“Remote project management and virtual teams can be a great project model if your organization allows it and your staff is focused on productivity.” – Brad Egeland
Do you agree with the above statement? Virtual workplace or some might call it telecommuting was instituted in early 1970s when information technology started to play a greater role in daily operations of the companies. The Internet has had a revolutionary impact on our daily lives as well as our jobs. Today, some of our occupations would not be existent if Internet was not introduced. As internet connections become more common, workers have ample internet speeds to connect to their corporate headquarters through intranet right from their couch, beach or thousands of miles away from the office. We are starting to see more and more virtual teams as well as projects that are solely managed remotely. In his article Brad Egeland gives us few arguments why virtual project management is successful.
- You have access to the best talent in the world. Essentially you can hire anyone anywhere and communicate with them without any problems. This would allow your team to complete your projects much faster since you would have the best talent.
- Your profit margin increases and you can win more projects. By utilizing less expensive offshore teams you will be cutting some of the costs. Also, you do not need any extra space if your project would grow since every employee would be telecommuting from their home.
- Project managers are freed up for real work when it’s needed. Without actual commuting project managers can spend more time working on the project. Time is money and telecommuting not only gives you time but also flexibility on your working hours.
- The overall cost savings and productivity can be high. If everyone works on their time then we can assume that they will be working at 100% so the productivity will grow.
Since the invention of the internet, flexible work arrangements have increased and they are still on the move. With introduction of smart phones, virtual workplace and project management is gaining even more consideration. Today we can manage our projects from anywhere in the world, while eating dinner, at the gym or even while driving a car which I strongly do not recommend.
Have you ever experienced a project where you never faced other team members? Do you think there are many cost savings to having remote project management? Do you feel that you would perform better if you didn’t have set work hours? How does remote project management software help you do your job better as a project manager?
If you would like to read more about remote project management I strongly recommend Brads article that can be found here Remote Project Management
I want you to think about the culture at your place of work. Everyday you go into work, see your co-workers and form relations with the people that you work with. Whether this interaction between co-workers is positive or negative, it creates a sense of culture and teamwork.
I read the article “How to Build a Culture Across Your Virtual Workforce,” written by David and Carrie McKeegan, the co-founders of Greenback Tax Services. Greenback Tax Services is a global firm that prepares tax returns for expats living all over the globe.
The workforce of Greenback Tax Services employs associates stationed all over the world. Having a staff that is completely virtual normally does not constitute the ability to offer employees a sense of culture and unity due to the fact that they do not interact in face-to-face communication processes that a normal “office experience” provides.
The McKeegan’s believe that just because their associates do not participate in the traditional work environment doesn’t mean they can’t create a sense of comradery and relationship building within their company. They have used some interesting but practical installments to facilitate this development.
- One installment in Greenback Tax Service’s internal build is something that they call a “virtual water cooler.” The company uses two online database systems, Podio and NIng, which are an intricate part of each employee’s experience. Within these systems, personal experiences are shared between one another as daily questions and discussion boards are created for employee participation. These databases bring everyone together and let people connect on a personal level; much like the interactions that occur within closely knit office “families.”
- Another issue that the McKeegan’s found and addressed was the inability for virtual employment to establish employment principles, guidelines and a code of conduct for the associates to follow. Using feedback from their team, the two established over thirty principles in which each employee must follow. Once a month, through their online databases, they focus on a certain principle, which keeps these ideas fresh in the employee’s heads. Focusing on these principles ensures that employees don’t lose pride or forget the importance and professionalism of their company is.
- Recognition is something that every employee, no matter what industry, strives on. The lack of face-to-face contact constrains a manager the opportunity to recognize a job well done. The McKeegan’s have introduced two practices to recognize star employee work. “High Five Fridays” and “Best Practice Mondays” are two systems that facilitate recognition. “High Five Fridays” posts the names of employees that have gone above and beyond quotas and exceptional work every Friday; “Best Practice Mondays” posts a case study of someone within the office that has innovated a process or experience. These establishments give employees the credit they deserve along with creating a sense of community within the virtual employment team.
- Greenback Tax Services also encourages teamwork, acknowledging that employees are in different locations, time zones and environments. This sense of teamwork can be seen in the proxies that are instituted which allow employees to brainstorm ideas and submit them for review by other employment. This system brings employees together on the same projects while also establishing a sense on control within the business hierarchy.
I appreciate and am very impressed with the recognition and institutions against the lack of community found within a virtual work environment. David and Carrie McKeegan have found much success by ignoring the business norm and have institutes policies to create the teamwork that can now be seen within Greenback Tax Services.
McKeegan, David & Carrie. "How to Build a Culture Across Your Virtual Workforce."
Entrepreneurship.com. Entrepreneurship, 26 Sept. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.
Mauro, Vanessa. "John Coates: Insights From The Virtual Community Summit #VICROMM13." 25 Mar. 2013.
Technology is changing the way people do business. With applications that create faster overall processes and improved communication, the key to success is often accomplished through the use of the right technology. Managers must be aware of what these changes are and how technology is facilitating them. There are a number of growing trends that demonstrate how the workforce is shifting towards nontraditional work environments and which technologies are being used to support these environments. Remote employees working in virtual work environments are becoming more commonplace in today’s workforce, whether it is through outsourcing work to other countries or US employees based in different geographic locations than their teams/managers. No matter which type of nontraditional work environment, it is clear that technology is a crucial key to success.
There are a number of different tools that a remote or virtual employee can use. Working in teams with people located in different geographic locations requires extra attention on communication. Managers must make sure that remote employees feel included and equal to their non-remote peers. In order to do so, there are a number of technologies that help bridge the geographic gap. Video conferencing allows individuals who are in different physical locations to interact as if they were all in the same place. Having a round-table meeting over video conference allows individuals to express themselves through gestures and expressions. It also creates a sense of familiarity amongst employees since it is a social environment. Another tool is web conferencing, which allows people on different computers to simultaneously view one person’s screen. This allows individuals to host a meeting where they can present to a large group and not have to send out loose documents. Another online tool that allows people in different locations to communicate is Instant Messenger. AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), Gchat (Google Chat) and Facebook Chat all allow you to communicate in real time via text with many other individuals simultaneously.
While these technologies have many benefits, a word to the wise is to be aware of everything that comes along with the use of technology in the workforce. On the positive side, technologies like video conferencing and web conferencing allow many different people to get together in one virtual location. Being able to type at the rate of a normal conversation (through an instant messenger program like AIM) also allows people from far distances to communicate. However, both of these positive benefits have the potential to be negative as well. Video and web conferencing can sometimes be difficult to set up and if the Internet is down you often lose access to many of those tools. Typing a conversation can also lead to things taken out of context because you lose tone and expression. Overall, technology can be used successfully as long as individuals are mindful of the potential roadblocks.
Have you seen nontraditional roles emerging in your work environment? What technologies does your company use (or have you personally used) to help you stay connected to your peers?