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Managing A Virtual Team Effectively ®,

--By Shantanu Bhamare, PMP MBA Email : In response to a seemingly ever-changing scenario and a global working environment, we are frequently called upon to manage a virtual team. As you may already know, the “virtual” in virtual team refers to the method used by team members to communicate, i.e. the internet. Ideas, reactions, thoughts, etc. are zipped back and forth, perhaps across continents, in seconds; and to some it may appear to be an internet game. It is not. Personal misgivings aside, the Virtual Team is here to stay. It is one more item in our tool belt helping us to remain competitive.

In this article we will answer some of those frequently asked questions about a “virtual team”: 1. Why does this situation occurs? 2. What are the type of Virtual Team ? 3. What are the rules of Virtual Team ? 4. What are the challenges of Virtual Team ? 5. What are advantages of Virtual Team ?

1. Why does this situation occurs ? Some of the reasons for implementing a virtual team are : a) Large-scale projects b) Infrastructure issues at current location c) Non availability of skills sets at current location d) No of people required are not available at current location e) Part of the project is given to 3rd party vendor f) In a project there are more than one vendors g) Other circumstances

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What are the type of Virtual Team ? a) The project manager is at one location and all other team members are at a different location. The spider’s shape provides an illustration.

b) A Project Manager at one location and the group of team members at more than one location. The butterfly is a good representation of this circumstance.

c) A Project Manager & few of team members being at one location and all other team members are at different location. The blister beetle provides an excellent representation.

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3. What are the rules for a Virtual Team ? a) There should be a clear purpose and focus. If you don't have this, doesn't help you get the job done b) Unless all the participants have worked together before, you'll have to allow for a time when they get to know each other

4. What are the challenges of a Virtual Team ? Managing virtual team effectively is a challenge for several reasons. Some of which are : a) The level of Team experience / maturity b) Team skill sets c) The available communication channels d) The degree of communication complexity e) Trust f) Relationships g) Cultural differences h) Geography i) Time zone difference (s) a) The level of Team experience / maturity Project Managers must consider the maturity of each team and their respective work experience(s). There should be a good mix of junior staff, senior personnel, project designers and a project leader. Having a Project Leader at each location helps Project Manager to make him responsible for the work at that location. Project Leader is also responsible for providing updates on activities and issues to the overall Project Manager. a) Team skill sets The types of skill sets found at each location is important. Project Managers must consider if the location can work independently or in isolation. Off-site teams with special skill sets must be well-utilized.

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b) The available communication channels : Typical communication channels include email, telephone and video conferencing. In the project planning phase, a communication plan should be developed, which should lay out which communication channel(s) will be used and how at which interval, who all should be part of the communication distribution, etc. c) The degree of communication complexity As the number of team members increase, complexity also increases proportionately. Project Managers must pay attention to increasing communication channels between the members and do some thing about it to see that there are no communication gaps. d) Trust : All team members must have professional regard for fellow teammates. There must be respect for one's skills, knowledge, experience and ability. Each member must also have a personal regard for their peers, a genuine respect for one's values and integrity. It is imperative that all follow through on commitments and promises and that functional and/or technical knowledge is generously shared. e) Relationships : All team members must Emphasize on "commonality"—areas where you and your employee share backgrounds, interests etc. Project Manager should always stay in touch with Project Leader of each location, and Project Leaders must stay in touch with their team at their location as well as with other team members at other location. Project Manager also should focus on clear communication and on making sure your instructions are understood. It is important to show concern for your team and be generous with praise when it is deserved. f) Cultural differences Project Manager should be aware of differences in cultures and work habits. He shouldn’t stereotype. He also must listen actively and emphatically. g) Geography : If different teams are located in proximity, Project Manager can think of collocating them whenever possible. h) Time Zone Difference : If teams are in multiple countries, time zone differences come into play. In such cases a suitable time must be identified, and agreed upon by all affected teams to facilitate communications.

5. What are advantages of Virtual Team ? a) Project resources can be selected based on the person(s) who is best suited for the project b) Team formation does not involve relocation costs c) Occasional technical experts can be added to the team regardless of their location and without the need for travel expenses

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d) Exchange rate between different currencies that are potential providers of a particular project resource might make a resource in the country with a favorable exchange rate appear to be exceptionally low priced

