Virtual teams are groups of people with a shared goal who fulfill their roles with little or no time spent meeting face to face.
In recent years the availability of communication technology such as email, audio conferencing, social media, web-based media, and video conferencing has made virtual teams feasible for many projects in places where it wasn’t before.
The benefits of virtual teams are many. But here is a list of the 7 key benefits:
- Form the ideal project team
- Add specialized expertise to a project
- Save money
- Improve Stakeholder Buy-in
- Increase employee morale
- Staff a project 24/7
Form the Ideal Project Team
The main reason you would utilize a virtual team is because the people you want to be on the team are located in different places. In the past, they would have to travel in order to work face to face for the duration of the project. However, today they work in their own locations.
A face to face project kick off meeting would be recommended, however after this meeting videoconferencing and web based communications technology are sufficient to allow people to work side by side over the web.
Add Specialized Expertise to a Project
Most projects could use a bit more expertise to ensure their deliverables are of the highest possible quality. But specialized expertise is hard to find, and when you find it they might not be available to the project.
With virtual teams, you can use an expert anywhere in the world. And that eliminates the biggest variable. There is certain to be an expert somewhere in the world that can assist your project, and teleconferencing technology ensures the distance is no longer an obstacle.
Virtual teams can utilize the lowest cost labor anywhere in the world. This provides additional income in developing countries while at the same time making the project more competitive (if it’s in a developed country). It’s a win-win. Of course, incomes in the developed country will rise over time and eliminate the advantage if the benefits of virtual teams are sufficiently realized.
In addition, virtual teams save money on office expenses. Some examples are:
- Utilizing home offices for project team members and employees who wish to vacate the centralized project office.
- Using office space that is available from other projects or organizations, such as contractors, consultants and so forth. That is, subcontractors can work out of their own offices.
- Moving employees into cheaper offices outside of downtown areas (or silicon valley), and maintaining only a small, core group in the centralized location.
Improve Stakeholder Buy-in
Virtual teams can even increase project success by locating critical team members in critical places. For example, a major supplier might have a representative in the same city as a project team member. These stakeholder relationships can be a very important element in project success.
Some example of this are:
- A software development team is located in silicon valley, but the database manager is located in Seattle, where the database supplier is located, thereby strengthening the relationship.
- A new vehicle design team has a member located in the location of a major parts supplier, where many face to face meetings can take place on short notice.
- A large highway interchange project has a team member located in the state capital, where liaison with the applicable government officials (project sponsor, etc.) is easy and promotes strong client relationships.
Increase Employee Morale
Can virtual team employees be happier than traditional ones, all other factors being equal?
Many employees want the work-life balance that comes with working from home, or working when and where they want (away from the project office). This work-life balance allows project team members to be happier, which makes them more engaged with the project.
Staff a Project 24/7
In theory, every incremental project team member adds a corresponding amount of productivity, but this is not a universal law. For example, if production can be maintained around the clock the time spent waiting for other team members to complete project tasks can decrease, raising productivity.
Not many projects have the ability to utilize round-the-clock labor, but those that do can realize significant productivity benefits. For example, the software industry utilizes 24/7 labor quite frequently.