Feeds

Right set-up vital for virtual teams

It's all in the media

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Virtual teams need to choose their communications tools carefully if they want to be effective, new research has revealed.

According to a new study commissioned by Cisco Systems, virtual teams - i.e. project teams that are working in multiple locations and communicate electronically - can work as well as, if not better than, co-location teams if the right communication tools are used.

With a growing number of businesses spread across multiple locations, the number of these collaborative teams is growing.

"Companies are starting to become bigger and bigger," Karl McDermott, Cisco Systems engineering manager, told ENN. "Virtual teams are becoming a big part of working."

However, Cisco's study revealed that behaviour that may at face value seem relatively harmless - such as an over-reliance on email, failing to respond to messages, and choosing the wrong method of communication - can damage team relationships and productivity.

The usual ways of building relationships through team lunches and socialisation in the work place are not always open to virtual teams, making it harder to build effective relationships, according to McDermott.

Some of the difficulties facing virtual teams include the length of time it takes for users to respond to electronic communications, with virtual teams taking up to four times as long to exchange the same number of messages as those who are communicating face-to-face.

Bad communication such as this can break the fragile trust established in virtual teams: "Poor communications can have a detrimental effect on virtual teams," McDermott said.

However, he pointed out that using the appropriate method of communication, for example email for exchanging data and voice communications for obtaining feedback, can make all the difference.

The report also found that cultural differences can also become exaggerated within virtual teams, with multi-cultural teams taking up to 17 weeks to become as effective as teams whose members are of the same culture.

Up to 63 per cent of communication is non-verbal, underscoring the importance of using visual communications such as video conferencing to establish relationships within a virtual team.

In this respect a unified communications system is important for virtual teams. "Our research shows that the media selected for a specific communication, whether it is instant messaging or video conferencing, is almost as important as the content of the communication," said Carolyn Shearsmith, an occupational psychologist at Pearn Kandola and a co-author of the report.

"Behaviours need to change to keep up with organisational structures and new technology. The studies show how the correct choice and use of communication media can create the shared identity and shared context that is so important to successful virtual teams. The reliance on email to converse with colleagues in different parts of the world, for example, does little to build personal relationships and trust."

Copyright © 2006, ENN

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
NSA SOURCE CODE LEAK: Information slurp tools to appear online
Now you can run your own intelligence agency
Azure TITSUP caused by INFINITE LOOP
Fat fingered geo-block kept Aussies in the dark
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Cloud unicorns are extinct so DiData cloud mess was YOUR fault
Applications need to be built to handle TITSUP incidents
Stop the IoT revolution! We need to figure out packet sizes first
Researchers test 802.15.4 and find we know nuh-think! about large scale sensor network ops
Turnbull should spare us all airline-magazine-grade cloud hype
Box-hugger is not a dirty word, Minister. Box-huggers make the cloud WORK
SanDisk vows: We'll have a 16TB SSD WHOPPER by 2016
Flash WORM has a serious use for archived photos and videos
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
Microsoft adds video offering to Office 365. Oh NOES, you'll need Adobe Flash
Lovely presentations... but not on your Flash-hating mobe
prev story

Whitepapers

Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.