AbstractWith the advancement in collaborationtechnologies and with the advent of new management software, the face ofproject management has changed, with a new dimension added to it that is”Virtually Managing Projects”. This paper explores the challenges and issuesthat arise in project management virtually, as new modes of communicationbridge the gaps between virtual teams, but these teams are far more difficultto manage than onsite teams due to different factors such as time, distanceetc. This paper also explores the solution to these challenges, the advantagesof Virtual projects, the flexibility, diversity it brings to the project. 1. IntroductionProject,a management environment that is created for delivering one or more businessproducts according to a specified business case. They are one of the mostcommon ways of managing organizational efforts. A project is defined as atemporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. Aparticular task may have a single person working on its planning or execution.
As the tasks complexity increases so does the number of people working on it.With the increase in complexity different tasks become interlinked i.e. onetask depends upon the completion of the other. This complexity in projectmanagement can also arise to geographical dispersion, cross culturalindividuals etc. Due to the globalization of the world “Virtual Projects” havea become a thing now. Theadvancement of IT sector has made it possible for people to manage projectswhile not being in the same country.
This notion of virtual projects wasunimaginable in the past, but now technology has made it do-able. There arestill difficulties in project management virtually, as the performance rate ofvirtual team versus on-site team is still lower but these difficulties may wellbe overcome in the near future.Inthis paper, we look into different ways to approach virtual projects.
The olderorthodox ways with their newer counterparts due to different collaborativesoftware. Our purpose is to examine the performance given by virtual teams,difficulties faced by the project manager of virtual teams and by the membersthemselves such as virtual teams working in different time zones. 2.Review & Discussion2.1. Emergence of Virtual TeamsVirtualteams may exist across time, space, and cultural boundaries; these teams, whilesharing a common purpose, use technologies to communicate and collaborateeffectively 1. A virtual team can formally be defined as a group ofgeographically and/or organizationally dispersed co-workers assembled using acombination of information and communications technologies for accomplishing anorganizational task 2.2.
2. Identifying Virtual TeamsThereare several appealing definitions in the literature. “A virtual project is a collaborativeeffort towards a specific goal or accomplishment which is based on ‘collectiveyet remote’ performance” 3.Aperspective taken by Cantu who proposes teams become virtual when any of threecomponents are added to the mix:1. Different geography or locations of team members2. Team members from different organizations or parts ofthe organization3. Different durations or lengths of time that memberwork together as a team.
She suggests the concept runs across a spectrum aseach component is expressed to a greater extent 4. Another approach 5 to the subject is to divide teams into subtypes anddistinguish “virtual-ness” as a characteristic. Guss states thatthere are four classes of team: Pure: team functions virtually, without control of any one organizational method Transitional: the team functions as a combination of hybrid and mono forms, and then the other Hybrid: the team functions in a multi-organizational culture The team members all function in same organization 2.
3. Virtual Teams Vs Co-LocatedTeamsVirtualteams are more dynamic than traditional teams, as their members are dispersedgeographically in different locations with different functional roles. Bothtypes of teams, co-located and virtual, “require a clear, well-founded andconvincing purpose”; however, virtual teams lack the communication that”appeals to the hearts and minds of potential team members” 6Invirtual teams, there is a lack of unplanned and informal social exchanges(Putnam, 2001). That is, team members “missed the office atmosphere and theopportunities presented by striking up a conversation in the cafeteria orhallway” (Oertig & Buergi, 2006, p. 25). Distant communication alsoprevents communication through body language (Stough, Eom, & Buckenmyer,2000). In the absence of rich face-to-face communication, multiple means ofcommunication should be used in virtual teams to facilitate informationacquisition, sharing, and integration (Andres, 2002). Moreover, virtual teamsrely on electronic communications technologies, and many conversations can beasynchronous, such as those that rely on e-mail; in contrast, only a minorityof conversations are likely to be synchronous, such as those that useaudio/video conferencing (Prasad & Akhilesh, 2002)Furthermore,virtual teams are usually more diverse than traditional teams.
Indeed, teammembership can cross national boundaries and include people from a variety ofcultural backgrounds (Johnson et al., 2001). This heterogeneous workgroup canhamper team integration and communication (Lau & Maurnighan, 1998; Oertig& Buergi, 2006). 2.4. BenefitsBeforewe go deeper into the challenges faced by virtual team, lets first dive intothe benefits of virtual teams, i.e. virtual management of teamsAcarefully designed and implemented virtual team can offer benefits.
Thesebenefits include improved productivity, reduced cost, increased competitiveadvantage, and improved customer service (Akkirman & Harris, 2005); andimproved business process, flexible working hours for employees, elimination oftime-consuming travel to a central office, support of cross-functional andcross-divisional interactions, potential for expanding labor force, flexibilityin work scheduling, speedy dissemination of information, and enhanced knowledgesharing within organizations (Johnson et al., 2001).2.5. DrawbacksVirtualmanagement have a number of drawbacks. These drawbacks may reduce the outputlevel of the whole team working on the project.
