Faculty of Commerce
Executive MBA Program
Prof. Aly Messallam
23 November 2012
In the current competitive market, virtual teams represent a growing response to the need for rapid solutions to complex organizational problems. Virtual teams enable organizations to pool the talents and expertise of employees and non-employees by eliminating time and space barriers. In the AEC (Architecture / Engineering / Construction) industry a number of individuals collaborate and work jointly on a construction project. The resulting group has large pool of expertise and experience and can be defined as a Virtual Team formed for the duration of the project. These individuals are electronically networked where IT and web based communication technology play an important role in coordinating various activities of the project. This paper discusses the importance of virtual teams and the application of virtual teams in AEC industry. The advantages and disadvantages of Virtual teams are illustrated by a real example from the field. The example is taken from a major real estate development firm with projects over the Middle East. The firm is operated by virtual teams that combine team members to work together from different parts of the world (United States, Italy, United Arab Emirates and Egypt). The virtual team under study was formed to work on a multi-billion project in Egypt (i.e. north coast). The paper illustrates how the virtual team is formed and how team members communicate and interact with each other. Also, some of the drawbacks associated with virtual teams are discussed briefly. Moreover, the example describes the factors that affect the team effectiveness and efficiency. At the end, the paper presents recommendations to maximize the benefits of the virtual teams within the AEC industry.
Globalization and technological advances in telecommunications and networking, together with the increasing emphasis on flexible working and work/life balance issues, have generated an increase in the growth of remote and virtual working in many organizations. This is revealing a set of unique challenges to the ways we work and communicate and has propelled the issue to the forefront of managers’ priorities. When addressing these issues, managers are often confronted with a lack of consistent guidance on “best practices” for justifying, organizing, supporting and evaluating the new way of working in a virtual environment. Continuous improvement of electronic communication for more than two decades has enabled individuals to collaborate over distance with greater effectiveness due to the increasing ability to send greater amounts of information, at faster rates of transmission. No longer is it compulsory for teams to be collocated in order for members to exchange ideas in a timely manner towards group tasks. Teams are reducing the frequency of physical meetings, sometimes not meeting face-to-face at all, collaborating via electronic methods, which has become more widely known as working virtually. For many, collaborating virtually, or in virtual teams, has become a normal part of conducting business, either as formal structures within existing organizations, or on an ad-hoc task dependent basis, with varied success. Organizations are currently facing important and unprecedented challenges in an ever dynamic, constantly changing and complex environment. With the rapid development of electronic information and communication media in the last decades, distributed work has become much easier, faster and more efficient. Responding to the increasing de-centralization and globalization of work processes, many organizations have responded to their dynamic environments by introducing virtual teams that...