Virtual Team- A Practical Case Study. A particle case study of my actual project where I was managing virtual team of size 100+ people. Following are the step-by-steps activities I performed as I managed the team and the project. a) Identification of Team skill sets & experience: First thing I did is I met with team members at their (home) location; assessed their skill sets and level/type of experience(s). I identified and appointed a team/project leader at each location, assigning them the responsibility to manage that location. b) Project scope briefing & responsibility: Project briefings were conducted at each location so that all understood the entire project, not just the work given at that location. Also, at those briefings, I described the responsibilities of each of the other locations ensuring transparency to all. c) Communication : A daily routine “status call” of all project leader of each location was planned to take updates, decide plan for next day, discuss Risks / Issues / Interdependencies, etc. Also I made calls to other team members (not to team lead / project lead) on a random as a dip stick to take corrective action if any. d) Document management system : We used document management software to: share documents across teams, track versions of the documents, and to maintain document control. Document management control ensures the entire team member has same version of all the project documents. e) Team Directory : A Team Directory was created and distributed containing Name, Role, Email address, land line and mobile numbers. Such a directory helped team members understand each other’s role and encouraged personal communication. f) Work type : As previously mentioned, using a virtual team for design work in a large project is difficult when there are interdependencies. For this reason, I instituted bi-monthly design workshops. Designers from each site were collocated to discuss interdependencies of design, resolution of those interdependencies, and how each was formulating their design. My goal was to ensure that all designers were on one page. After each workshop, participants returned to their work site and completed designs. On occasion, and when required, teleconferences for designers were arranged to discuss any persistent issue or problem. It’s important to note that coding and testing work were done in isolation after designs had been completed. Note: Rather than collocating designers from the various locations to twice-a-month scheduled design workshops, another option would be to assign design work at one site only. That particular option is available if, and only if, all the required expertise/skill sets, etc. © 2012 Shantanu Bhamare, PMP®, MBA

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reside at that particular site. Further, it also depends on the type of project. If the project is one of client / server then it is possible to assign the server work to one location and the client work to other locations. If the project is one of components development, then components can be distributed as per each location’s skill set and capabilities. Whichever method is used, I firmly believe that the remainder of the work construction: coding, testing, etc. must be done at other locations. g) Team Motivation : I used to visit each site at least once a month, instilling a sense of belonging. I also used these opportunities to motivate the team and encourage more output. Party : Last but not least, small celebrations were held at each site after accomplishment of major milestone. Later I gathered “one and all” at one site for a “major blast” at the end of / go live of the project.

About the Author ®,

Shantanu Bhamare, PMP MBA is a Project Management Professional (PMP) certified by Project Management Institute (PMI), USA. He is a Bachelor Of Engineering in Computers from Pune. He has also done Diploma In Advanced Computing from CDAC, Pune, Mobile Computing from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay & MBA in IT & Finance ICFAI. He is currently working with IBM as a Deputy General Manager. He has 18+ years of professional experience in the IT industry on software projects enabling a wide variety of domains such as eCommerce, CRM, Telecom, Finance and New Product Development. He has been Program Manager for series of Product development and Programs, working for three different continents, projects with diverse work cultures, projects executed remotely and different organizational models with leading teams in the range of 300+ resources directly. Varied onsite, offsite and offshore experience for domestic and international clients like TD Canada Trust (Canada), Deutsche Bank (Philippines), Globe Telecom(Philippines), Vodafone Essar (India), PSS Medical Inc. (USA), British Telecom (UK), GE Health Care (USA), Abbott (USA), MCI (UK), Accenture (USA), SalesTech (USA), Dell (USA), Cisco (USA), Fujitsu(USA), IOCL(India) covering all aspects of scope-time-cost-quality-resource and risk management. He presented this topic “Managing Virtual Team Effectively” in PMI’s Global Congress in Melbourne, Australia in February 2010. He got appointed as Vice President of PMI Pune Chapter which is affiliated to Project Management Institute (PMI), USA in April 2008. He is the International Award Winner "Volunteer Leader Of The Year 2008-Asia Pacific Region" given by Project Management Institute (PMI) USA. Shantanu got recognized for his outstanding commitment and leadership to the PMI Pune-Deccan Chapter and PMI Global Operation Center. He got recognized at Leadership Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA in © 2012 Shantanu Bhamare, PMP®, MBA

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October 2008. Where leaders across the world come together and share each other experience, issues in each region, discuss on best practices in each region and set vision for PMI for next year. PMI also selected him to be a part of Content Contributors & Content Reviewers on the teams to update and rewrite PMI’s most influential global standard: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Forth Edition. It’s an American National Standard ANSI/PMI 99-001-2004. He represented PMI Pune-Deccan India chapter at various Leadership Institute Meetings (LIM) in Hong Kong (Republic Of China), Denver (USA), Melbourne (Australia), Dallas (USA) , Marseille (France) and interacted with many Component Leaders / Community of Practice (COP), Special Interest Group (SIG), built a rapport with them and continued that communication for mutual benefits. PMI USA selected him for Role Delineation Study (RDS) of Project Risk Management Professionals & Project Scheduling Professionals. He has got Co-inventor Patent on Pricer Product, filed in USA, while working with Selectica Inc. USA. He was Chief Guest / Guest Speaker in no of Management colleges like International Institute of Information Technology (I2IT), MIT School of Management (MITSOM) & Department of Management Sciences (PUMBA), Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM), Indian Institute of Business Management (IIBM), International School Of Business Management & Media (ISB&M) , Foresight Group Of Institutes, etc.

© 2012 Shantanu Bhamare, PMP®, MBA : No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, manual, photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author. Author Contact Details : Email : / Blog : LinkedIn : Twitter : YouTube : Facebook :

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