“You have been asked to develop a virtual team to prepare for the opening of a new sales region. Some members of the development team are local, but most of the team will be located across and out of the country. Develop a three-to-four page paper on the technology that your team will use to communicate and the type of communication you would expect to occur on each kind of technology.” – Case to understand communication between teams in a better way.
Include the following five sections in your study.
1) Develop an overview of your understanding of the task at hand.
2) Create a list of the things you will need to know about your team members to put together a good plan.
3) Analyze constraints or barriers you might run into such as geography, time zones, language, etc.
4) Suggest the types of technology that you may want to use with your team (do some research, if needed).
5) Establish ways that you would use that technology to create an effective team.
Earlier in the times, workplace was only considered as a physical place where employees shared a space and worked in front of each other between a specific duration of the day. But the current business and world scenario has changed drastically, all thanks to the technological enhancements in communication technology, particularly. People are no longer limited to a physical setting; people now have adapted themselves to work in multiple locations and working hours.
Opening of a new sales region for business development brings with it, a task of establishment of team. Once the team gets finalized another task at hand will be to provide them with a communication medium to be in touch regularly for updates regarding the project as well as reporting of day to day work.
As stated in the brief, few members of the team are local to the region, our target region, and most of the other team members are located outside of the country. Even the people who are local are located across the country. Looking at the scenario, communication and synchronization with all the team members will be the most important task to deal with. Successful completion of the project will require good communication among the team members, as our team members are located in different places they will primarily interact with the help of electronic communication, this is the reason why the team will be called virtual team.
The solution to this problem is digital workplace. A digital workplace consists of all the technologies that members of the virtual team use to communicate with each other. The prime focus for setting up a digital work space is to create a platform of communication which helps the members to perform their duties and tasks more effectively and efficiently. It must constitute all set of technology, tools and environments which will help the members communicate in a usable and productive way.
As most of the communication will be through electronic media and not face to face there are chances of miscommunication. Miscommunication can harm the team trust, relation and dependencies. A proper plan is needed to communicate reliably and in a punctual manner.
Before beginning to put together a good plan for the communication channel, it is necessary to know the team members better. As it is already stated that team members are selected and are in place, ready to begin with the task, the things to know about them comes down to the medium of communications available to them, technological awareness, Languages known and availability for meeting (share same time zone or not).
Considering that the team members are well versed with communication technology and know a common language, the next important thing will be availability of them for the meeting which will direct us to finalize the medium of communication. To move ahead with the task assigned let us first analyse different types of communications depending on the availability of the team members.
If everyone in the team is available for meeting or communication at same time, this type of communication is called Synchronous communication. Following are a few examples of Synchronous communication:
1. Conference call – This is the communication techniques where in all the team members are given a time for meeting or communication, the members can join a telephone call and can share their messages.
2. Audio Conference –This is also a form of conference call but instead of using telephone, communication is held through online software’s like Skype. The communication mediums like these are cheaper than telephonic conferences.
3. Software assisted conference – This is also an audio conference but with use of computers it can share the screen and the document can be edited by all parties. This technique is widely used by teams nowadays keep track of the work.
4. Video conference – This is similar to the audio conference, the only difference is that the parties can see each other live while communicating. This is gaining interest the teams as most of the hardware available now supports a camera, also the cost of internet is lower.
5. IM (Instant Messaging) – This communication uses text or voice messages transferred on pop-up windows on each members screen.
6. Texting – Short message service through mobile service provider can be used to exchanges messages.
As said earlier, the above mentioned techniques are only effective if all team members are available for a meeting at a given point of time. To get people located in different time zones synchronized for a meeting, another type of communication techniques will be needed.
Modern techniques in communication makes it possible to assemble a virtual team from anywhere, but the issue that act as a barrier in this, is the fact that people like to work in daylight hours and if they are located in different time zones then there will be a difficulty in arranging a synchronous meeting for the members. In the current scenario the people are located in different areas possibly in different time zones too, which call for the use of a different type of communication.
Many types of communication techniques do not require all members to be present at same time for communication; this type of communication is known as Asynchronous Communication. This communication is mostly used when people in a team are at locations where their day time working hours are not same. Following are a few examples of Asynchronous communication:
Mail or Overnight Delivery (If original document or signature is needed) – In this important documents and messages can be transferred to teammates by use of mail services and if the message is of priority nature then using the overnight delivery services.
Fax – Fax machines has a good record for transmitting the message of document to other place accurately. It can be used to send a copy of the document to another team member fast. This can only be used where the document does not require any signature or seal to it.
E-Mail – Electronic mail is the latest in the technology and is widely used in present world of business to communicate and transfer messages in between the team members. It has lot of feature like it can be sent to multiple receivers and files and documents can be attached etc.
Project Blog – A blog is an online document with features like sharing by invitation, private blogging and public blogging. It makes it easier for a team member to keep a track of the decisions made by other team members on a particular situation.
Analyzing all the technological options available above, I would like to use audio conference planned two days a week to track updates from team members for their targets and achievements. I would also like to use emails for day to day communication which will help to keep a backup of conversation and also help in replying to the queries of team members with ease. Added to it emails also have the facility to attach documents and files, this will be very helpful for the team members to exchanges the same in between them.
To get the best out of the virtual team and make the new sales region a profitable decision, the communication technology must be used to increase the effectiveness of the team. To start with how the selected technology will be used to make team effective:
Firstly, the communication technology selected will be used to define the team structure and goals to everyone in the team. This will bring all the team members on the same page. The technology selected will be used to reduce the team member’s uncertainty about their task sharing, responsibilities and power. The technology will be used to make each member of the team clearly understand their individual tasks and responsibilities, added to it they will all be informed and kept updated about other team members tasks and responsibilities too. With clear structure and norms in place, it is perceived that individuals will adjust faster to the team.
Keeping up with the expectations of the team members will also be on high priority while implementing the communication technology. Members will be encouraged for a thoughtful exchange of ideas, information and messages. This will help keep up the enthusiasm of the members of the team, encouraging them for achievement of objectives assigned.
The technology will be used to arrange for real time meetings to understand the problem being faced by the team members and providing a solution for the same. This initiative through the communication will keep maintain the team spirit and make them work harder to achieve the given tasks. The communication technology will be used to encourage team members to engage them in a social communication and exchange their personal information to know each other better. Social exchange and humor can lighten the moods of the team members and take them out of fear of contribution in a formal meeting.
The communication technology can also be used to decrease the chances of misinterpretation of the information exchange. This can be done using brainstorming sessions so that the team builds their own common language and interpret each other’s communications in the way they are meant to be understood. This will on one hand reduce the misinterpretation and on the other hand it will also reduce the chances of uncertainty and frustration amongst the team members.
The quality and effectiveness of the communication ultimately depends on the feedback, which is an important part of communication process and also for developing trust in the virtual teams. The communication technology will be used regularly to encourage members to provide their feedback and response regarding the work procedures and the communication process adopted by the company.
Last but not the least; it is found that cultural differences in the team take a high toll on the team’s effectiveness and performance. To counter this technology can be used to act a s a filter. The communication through technology leaves less space for interpretation of different styles and body languages used by each member. This reduces the chances of misinterpretation and reduces the effects of cultural differences.
By – William – Technology & Professional Blog Expert (Contributing Author)