The Success of any kind of team depends on the tools you use to make it work. After all, you can’t build a house without a hammer and you can’t change a tire without a jack. But having a lot of tools at your disposal does not necessarily mean you have the right ones to get the job done. The key is in knowing what you want to do and what kind of tool would help you do it.
On a virtual team, communication software is crucial to have and use well. Team members are far apart and cannot communicate in person with each other when they have questions. How do your team members want or need to communicate with each other? For quick and easy questions or comments, text messaging or an instant message program can be the key. But if an employee needs to ask lengthy questions to a coworker or manager, a phone call or tagged email may be the answer instead. Whichever way the team chooses to communicate with each other, it is just as important to know how to use and work the software, so be sure to ensure every team member has proper training and can come to you with questions.
Examples of communication software:
- Telephones – landlines, cellular or VOIP
- Email systems (AOL, Yahoo!, Gmail, Microsoft Outlook)
- Instant messaging programs (AOL IM, GroupWise Messenger, MSN messenger)
- Video chat room (Skype, ooVoo, Google Voice)
Collaboration and Sharing Tools
Collaboration and sharing tools allow team members across a virtual team to not only share a project they are working on, but also to work with each other by editing and commenting on projects within the same program. It can be a hassle to try and email a project back and forth when one person is trying to suggest a change or add their notes. There are a number of software programs that can be added to the virtual team to help make the collaboration process go more smoothly among team members. Many of these tools allow employees to upload a file for several others to see at once. Others include comment or adjustment features and can save any progress made after each person touches the file. These types of tools can make a virtual team run better and allows them to work as a team rather than several individuals trying to reach the same goal.
Examples of collaboration and sharing tools:
- Adobe Acrobat
- Microsoft Office
- Novell GroupWise email
Project Management Software
Project management software is aimed at managing the different aspects of a project, such as budgets, productivity, scheduling, communication, and even employee evaluations. There are many different ways of keeping track of this information, and companies normally take a different approach depending on the situation. Virtual teams generally have some sort of web based management program, such as a web application for clocking in and out or keeping track of employee absences.
Other software options can include a program installed on the employee’s desktop that can monitor their progress over a period of time and can show the employee what kind of progress they are making. Although we don’t want to feel as though we are micromanaging our employees, it is necessary to implement some form of project management software for the team to use. While some may not like the approach to managing their projects, they will feel relieved when the time comes that they will need your feedback and guidance.
Use What Works for You and Your Team
Every team leader has an opinion about what methods work and which ones do not for a virtual team. But only you can decide what works for you and your team. You know your employees and you know what would be the best way to communicate with them when you need to. Sometimes this can take some trial and error to see what forms of communication work best for the team as a whole. Some may communicate better by email while others are more comfortable talking on the phone. Many employees communicate using a number of different methods, depending on what kind of response they will need. The best part about having so many tools at your disposal is that you can use a combination of them to achieve what you and your team need to do.
Use the method, or methods, that get(s) what you need:
Email/text messaging/phone calls – short answers and quick information delivery, such as a meeting change or a quick clarification question.
Group meetings/individual meetings/video chats – in-depth and lengthy information given; usually requires explanations or discussions from both sides. This includes discussion of employee progress, business reports, or company changes.