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Effective Management of Virtual Teams

In many of our IT projects we are moving toward a model of virtual team project management.  The project manager is located on the US west coast, the business analyst on the US east coast, a technical lead in India, and a data specialist in Japan.  Those are just examples, but very real examples.  We use whatever project management software tools we can to keep the teams tied together.  It's very obvious that as we - and the organizations that we perform work for - try to manage projects in this very global economy we must, in order to meet increasing customer demands, go global ourselves.  It only makes sense, but it's only recently that big business in IT has woken up and gotten the message.

So, how do project managers effectively manage the globally dispersed project team members that we oversee on these engagements that cross several time zones and continents?

The primary concern is communication, right?  Everything on the project centers on communication.  Personally, I've begun exploring the use of Facebook as a tool for project managers.  With more than 500,000,000 active users worldwide, Facebook is here to stay and is growing in popularity in the business sector as a way to draw in customers and as a way for team members and like-minded professionals to collaborate.  I've recently started a group on Facebook titled, "Project Managers using Social Media."  I wish every project manager in the world would join and share great ideas, links, etc.  If you're a project manager - in any industry - and would like to join, just search for it on Facebook or go to this link and click on the "Ask to join group" button in the top right corner of your screen.  It's a closed group so I'll have to add you, but please check it out. 

A group like this allows for great collaboration among professionals and similar groups can be set up for each project you're managing - allowing for quick and easy sharing of materials, ideas, and deliverables for review among project team members. 

Another tool for communication and collaboration on the project is, of course, your chosen web-based project management software option.  Project Insight is a great web-based collaborative tool that is full-featured and should meet your needs when creating project schedules and sharing schedule and other project information with your project team and customer.  Online project management software tools like Project Insight and the many others that are available are critical pieces to the overall communication and collaboration model for the virtual team project environment.  Without tools like this, project success can become very difficult to achieve in this global IT world.  Gone are the days where project schedules are churned out on your desktop software and handed out at formal weekly project meetings.  Things happen now at the speed of light and we must embrace this change and look at new ways to stay ahead of the curve.

Summary

It's all about change and how we flex to that change and how our organizations embrace that change will likely define how successful we are going forward.  Our customers expect flexibility and the ability to respond quickly - no matter where they are located and no matter what time zone they may reside in.  In order to best serve these customers of ours who may be on the other side of the world, we have to look at creating virtual teams to realize our greatest chance of ongoing, regular project success.  The tools are there to help us effectively and efficiently manage these virtual teams and projects, we merely need to familiarize ourselves with them and embrace them.

 

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland, IT/Project Management Consultant

Brad Egeland is an IT/Project Management consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT.  Brad is a married, Christian father of 7 living in Las Vegas, NV.  Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

4 Comments Sort By Date
Anonymous
Anonymous said: Feb 22, 2011 12:01 PM
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Anonymous
Anonymous said: Feb 26, 2011 10:32 AM
That's interesting, however I would like to know how effective you find it using facebook for communication? Wouldn't this translate to more personal use of facebook at work?
Anonymous
Anonymous said: Jul 27, 2011 05:19 AM
I agree. Managing dispersed teams working in different time zones can be such a daunting task. It might be less costly but it's difficult. One of the more difficult situations I believe is that which involves the game industry. Even if game developers write their designs, developers and artists just can't/won't read 50 to 100-page long technical specifications, game design document and art style guides (most difficult). On the other hand, it's fun and exciting because you get to work with people across the globe with different cultures.
Anonymous
Anonymous said: Sep 15, 2011 12:55 AM
I would put it across as- Project Managers are solely dependent on good management tools which give them lot of visibility into project conflicts, overbookings, and under-utilization. Project Management Software delivers new and intuitive experiences in collaborative project management within individuals, teams and the enterprise.
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