Cutting IT Costs with Virtual Teams Managed Remotely
When it comes to Information Technology (IT) we live in a connected world. Communication is easier than it has ever been and modern IT devices (smartphones, tablets and computers) have communications as a prime function. This allows for new ways of working, flexible and always connected. This has given rise to companies that operate virtually.
Virtual Servers Have Cut IT Costs, Now Cut Overheads with Virtual Teams
Teams can be spread out in wide geographical areas yet still work as if sitting in the same building. Consider the fact that when working on a project most of the time you are sat at your desk. Why waste time and resources bringing teams together each day when you can managing them remotely. When the project budget is tight save money by using self-employed engineers and organizing them using modern communications. Of course some projects will require traditional single location teams. It is about picking the best way to run a project for the bests results at the right cost.
Here are 10 pointers for cutting IT costs using virtual teams.
1. Virtual teams needs a good team manager.
In fact all teams need a good team manager. The team manager is the most important element in the virtual team. The team manager is the hub around which everything happens, especially in keeping the lines of communication open, the project infrastructure working and the goals in sight.
2. If possible get the team members together occasionally.
Why does the team need to get together when it is supposed to be a virtual team? The answer is that we are all humans and need to establish trusting relationships. Meeting people face-to-face achieves that. Getting together at the beginning of the project is especially important as this is when the team manager lays down the rules and lays out the project plans. The rules deal with team operation, communication, processes and infrastructure. The project plans deal with the goals and milestones. Sometimes getting together is impossible and virtual team building and individual visits may be required.
3. Clearly communicate responsibilities and expectations.
The team manager must ensure that every team member is busy with their tasks, knows what is expected and when it must be delivered. The team must communicate issues with roles and tasks early. If members swap tasks because of personal preferences or abilities the manager needs to know so future work is apportioned appropriately. Likewise the team manager must spot any buck passing and ensure that a blame culture does not emerge. The buck stops at the manager, he is ultimately responsible for getting the team to complete the work.
4. Provide rules for individual communication and team meetings.
The successful teams communicate and understand what is going on. However, communication needs to be focused and clear to achieve that. Individuals must understand that meetings have a purpose, agendas need to be followed and actions noted and performed. When operating across a time zone communication should be schedule to minimize disruption to social life. Members must not be distracted during communications and must be aware of others social customs as to not cause offence.
5. Make sure everyone is working with the correct kit.
The team members must work efficiently, that means proving they have the right kit to do the tasks given to them. They need to have fast and reliable communications (fast broadband is a must). If kit is to be provided is it going to be returned, and it must be kept in a safe location.
6. Establish a regular working pattern.
The team needs a rhythm, regular tasks should happen at agreed intervals, corresponding with staging posts and milestones on the project plan. There must be a work flow to the team’s output. The manager can monitor when work is delivered. The flow can be continuous for teams operating globally as work comes in from some team members it can be continued by others. Ensure that deadlines and time patterns are adhered to so that the workflow is not disrupted. This will contribute to team harmony.
7. Agree on the main communication language and any terminology.
It is usually English when operating over a wide geographical area. Any misunderstandings with language and terminology should be communicated to the whole team. Everyone needs clarity to prevent unnecessary errors occurring due to poor grasp of terminology. A glossary should be maintained if required.
8. Encourage social communication and team cohesion.
Outside of day-to-day formalities get the team talking with chat clients (e.g. Skype) or on a social network. Encourage the setting up of a team page. Post pictures of physical team meetings. This reduces the feeling of isolation and promotes team building. However, make sure everyone is aware of security issues. A chat about the sports teams they support on a social network is fine, but leave project issues to the formal team meetings.
9. Positive Feedback and 1-to-1s to improve performance.
Give praise when its due and let the whole team know who has performed well or improved processes and creatively solved problems. This should encourage others to contribute above and beyond. For those that are not performing address it quickly and individually. Ultimately a poor performer must be replaced to prevent a negative impact on the project.
10. Deliver the final product or service at the agreed price.
Of course the team must deliver the goods. It is no good operating a virtual team with the aim of cutting IT costs if that does not happen. It could fail entirely, fail because it delivers late, or fail because the cost savings were not made. If the team manager has been implementing the points above then the delivery will happen and the whole team can share in the feeling of achievement.
Could Cutting IT Costs with Virtual Teams Work for You?
If you are looking at new projects would they be suitable for a virtual team? What traits does the project need?
- The project scope needs to be clearly defined.
- The tasks to be completed well defined.
- The project management needs to be strong.
- A good team leader should be available.
If your project appears suitable you may be able to cut overall project costs by using virtual teams. Maybe you have a project that needs to be readied for a virtual team to take on.
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