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Supporting Virtual Project Teams with Communication Technology

A virtual project team is a group of people who work together across geographic, time, and organizational boundaries to accomplish a common set of goals and objectives. Although the needs of a virtual project team are the same as those of more conventional teams, many processes and resources used by conventional teams aren’t available to the virtual team. Only through creative use of the communication technology available can virtual teams perform at peak capacity.

High-performance team members on both virtual and conventional teams must successfully accomplish the following tasks:

  • Share project and team-related information in a timely and accurate manner.

  • Create and sustain trusting and productive interpersonal relationships.

  • Effectively collaborate to perform project work.

Each of these tasks requires effective and timely communication. But, as virtual teams approach these activities, they face these unique challenges:

  • Members may never meet each other in person: Becoming familiar with and trusting each other is more difficult; the use of nonverbal signals and body language when communicating is severely limited.

  • Members may have different primary languages: This challenge increases the chances that people may incorrectly interpret a message.

  • Members may come from different organizational and cultural environments: People’s work styles and communication practices may differ.

  • Members may be in different time zones: People may not be available to interact with each other during certain time periods.

Today’s communication technology can help you and your virtual team address these challenges.

Using Communication Technology to Support Virtual Teams
Communication Need Approach Application
Share project-related information E-mail Sharing factual information; confirming and recording discussions and agreements
Company intranet Storing plans; entering, storing, and reporting on progress data; storing project-management forms and procedures
Videoconferencing Discussing and clarifying issues
Support interpersonal relationships Videoconferencing Introducing new team members; acknowledging team and individual accomplishments
Collaborate on project activities Interactive Web conferencing Discussing technical topics; brainstorming
Videoconferencing Discussing technical topics; brainstorming
E-mail Sharing data and reports

Available communication technology can address a wide range of the virtual team’s routine communication needs. When possible, however, people should meet in person to periodically reinforce their relationships and the team’s focus and identity.

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