the collaboration tools facilitate this interaction. Collaboration tools include:

  • Enterprise Wiki – Wikis have been hugely popular with the open source and development communities for quite some time. However they are also being adopted to be used at an enterprise level. The main feature of a wiki is that it allows online collaborative editing of documents thus making it an ideal tool when working with virtual teams. Wikis also allow synchronous collaboration rather than asynchronous collaboration.
  • Document Management Systems – Document Management systems allow storing, sharing, archiving and retrieval of documents. As virtual teams are located in different physical locations a centralized document management system provides an efficient mechanism to share documents. Most document management system also allow implementation of role based access so that enterprises can implement appropriate security policies. Document management systems can be implemented in-house like using packaged applications like sharepoint or can be used implemented in SaaS model over the cloud like DropBox.
  • Resource Virtualization –  Virtualization is the technology of creating virtual computing resources from a limited resource. Although this is not exclusively a tool for virtual teams, they can utilize the virtual and parallel computing features in a secure virtual private network to work seamlessly in parallel. Examples include VMWare and Oracle Virtual Box.

Communication Tools

Communication tools are more focused on information sharing. They facilitate information dissemination across the organization and beyond its boundaries in a secure,trusted and a reliable format.

  • Meeting and Conferencing – A critical set of tools that facilitate the functioning of virtual teams are virtual meeting and conferencing tools. Since the teams seldom will have have any face to face interactions , they must be able to setup meetings virtually.  The meeting and conferencing tools should have capabilities beyond just voice transmission. They need to be able to transmit video and should have features for document and screen sharing as well. A face to face interaction can be substituted by a video conferencing call. WebEx from Cisco is a good example.
  • Enterprise Messaging Systems – Enterprise instant messaging systems allow a quick communication between two or more members of the team. These are quicker and more economical than a communicate over traditional voice technologies. Most Enterprise instant messaging applications also allow voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) functionality for voice chats.
  • Enterprise Portals and Blogs – Blogs and portals are quick ways of publishing information to a wide and a physically spread out audience. Since they do not require any code and most of them have out of the box setup and configurations, they are both cost and resource effective. Discussion boards and forums should be part of this system to encourage an interactive participation.

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About the author: Sam Palani, (PMP), is a Senior IT Project/Program Manager and Technology Management consultant, specializing in managing enterprise projects and technology initiatives. Sam blogs about his experiences in project management and technology on his blog www.aroundthechaos.com. You can also follow him on twitter: @samx18

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Comments

  1. Good Post Sam.

    Really enjoy your perspcetive on project management.

    Sococo’s team space is a group communication tool that was created to facilitate and foster communication within teams. Check us out at http://www.sococo.com.

    Disclaimer: I am employed with Sococo. Prior to this I worked with a large offshroe team, where we had to interact and collaborate for a few hrs everyday. I joined Sococo because I see it as a definite solution to make virtual communication more seamless and less stressful.

    thanks

  2. Another tool that’s very helpful, maybe even essential, for a dispersed team is a virtual presence tool. Such a tool can help team members have a sense of working in community that is often missing when working remotely.

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