Finishing projects on time and on budget is hard work. It is true for co-located teams, and it is even truer for virtual teams. Virtual teams need to deal with distance, language and cultural issues in addition to all the other things related to project. The single most problem facing virtual teams is the fact that most of the time team members are on not on the same page. This is due to distance and working without benefits of face to face communication. In addition the virtual teams working in a vacuum, they don’t get hose subtle communication cues that are so vital in human communication. Video conferencing is supposed to help, but people on camera, behave differently when next to water cooler. Although video conferencing is a good tool to have, it does not cure the ills of being miles apart and alone can’t fix all issues related to virtual teams.
All the above facts are true and yet virtual teams could be extremely productive, with a little help from the right project management software tools. What is a good tool for virtual teams you may ask? Virtual teams need collaboration features plus structured communication in addition to standard project management tools. The collaboration tools are vital; you need to get together with your colleagues using chat, whiteboard and collaborative document editing using voice and video to enhance the exchange. The other thing important for virtual teams is structured communication. To make sure there is no miscommunication, all important communication should be brief and structured. Let me explain what I mean by structured communication. The project needs a place for all team members write their status report at least once a day, to add comments on tasks and files and use tags to classify objects in the project. The reports need to be short and precise. Ideally only one or two lines, we at binfire use 140 characters for all reports. Why such a short reports you may ask? Ask yourself, what you need from status reports? You need your team members to tell you what they have done that day, what they will do tomorrow and if they have any problems which need your attention. They don’t need to write lengthy papers and waste time just writing a report. In addition you don’t want you and your team to read lengthily reports and waste hours on things that don’t add value to the project.
If you are working with a virtual team, give binfire a spin, you will be pleasantly surprised.