Virtual Teams and Virtual Project Management

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Like it or not, the marketplace is becoming global and many companies are taking note. The world is represented by a technological environment that changes at unprecedented speeds; seemingly overnight. The Internet and collaborative software have made it easier and faster to communicate across vast distances. Many companies have switched to complex and flexible organizational structures that allow them to operate competitively in a world shaped by globalization and the information revolution. Downsizing, outsourcing, and employee empowerment have become facts of life in the climate of many organizations, while job security is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. The survival of many organizations depends on the ability of the organization to rapidly change its structure, culture and products to match the changing demands of the environment. [1] This ever-changing environment has set the stage for a new dimension of project management…

Project Management (PM) is the discipline of planning, organizing and managing resources to bring about the successful completion of specific project goals and objectives. [2] This is hard enough to accomplish when the project is within a single department of a company and all team members are located on-site. Now, take all the stresses and difficulties normally associated with a project and scatter the team members all over the place; possibly in different countries and time zones. Wow, now it is really difficult and challenging to meet the three main goals of Project Management: time, cost and performance. With the scattering of the team, you have thus created the Virtual Team and the need for Virtual Project Management (VPM). Peterson & Stohr define the Virtual Team – aka Geographically Dispersed Team (GDT) – as “a group of individuals who work across time, space, and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. They have complementary skills and are committed to a common purpose, have interdependent performance goals, and share an approach to work for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” [3]

Peterson & Store list seven basic types of Virtual Teams: [3]

Networked Teams consist of individuals who collaborate to achieve a common goal or purpose; membership is frequently diffuse and fluid. Parallel Teams work in short term to develop recommendations for an improvement in a process or system; has a distinct membership. Project or Product-Development Teams conduct projects for users or customers for a defined period of time. Tasks are usually non-routine, and the results are specific and measurable; team has decision-making authority. Work or Production Teams perform regular and ongoing work usually in one function; clearly defined membership. Service Teams support customers or the internal organization in typically a service/technical support role around the clock. Management Teams work collaboratively on a daily basis within a functional division of a corporation. Action Teams offer immediate responses activated in (typically) emergency situations.

The focus of this paper will be on Networked and Project/Product Development Teams, as these most closely relate to this class and are the most prevalent in the virtual world of PM. The team does not have to be spread all over the globe for the project to be considered virtual; however, this paper will assume that is the case.

Why Virtual Teams?
In addition to some of the ones mentioned previously, there are several reasons and benefits that drive the formation of virtual teams. People can work from anywhere at any time, which allows employees with the required competencies for the project to be located anywhere in the world and still participate. It offers employees personal flexibility, and a flexible organization is more competitive and responsive to the marketplace. The global workday is 24 vs. 8 hours, which allows companies to keep up with the increasing...
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