Project Management and Virtual Teams

Most ERP implementations are performed by teams comprised of existing staff, new hires, and possible external consultants. Each team will have its own set of dynamics based on the knowledge and personalities of the people involved. The task of providing staff for a project generally falls on the project manager and project lead, who have to be savvy to build teams that will address the issue at hand. Selecting the right mix of people, with both technical and nontechnical skills, is a decision that can influence the outcome of a project.

Although a project manager should strive to acquire the brightest and best, project team members should be chosen based on a number of criteria, including technology skills, business/organization skills, and interpersonal skills. The size or scope of the project will determine the size of the team. Although smaller teams have the potential to work faster and develop a project in a shorter time, larger teams can provide a larger knowledge base and different perspectives. Unfortunately, there is also a tendency for larger teams to function more slowly. One solution to this latter problem may be creating subgroups to make the project more manageable and to facilitate communication and action.

In today’s project management world project managers in professional services type organizations are managing many projects at once and the team members that make up those project teams are working on several projects at once as well. To complicate matters more, often some – if not all – of the resources are working from locations that are nowhere near where the project manager, or even the customer, are located.

Virtual teams are groups working across time, geography, and organizational boundaries by employing the Web and other communications technology. In large companies, workgroups are often comprised of employees in distant countries. Small companies, operating on lean budgets, may decide to outsource different functions overseas for economic reasons.

When organizations elect to create virtual teams, they focus on the potential advantages, such as the diversity of the team, or the potential for “round the clock” productivity with employees working in multiple time zones. However, companies must also be aware of the challenges that accompany virtual teams. For these groups to be successful managers will need to develop and apply new skills in order to cultivate a virtual team. For example:
• Clearly articulating team goals and individual roles. While this may seem like Management 101, many managers underestimate the importance of goals and roles for virtual teams. Setting clear objectives helps a workgroup to maintain team identity and connection to other members. Clearly defining roles helps individuals to understand what work they need to accomplish within the overall goals and processes of the project.
• Coaching remote employees. Effective managers coach and mentor their staff. With virtual teams, however, this can be more difficult. Managers must make a concerted effort to reach out to remote employees and identify ways to promote individual development.
• Creating the technological infrastructure needed to facilitate communication. Virtual team leaders must be proficient with the different technologies which support communication between group members. Senior management needs to understand how important it is to have an infrastructure where communication can occur anytime and anyplace.

Without a doubt, the advent of virtual teams has helped to make the world a little bit smaller. These workgroups hold a great deal of potential for companies in terms of productivity and cost savings. At the same time, virtual teams have also created opportunities for managers to learn new skills and grow as leaders. Organizations that acknowledge the unique characteristics and needs of virtual teams are much more likely to reap their benefits.

References
– “Change Management.” BusinessBalls.com. Retrieved from http://www.businessballs.com/changemanagement.htm
– Egeland, Brad. (September 4, 2012). “Managing Diverse Teams on Remote Projects.” Retrieved from http://www.projectinsight.net/community/blogs/online-project-management/archive/2012/09/04/managing-diverse-teams-on-remote-projects.aspx
– Johnson, Gene. “Managing Remote Teams.” Retrieved from http://www.fairhavensolutions.com/wpmrt.pdf
– Jones, J. Aguirre, D. Calderone, M. “10 Principles of Change Management.” Strategy+Business. Retrieved from http://www.strategy-business.com/article/rr00006?gko=643d0
– Marchewka, Jack T (2009). Information Technology Project Management. (pp. 111-122). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
– McHenry, Karen. (July 21, 2008). “Managing Virtual Teams.” Retrieved from http://management.atwork-network.com/2008/07/21/managing-virtual-teams/
– “What is Project Management?” Association for Project Management. Retrieved from http://www.apm.org.uk/WhatIsPM

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