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This paper will emphasize the benefit of virtual teams where their advantages have been proven to provide global support, reduce travel costs, as well as reduce training costs. Presented within this writing, a discussion of examined issues faced by IT departments when supporting virtual teams, plus the various advantages along with the disadvantages of these teams will be noted. Afore conclusion, a comprehensive evaluation of virtual versus a more traditional type of unit concerning communications, technology use, and team diversity will have been accentuated affording an accurate representation of where each is valued within the marketplace.
Advances in information technology create new opportunities for organizations to build and thus manage virtual teams across their landscape. Consideration for such an endeavor by the organization, at the very basics such groups must be composed of employees with unique skillsets but also individuals who exhibit a collective, collaborative spirit to accomplish critical organizational tasks.
In establishing, maintaining, and supporting virtual teams, the building of trust, cohesion, and team identity must be at the forefront of any endeavor such as this. Both leaders and members of these virtual teams come up against difficulties choosing team members who exhibit a balance of technical skill along with that of interpersonal skills and abilities required to work virtually. Also, evaluating the performance of individuals on any given team working in virtual space proves to be a vital piece of the equation as well.
In today’s business arena, Information Technology has radically changed the landscape of how business and the global society interact. Indispensable for any organization’s productivity in terms of achieving business goals, virtual teams will need to be a topic kicked around in the boardroom. Despite the apparent apprehension of embarking on such a journey, several advantages for exploiting this arena can be identified. First and foremost, happy and engaged employees are at the core of any profitable corporation. Attaining employee work-life balance will play a vital role when working remotely due to the inherited flexibility and implied a balance between work/ life that would be difficult to manage otherwise. Produced are overall happier employees because, for an example, there will be no need for an employee to take a day off of work for a dentist appointment or a child’s teacher meeting; they’ll work around those personal tasks. Happier employees produce more which directly translates into employers getting more out of their employees. Making an organization more competitive in their respective markets, cost savings when virtual teams are implemented has to be analyzed. Cost savings freeing up more resources for more strategic initiatives can be attributed to the employer not having to delegate those proposed budgets to office space or leasing new facilities. Consider the occurrence where a team is not entirely virtual; having a partially remote workforce will still transmute into a high percentage of savings for the company. Linked with using a virtual team, the talent pool of potential employees can now become robust because the employer is no longer restricted to hiring in their geographic region, nor having the burden of possible relation of persons to fit the business need. Gaining access to a much superior skillset at a fraction of the cost strategically aids in hiring resources providing an extension of coverage time during business hours. Greater workforce flexibility converts into flexible remote teams enabling the option for the organization to either scale up or down more quickly than if the business ran at a fixed location.
As cited from a recent study done at The University of Harvard, the productivity of effective virtual teams increased between 15% and 34% depending on whether or not the organization can live with the associated disadvantages. Poor communication as one of the most significant challenges can be said because of the conceivable lack of formal everyday face to face communication between management and the team. Frequently realized are results were a lost in translation or miscommunication consequence can be observed. Characteristic of poor communication is the main factor of hindering innovation, effectiveness and decision making. Faced with virtual team communication challenges, team managers will need to enhance connections to increase everyday interactions. This can happen by creating smaller interdependent tasks or by developing partnerships which can afford these virtual teams to achieve goals in unison. The second challenge of a virtual team is that working remotely can place an inevitable drain for team members to create effective working relationships. Envisioning how work and projects fit together as a whole can lead to the team’s overall demotivation and discouragement. Virtual team leaders should, and therefore, strive to increase social interactions by engaging members in written communication, such as Instant Messaging as well as regular communication on the progress of every member increasing overall team effort. Unlike with face to face teams that can create cohesiveness, virtual groups experience more of a dispersed feeling atmosphere where individuals who are working on the same project experience disconnection leading to discontent. Even though faced with challenges, virtual teams can be more cohesive, effective and engaging through shared leadership. Effective leadership will create a clear direction for the team making sure everyone is united to a common goal and vision. The distinct challenges of working in virtual teams will be where members reside in different locations. However, relying on collaboration tools to minimize downtime between members will coincidently reduce the number of virtual meetings effectively addressing this challenge. The most challenging part of cementing a precise goal of cohesion while maintaining focus will be a continued concern. The virtual staff comprises of professionals within different time zones, occupying different priorities and abilities, making it challenging to keep everyone moving together in the same direction. Despite the challenges of being virtual, the possibility of building a successful and productive virtual environment will require planning, dedication, foresight, hard work and the engagement of all on the team.