These drawbacks include Ineffectivecommunication in the absence of nonverbal components of messages, lack ofleisure time for team members because they tend to be overloaded with work,resistance to the unstructured nature of the team, loss of vision, securityconcerns in the online environment, lack of permanent records, too many memberson some teams, and added pressure due to overemphasis on speed. Other reportedobstacles that can hinder the performance of virtual teams are multiple timezones, different languages, and different approaches to conflict resolution (Bergielet al., 2008). Difficult to conduct quality management of the team as on groundassessment of the workers is easier and faster. Sometimes the drawbacks can also be helpful such as, a larger of numberof team members virtually, are difficulty to organize but as the number of teammember increases, the time required to complete the project might decrease asthe number of workers has increased, hence throughput will increase provided,the project manager manages themvirtually in the right and efficient way.Thefollowing table summarize the benefits and the drawbacks of virtual teams.
Benefits Drawbacks Financial gains through improved productivity, reduced cost, reduced travel time, etc Ineffective communication due to lack of face-to-face communication More flexibility on working hours for employees Quality control is difficult Creation of opportunities for employees in remote offices Performance management is difficult Flexibility in resource management and work scheduling. Managing multiple time zones becomes a headache Stimulation of creativity and innovation due to diverse cultures. Different cultures and languages barrier are hard to bypass Skilled, qualified, and talented workforce is possible regardless of the distance Require developing skills of employees on special virtual teaming supporting applications Increased competitive advantages and improved customer satisfaction Conflicts are often invisible and complex—they could even be site-specific Cost savings from not having face-to-face meetings Lack of visibility of the work of the team members, including their workload and progress Table 1 2.6.
ChallengesVirtualmanagement is challenging relative to the managing an on-site team, as thereare a lot of factors as previously discussed in the drawbacks section such asdifferent time zone, no face to face communication etc. The inventory of challenges continues as multipleresearchers and writers provide lists of the problems faced when leadingproject teams. Zofi 7 suggests several challenges to leading project teams.The first is the challenge of building virtual relationships and rapport withthe virtual team members. The second is observing, evaluating, measuring, andassessing the work being done, along with the virtual team members’ skills,development, and competencies. The list concludes with communication as a majorchallenge, probably the most common challenge found in reviewing virtualproject team management. With more than 80% of virtual team communication beingnonverbal 8 (electronic), communication becomes a major issue for successfulvirtual project management.
Traditional project environments provide leadersthe opportunity to communicate and implement projects with team members locatedin the same physical geographic location using face-to-face meetings as theprimary method of communication 9, but virtual management poses challenges tothese traditional methods of communication.Theinventory of challenges continues with technological challenges, such as theexpense of equipment, support, and infrastructure necessary for virtualcommunications and Internet and connectivity challenges. Add yet morechallenges to the list—motivational issues, disengagement of the virtualemployee with the business needs and quality expectations for the company’sservice(s) or product(s), loss or lack of understanding of the organization’slarger vision and mission—and these increase the inventory of challenges evenmore.
Table 1 provides a listing of some challenges the project manager facesin leading virtual project teams. The following table 2, summarizes thechallenges. Communication Cultural Teams Interpersonal Technological Economical Language Barriers Difference in work/life philosophies Trust issues Difficulty in finding information Setup, equipment and maintenance cost Time zones Lack of understanding between and stakeholders Perceptions Integrating information Difficulty in maintaining and tracking work progress Absent of non-verbal cues Shared leadership within team Conflict management IT support Collaboration Team formation Relationship building Internet access and connectivity issues Little to no face-to-face communication Motivation issues and disengagement Different technological tools Table 2 3.
Tools forVirtual Project ManagementQualitythat the project management tools must contain so that the virtual leader canmanage the virtual teams effectively and efficiently Intuitive project/task management Intuitive document management Customizable dashboard Time tracking, not just time logging Easy communication with team members At-a-glance calendarsKeepingin view the requirements given above following are some of the topcollaborative tools for project management virtually1. Slack2. Highrise3. Yammer4. GoToMeeting5. BaseCamp6. Flow7. Trello 4.
ConclusionInthis paper we strived to describe virtual project management, the benefits itbrings to this global village as global business environment is changing withthe need for more virtual project teams, the challenges it still faces due todifferent factors such as the nature of the work being done, organizationalcontext etc. We further expand our description by introducing the collaborativetools that are being used for virtual management of projects as recenttechnological advances have provided new tools for team members to collaboratewith and remove the barriers of location and time. 5. References1. Johnson, Heimann, & O’Neill, 2001; Lipnack &Stamps, 20002. Malhotra, Majchrzak, & Rosen, 2007; Townsend,DeMarie, & Hendrickson, 1998.
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Dissertation Abstracts International, 68(09), 121. (UMI No. 3277885)