Virtual teams have long since become an integral part of the corporate organization in many organizations. Mobile working and home office are often the basis for teams to work together efficiently even without physical proximity. But which other tools can positively influence the performance and quality of work of virtual teams? What does it take so that companies can also benefit from cross-border and cross-national teams?

Benefits of virtual teams

Virtual teams do not only have many advantages for companies , but also for their employees. While companies can often fall back on a much larger range of experts, also from the international area, by eliminating location-based workplaces, you are simultaneously promoting the reduction of costs and time intervals and increasing customer benefits in your workforce. This is achieved by teams holding online meetings instead of traditional meetings and working together on projects, orders and processes in digital space in real time. Documents can be transmitted with a click of the mouse and important messages can be exchanged via messenger systems. Through the use of IT tools, the distribution of tasks and progress for all members are presented in an up-to-date and transparent manner. But customers no longer have to be visited by employees on site for inquiries; instead, advice is provided in the form of a video conference.
Advantages of virtual teams:

  • Dissolution of local teams
  • Use of the work of international experts
  • Reduction of the factors of time and costs
  • Increase in customer benefit
  • efficient collaboration of global teams through online meetings, messenger systems and the creation of a digital conference room
  • Transparency about the distribution of tasks and the processing progress
  • online-based customer service

Helpful systems and tools for virtual teams

In order to realize these advantages, some important and efficient measures and tools are required that promote collaborative virtual work.

Project and task management tools

Since virtual teams cannot access a common, localized space in which all tasks, documents, appointments and projects are clearly and transparently displayed, special software solutions are required that make project and task management available to all team members at all times and keep them up-to-date. This is the only way virtual teams can work together professionally and efficiently.

Digital mind maps

In addition to organized project and task management, it is also possible to use digital mind maps. This makes it easier for virtual teams to collect ideas and approaches and then structure and analyze them together. Thanks to online processing, changes to objectives can be made at any time, from anywhere and by any team member.

Messenger systems

The lack of personal contact and a possible break in the communication density of the teams can be remedied not only by telephone and email but also by messenger systems. These make it possible to exchange important information and data not only much faster, but also much more clearly and to be in real-time contact with several team members at the same time. But special virtual telephone systems can also create added value. On the one hand, you can quickly see whether a colleague is currently available to make contact and, on the other hand, it is also possible for virtual teams to access colleagues’ contacts from home and call them if necessary.

Online conferences

However, virtual teams also need to have extended meetings at regular intervals. In order to avoid travel costs and the corresponding loss of time for a face-to-face meeting, virtual teams can use online conferences. All team members can connect to one another in an online-based room and hold a traditional meeting.

Data sharing tools

Ultimately, virtual teams should preferably also use file sharing applications. With the help of this, data, documents and information can be transferred to several computers and kept up-to-date at all times. By sharing data, for example by using clouds, several team members can work on one file at the same time, thereby saving enormous amounts of time.

Find the right tool

It is not always necessary to use all tools to ensure efficient collaboration between your virtual teams. Therefore, you should first analyze which communication problems your workforce has in order to provide a helpful tool based on this. Basically, it makes sense to go through the following process.
Step 1: Problem analysis and goal setting
Find out what is lacking in the cooperation of your team and at which points and in which situations certain communication or media breaks can be found. Based on these results, you can then develop a vision that shows what an optimal improvement should look like. This not only means that you should check the availability and feasibility of the tool, but also consider the professional use of the new tool by your employees. To ensure the latter, you should involve your teams in the process at an early stage.
Step 2: planning
In this step you should think carefully about the introduction of the tool. If your teams are less familiar with this type of tool, it may make sense to provide an online workshop or internet-based consultant. In this way, you can teach your employees how to use the tool correctly in a more targeted manner. At the same time, you should also include the implementation costs and future-oriented fees, such as for maintenance or updates, in your planning.
Step 3: implementation
If you have planned the implementation of the tool satisfactorily, you can finally make the tool available to your employees. Again, however, you should note that it may take some time for your teams to become familiar with the tool. Only then can previous problems be solved and benefits be drawn from.

Conclusion

By using the tools shown, virtual teams offer your company great potential for effective and location-based collaboration between experts from all over the world. Current studies have shown that more and more employees want the option of working from home or more flexible, self-determined working hours. By introducing virtual teams and providing the right tools, you can fulfill this wish of your workforce. At the same time, you don’t have to do without traditional working methods such as conferences and meetings or aspects such as transparent communication and cross-departmental project management.

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Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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