The ability to sustain a business in an open market over the long term, remaining competitive against rivals will detail the speaking to IT / IS National Standards while also stressing resolvent behaviors to support profitability. To grow business within the constraints of these protocols and procedures, any virtual team will need to ensure deployment of complexity and comprehension capabilities, coordinated space-time for mobile and wireless computing, information integrity, as well as usability and quality. Controlling these challenges team leaders, managers and virtual team members must constructively identify solutions proposed for every issue. All virtual teams must meet and or exceed standards while having a process in place to verify all programs before implementation by any organization. Teams that have become virtual in function face all types of challenges when faced with protocols that are set up for face-to-face groups. Difficulties with the hierarchical structure of who answers to whom during the project process will need to be resolved by having transparent, specific chains of custody for all team members to follow. Teams of employees having procedures that are followed during the process of working together as a team have been proven best over singular employees whom might know these very same procedures to follow, but in a team environment, the landscape is very different. Steps in a process might be handled differently when working in a virtual team environment, rather than on a face-to-face team. Virtual teams will have the necessity to be designed so that members know their contribution to the project before starting that will eliminate procedural mistakes that could be made otherwise. Continually reviewing the organization’s process and procedures will guarantee them to be as efficient as possible. Conducting a workflow analysis can help better understand how not having the effects of the right tools the process. When working in a physical office, it’s hard to ignore apparent gaps in the necessary technology. Overall teamwork thrives when access to the best equipment is had. Keeping things up to date even if you never get to see a person using these tools due to a location is paramount. By investing in the right tools, the company’s ability to deliver exceptional services will now become boosted, and by having those clearly defined standards, a workflow that now supports the process can be fathomed.
Virtual teams and traditional teams are viewed as opposites. By comparing and contrasting virtual and traditional outfits, the aspects of communications, technology use, and team diversity will need to be examined. An advantage of a more conventional team over virtual teams can be seen in the area of communications. Generally with a traditional group in the same geographic location, possibly even the same building; conversations can be more flowing in nature. Communication in virtual teams is through asynchronous means while that of traditional tams is face-to-face. Virtual teams are diversely located in different areas while classic teams are co-located. Virtual teams use more advanced technologies in most of their tasks as compared to a traditional team.
Simply put, a team is a group of individuals working together to achieve a joint mission. A traditional team is where individuals often work in physical proximity, while when discussing virtual teams; these are individuals who are separated by physical distance but are united by a shared goal. Generally, interactions among the members of a virtual team are reconciled by Information Technology.
Although both traditional and virtual teams transition through stages of team development, where dynamics experienced by associates of virtual teams are more complex, this is fundamentally owed to the fact that members of virtual teams rely exclusively on electronic communications to facilitate relations among them. Cultural boundaries can also potentially add to this complex nature. Several of the quintessential differences between traditional and virtual teams are as following; (a) selection of team members, (b) organization structure, (c) leadership style, and (d) relationship building.
In the case of traditional teams, members are selected mainly founded on their functional skills. Accomplishments of a virtual team environment do not come easy for everyone involved. Lack of face-to-face exchanges and collective focus in a virtual setting might lead to isolation and solitude. Managing obscurity, preemptive networking, exceptional time management and work discipline coupled with abilities to learn new technologies will lend themselves for collaboration across functional and cultural boundaries. In the election of a virtual team member, there is a demand to inspect these core competencies in addition to practical skills. Paralleled to that of traditional teams, they tend to support a much more horizontal organizational structure with muted lines of authorities and hierarchies. This is required to survive in a hyper-competitive market, deliver results faster and encourage creativity – which is the primary objectives for forming a virtual team. In a virtual team setting, managers do not have the power to physically control the day-to-day activities and monitor each team members’ businesses. Therefore they need to delegate little more as compared to traditional teams. The command and control leadership style of yesteryears is giving way to the more popular and coaching style of today. When regular team members meet in the workplace every day, they tend to develop close social ties with each other. They strike a rapport with each other when they interact face-to-face. In the virtual team, the interactions tend to be more task focused. Further, the lack of verbal cues and gestures in a virtual setting does not allow any scope for the personal touch in the communication.
In summary, the model of team involves eliminating one if not all of the challenges faced by virtual teams, effects to an organization’s efforts will be no longer be shaped thus creating harmony crucial to the success of any work environment.References
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Blaise J. Bergiel, Erich B. Bergiel, Phillip W. Balsmeier, (2008) “Nature of virtual teams: a summary of their advantages and disadvantages,” Management Research News, Vol. 31 Issue: 2.
Kirkman, B. L. (2002, August). Five challenges to virtual team success: Lessons from Sabre, Inc.16(3), 67-79
Nader Ale Ebrahim, S. A. (2009). Virtual Teams: a Literature Review. Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 3(3): 2653-2669, 2009.
Van der Berg, M., & van Steenbergen, M. (2010). Building an enterprise architecture practice: Tools, tips,
best practices, ready-to-use insights. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.
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