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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Master thesis: Managing Virtual Teams - By: Antonio Čale

Masaryk University
Faculty of Informatics
Master thesis:
Managing Virtual Teams
Bc. Antonio Čale
February 2013

Virtual teams are fast becoming a norm when conducting business and managing projects. In the
following chapters the reader will gain knowledge on what a virtual team is, what types of virtual teams
are there and how to manage them using currently available technologies.
Document contains four logical parts. First one contains chapters 2 and 3 which talk about virtual teams’
definition and types. Second part contains chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7 which talk about managers’ role in
virtual teams and how to manage virtual teams. Third part is chapter 8 which describes some of the
current technologies used in managing virtual teams. Tools used for virtual team communication,
collaboration and training. Final part contains results of a survey conducted among virtual team
managers and virtual team member.
Chapters 2 and 3 will help the reader understand the phenomenon of virtual teams. Beginning with
virtual team definitions, description of virtual team members, detailed explanation of types of virtual
teams, virtual team advantages and challenges and giving reasons to why virtual teams fail.
Chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7 are dedicated to explaining the role of virtual team manager.
Chapter 4 explains manager’s position, his responsibilities, what competences he should have and what
do virtual team members want from their manager. Chapter 5 shows how to build effective virtual teams
using Alignment and Maturity models and Xerox’s nine-step model as well as giving tips on useful teambuilding
activities. Chapter 6 shows how to manage virtual teams. Starting with building trust in virtual
teams, ensuring team’s diversity is understood, appreciated and leveraged, explaining how to manage
virtual work-cycle and meetings, monitor teams progress, manage employees who work from home and
those that don’t report directly to you as a manager. Chapter closes with explanation of seven critical
success factors. Chapter 7 explains how to coach virtual team members and how to conduct training of
virtual team members.
Chapter 8 describes currently available technologies for virtual team communication and collaboration.
There are many definitions on what a virtual team is. For example one might say that a virtual team, also
known as a geographically dispersed team or GDT, is a group of individuals who work across time, space
and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. Powell,
Piccoli and Ives define virtual teams in their literature review article "as groups of geographically,
organizationally and/or time dispersed workers brought together by information and telecommunication
technologies to accomplish one or more organizational tasks".[1] Ale Ebrahim, N., Ahmed, S. and Taha, Z.
in their 2009 literature review paper, added two key issues to definition of a virtual team “as small
temporary groups of geographically, organizationally and/ or time dispersed knowledge workers who
coordinate their work predominantly with electronic information and communication technologies in
order to accomplish one or more organization tasks”. [2]
Virtual teams consist of a group of individuals who are able to work together across time, space, and
organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. Companies
are now able to hire the best of the best, regardless of location. In theory, the members of these teams
complement each other and share common goals as do most any other type of team that we may think
of. They are each committed to a common purpose and while working together, hold each member as
well as themselves accountable for getting the job done. Virtual teams do not simply consist of
individuals working from their homes (“teleworkers”), but rather they are comprised of employees
working at home or in small groups in offices all over the world. With advancements in technology and
the constant outsourcing that companies all over the world are implementing, virtual teams may
eventually be the “norm” in the way we do business.
2.1.Why do we need virtual teams?
With a virtual team, one of the biggest assets an organization and the customers it services can count on
is flexibility. With employees in the U.S., Western Europe, India and China all working on the same
project, a company is actually getting work accomplished twenty four hours a day, not the standard eight
that a more “sheltered” company would experience. They reap a benefit from being located across
different time zones and this adds to their productivity. Because of advances in technology, employees
in a virtual team do not have to deal with hours of travel or daily commutes to take time out of their
working day. The technology that allows a virtual team to exist in turn, is constantly being advanced and
improved upon. This too drives productivity. With the globalization of virtually every industry one can
think of, virtual teams and other methods of making the world of business “smaller” are the way of the
future. Employees demand that their organization as well as themselves be technologically sophisticated,
flexible, globally “savvy,” and highly competitive. 

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