Virtues of Virtual Teams – Technology (Part 5 of 5)

Virtual-Team-TechnologiesIf you’ve been following this series on virtual teams, you know I’ve been sharing highlights from the Harvard Business Review article (12/14) article “Getting Virtual Teams Right” by consultant and business author Keith Ferrazzi. So far we’ve examined the importance of having the right team, sound leadership and the right touchpoints.

What’s left? Technology of course. Without the right technology virtual teams simply do not work. Or, as author Ferrazzi so eloquently puts it: “In our experience, even those with top-notch virtual teams—those with the most talented workers, the finest leadership and frequent touchpoints—can be felled by poor technology.”

Among the components virtual teams should use:

  • Conference calling—“Look for systems that don’t require access codes but do record automatically or with a single click and facilitate or automate transcription. . . Also consider one-on-one and group videoconferencing, since visual cues help establish empathy and trust.” At Intertech, we use UberConference.
  • Direct calling and text messaging—Nothing beats picking up a phone and talking directly with someone on the team. Texting comes in second. We like the Microsoft tool Lync.  Not only does it allow us to indicate when we’re “in” the office (versus on a break), but it facilitates “conversations” over the web, including voice and text, and allows people to see each others’ desktops, which makes it easy for two virtual team mates to work together in real time on a particular issue.
  • Discussion forums or virtual rooms—At Intertech, Slack allows all team members to share ideas, files, and other artifacts… in a searchable repository.  According to Ferrazzi, “scholars call this type of collaboration ‘messy talk’ and say it’s critical for completing complex projects.”

At the end of the day, virtual teams can save time, reduce hassles and bring valuable intellectual resources to regions where they may be sparse. Following the strategies I’ve described in this series on virtual team can do a long way toward making virtual teams highly successful.