Establishing virtual teams can often seem like a relatively simple process, and as such many organisations jump in without really taking the time to plan things out, their process seems to be as follows;
- Identify that you believe you need a virtual team
- Determine where is going to be most convenient and appropriate for your team to be based
- Determine how many people you need in your team
- Hire or deploy the people into your team
- Assign work to your team and watch them get on with things
Establishing Virtual Teams
Reality, sadly, is often far from this simple. Decisions to move to a virtual team structure are, on occasion, made more for emotional or peer pressure reasons than for genuine business imperatives, managers of businesses or projects feel that they may get some savings or need to keep up with the competition and head down the virtual team route without necessarily considering if it is really right for them.
Returning to the list above, things to consider at each of these steps, and this is an extremely simplistic list, where reality is more complex and involved;
Why do you need a virtual team?
This is the single, most fundamental question that needs to be answered before any other, just why go to the trouble of establishing virtual teams if there are ways the work can be performed. Can it be done with your current arrangement, could you hire more staff at your main office and execute the work there? or could you outsource the entire job to another office for execution? If the answer to all of these is “no” then you are potentially in the right place to initiate a virtual team for your tasks.
Where can I base my virtual team?
Determining the location of your virtual team will depend largely on the nature of the work, the reasons you are establishing virtual teams in your organisation and what your organisation’s current structure is. If you need to access specific skills only available in one or two places then logically this is where your virtual team will be, if the work could be done almost anywhere but you are seeking to reduce costs it is likely you will be looking for a low cost centre, and if your organisation already has offices somewhere else and you intend using those to be your virtual team, then you can move forward on that basis.
If, however, you have freedom to choose, my suggestions would be to look for the following; reasonably close time zone proximity, shared language skills and shared standards and practices, if you can find all of these for the location of your virtual team then a number of the potential issues such as communicating over large timezone differences and different languages will be addressed before you get started.
What size should my virtual team be?
Determining the size of your virtual team will be dictated by the volume of scope they are assigned, virtual teams vary in size from a couple of colleagues working at distance to hundreds or even thousands of people working at distance in two or more locations. There is great value however in having a a minimum of couple of people at each location as a minimum. This gives them local colleagues to work alongside of, as well as providing cover for regular meetings should one of the team members be ill or on vacation. As the teams get bigger the management of the work becomes more complex, these issues are however outside the scope of this article.
Answering the remaining two questions should be relatively obvious once you have worked through the first three issues outlined above, but even there vigilance and consideration of the effects of decisions needs to be allowed for, establishing virtual teams is not an easy task. Should you wish to discuss your plans to establish a virtual team, please contact us, we will be very happy to discuss your needs and provide potential solutions.
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