Friday, 5 December 2014

Virtual teams and collaborative working

The communications landscape for all businesses has changed significantly since the electronic revolution. Our sector, iMedia, might well have been first to use collaborative working in a virtual world with cross-functional teams, but now this has spread into general business. We might have more experience of what it means, but we aren’t known for refining and sharing these insights. With us it has been more like the rest of our environment – try, refine and move forward.

It’s refreshing then to find that the virtual team dynamic is being analysed as part of general management and business. And, just because we have the experience, it doesn’t mean we can’t learn from others observations.

With this as the premise, here are a few links to some team analysis that may prove useful for your company – even yourself.
Pam Jones, 17 November 2014, Ashridge Business School, makes the point that although communication might be technology driven, it is ‘... the human aspect of communication that requires attention’. She offers 4 building blocks refined from top-performing team leaders. These are:
  1. Develop a clear communication strategy. 
  2. Develop a network of shared responsibility. 
  3. Building trust and belonging. 
  4. Growing and learning together. 
It may well be the fourth point that we have been doing on the fly, so to speak. It’s a bonus that she gives credit to dealing positively with conflict and cross-cultural understanding, both of which have featured in this blog as important aspects of team success.

Compass’ is a business whose job is to optimise team working. Hey! Yes, they exist! ‘Compass’ place the emphasis on choosing the right tools and techniques to suit the virtual team in question, but first they decide HOW the team need to work together. Then they choose the tools etc. They give six suggestions on how to optimise team working.

The Guardian’s Small Business Network blog, Successful remote collaboration: tips from those in the know 24th April 2014, takes a different angle. It recognises that remote collaboration allows many forms of meetings to take place thereby cutting travel costs and the time needed. Both mean saving money. This blog mentions technological tools that are available to help such as: SKYPE, Google Hangouts, Pop-up Office, Evernote Business, and Elance, among others. Their tips relate more to keeping the data shared between teams secure by auditing devices and data that will be shared. They take for granted that your company/clients are working openly through the cloud.

It’s a shame we may not have passed on our experiences. Such is the truth for many entrepreneurs. But you’re never too old to learn. (Don’t even think of quoting, ‘You can’t teach and old dog...’ back at us!)