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Virtual Teams – Definition, Management and Benefits

Eric McConnell
April 29, 2010

What is a virtual team, how to manage it and why

Managing virtual teamsDue to the streamlined development of information technologies, today many organizations prefer building virtual teams and remote groups and establishing outsourcing projects by means of virtual team management. Internet technologies allowed us to get in touch with remote team members who are in different locations. You can use various means of virtual team communications to see tasks and work schedules of your colleagues. The importance of virtual team management takes the primary role when you need to control the effort and time of remote workers. Let’s find out what a virtual team means, how to manage it, and why we need it.

What is a virtual team?

The definition of virtual team is relatively new.

A Virtual Team (aka “virtual workgroup”) is a group of people who participate in common projects by making collaborative efforts, and for the purpose of achieving shared goals and objectives. They perform tasks and jobs in a virtual work environment created and maintained by means of IT and software technologies.

The term often refers to teleworking teams, or those groups of people who use telecommunication technologies to share information and co-operate and collaborate with each other. Virtual team management is the foundation for managing virtual/telecommunication teamwork.

There are two types of virtual teams, such as follows:

  • Global Virtual Team. Members of such a team can be located in different countries and cities all over the world. They can be employees of several companies which join their efforts and resources (incl. people, technology, money) in order to perform common outsourced projects and achieve shared goals.
  • Local Virtual Team. Members of a local virtual workgroup usually belong to one and the same company. That company is either big or small, and it has enough resources (technology is essential) to establish and maintain virtual team working and organize its employees into a productive remote group.

What is virtual team management?

The combination of activities for assembling, building, organizing, controlling and supervising the virtual teamwork is called virtual team management. It is the essential part of project team management.

Virtual team management includes, but not limited to, the following processes:

  • Assembling. Probation periods are the first measurements to be applied when starting with remote teamwork organization. The team leader should decide on those people who had met all the requirements of probation periods.
  • Training. During this process, the team leader sets expectations as to future virtual teaming and then develops and applies a group training methodology to teach the team members how to meet the expectations.
  • Managing. This process means using telecommunication technologies to manage ongoing tasks and jobs of remote group members.
  • Controlling. The team leader establishes performance measures to assess and evaluate team performance. This person needs to find out whether the team is on the course and can achieve project goals on schedule.

These are the major processes of virtual team management. However, there can be subsidiary processes that allow understanding the virtual teams phenomena better.

What are The benefits?

Some of the advantages of virtual team management are (but not limited to) the following:

  • Reduced rents and technology savings
  • Lower transportation costs and less time spent on commuting
  • Instant communication and information exchange

Some of the disadvantages of virtual team management are (but not limited to) the following:

  • Poorer control of virtual groups (this may result in reduced trust in virtual teams), because there are no direct control tools
  • Problems to establish good virtual team leadership (comparing to “physical” team leading)
  • Unfitness to the projects which require on-site control and management

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