What is Virtual Team Management, Anyway?
Virtually team management is the management of teams that consist of people who are often geographically dispersed (often resulting in 24 hour work days to accommodate the global time zone differences), work in different cultures or organizations, are flexible and often highly skilled, and who communicate digitally (telephone, video calls, email, cloud-based tools, etc.).
Why Consider Team Management in a Virtual Setting?
Virtual teams are becoming more and more popular as technological advances, tools and techniques become more refined. There are a number of benefits to having teams work virtually, to include:
- Flexible schedules (work gets done 24 hours/day, vice 8)
- Innovative technologies
- Competitive through responsiveness to business demands
- Reduce travel expenses
- Reduce physical space requirements
- Increase talent resource options (global reach, vice local-only talent)
While virtual teams have a number of benefits, there are some potential downfalls, too. For instance, challenges will arise if you don’t have clearly defined project roles and responsibilities for each team member, along with established team objectives so that it is clear as to what the team (as a whole) is working to achieve, and how each member is expected to contribute to that achievement. But honestly? That is a downfall that holds true for all teams – virtual or not! More important yet, though, is that this is an obstacle that is easily overcome with clear and concise desired outcome definitions – see my previous post that talks about this!
Team communication, cultural awareness, sensitivities to other team members, technological infrastructure and knowledge-sharing can all be challenges when a project manager has to perform team management within a virtual environment. Again, this would also hold true for any environment, though – virtual or not. With technological advances such as cloud computing and the vast availability of knowledge-sharing systems that are now free or low cost (Google Drive, Google Voice, Skype, Asana and Trello, for instance), these are issues that have multiple ways of being overcome – if your organization is open-minded enough to use the technologies available today. You can still do your project management utilizing the larger, more complex tools (MS Project, Primavera, for example), but if you do not yet have a distributed way for all team members to access virtually – and simultaneously, then breaking work packages down and using tools like Trello or Asana may be the way to go – and you can use them for FREE!).
Virtual teams are an asset with the ups far outweighing the downs. To further prove the point, just look at the results Hewlett Packard (HP) had within one year of going virtual: HP saved $800,000 a year in compliance costs and $200,000 a year in avoided costs and faster delivery times through the use of virtual teams. [Source: Snyder, B. (2003). Teams that span time zones face new work rules. Stanford Business Magazine].
As a project manager performing team management in a virtual environment, you may have to get creative with your approach to resource management, but the technology is there like never before, and the feasibility is better than ever!
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If you have days where you feel like you’ve just wasted a bunch of time unnecessarily, you probably have. There really isn’t a nice way to put it. Don’t feel defeated, and definitely do not keep “going through the motions”! There are better ways – more efficient ways! Spare yourself from further time loss frustration, and start being more efficient! There are a number of free tools out there that can help improve your business process management methods to make them more efficient, and save your time for more important tasks! Today, I’m going to focus on using Google Docs – an awesome and completely free tool option that anyone can use. Check out these 17 ways you can become more efficient in your business process management workflow simply by using Google Docs to help you out:
- Set up a “Getting to know you” survey for new customers, clients, new teams, or new employees to fill out. This saves time for everyone, and compiles the inputs of everyone in one location. If you choose to share this information with others, it is as simple as sharing the link. If you wish you keep it private, though, you can!
- Set up a survey to obtain customer, employee, or team member’s feedback. This will also result in having all of the information compiled together in one place, so you can see if there are any overarching themes, or areas requiring deeper exploration.
- Set up a form to solicit your peers and colleagues as means for obtaining fresh ideas, and email the link to anyone you are seeking input from. You can keep this open so that it can be an ongoing “brainstorm” of ideas that you and your team or colleagues can collaborate and build on over time, and kept in an easily accessible place for all to use.
- Set up a Sheet to track key articles or information you want to save for referencing later, or to share with your team. This could also be an area to track key contact information, too.
- If you are trying to set up an event of some sort, you could track reservations via a Sheet or Form. This would work for a team Potluck lunch, a team-building trip, or a local training event. You can set up payment tracking options, preferences, and anything else you’d like to know! You can also set the sheets to be color coded for results, for example set it up so that red displays for those not going, while green displays for those who are.
- Are you responsible for sales or marketing? This is another way to track your prospects, who you’ve reached out to, when you’ve last reached out to them, and information on where you met/found them, etc.
- Want feedback on something you’re working on? Perhaps you’d like feedback from colleagues or your team members on a new website design? Set up a survey to obtain peer feedback, and share the link with everyone you’d like to receive feedback from. You can keep it open and collaborative, or quick and one-time entry only.
- If you are hosting a live learning event of some sort, you can use Google Docs to serve as a live input tool for participants to provide their input, notes, questions and comments, then provide the link to all attendee so they have the rollup of all inputs, questions, answers, highlights, key notes, etc. This is a great way for everyone to benefit from not only the live event, but from each other, too!
- Develop a survey to obtain the “before” benchmark before any learning event, and then provide the same surey after the event, to determine how successful it was in teaching the intent.
- Use a survey with a shared link to collaboratively allow your customers to build up the potential topic of your next Webinar / Teleseminar / Google Hangout / Skype session for them.
- Generate a “Help Topic” list for customers (especially on membership-type sites) where they can add topics and areas where they are seeking more help and information. You can then track your exact follow-up with each of them to keep them satisfied, track your own response times, and more!
- Survey your audience (clients, customer, fans) to determine the types of devices they have in their homes, how often they use them, which social networks they belong to, and which online sites they visit most (blogs, podcasts, etc.) to improve your understanding of their needs, the kind of tools they use most to consume your information, and to find out where others’ like them may be hanging out!
- Hold asynchronous brainstorm sessions for teams, or colleagues preparing to do a summit together regardless of the time zone they reside in. Nice, right?
- Set up a sheet to track desired professional development options, such as conferences, conventions, training courses, and then check off as each area is covered, obtained or achieved.
- Use Google Docs to track different applications or tools you are considering using. You can do a complete compare and contrast based on tool type, and continue to build upon it as needed.
- If you are like me, and do a lot of book reading for continuous growth and learning, you may find it helpful to track the books you read, along with key summaries of each. You could also make this information available to your team members so they can have a ready-access list of resources in areas they’d like to learn more about, or allow them to share the books they’ve also read!
- Use Google Docs to serve as your sign-up sheet for preparing a collaboration with other businesses (such as an online summit, for example). This will ensure each core area is being covered, and will provide the specific topic title and the person that will be covering it, so you can immediately see status of who you have signed up, and what is left to fill.
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