The importance of teamwork is tremendously high in the business world. It does not matter how good the business idea could be, only a team of professionals in different spheres is able to implement this idea into a prosperous business. The technological breakthroughs in information technology have made possible the implementation of such an advanced and efficient concept of teamwork as a virtual team. In brief, this concept can be described as “a team, whose members use the Internet, Intranets, Extranets and other networks to communicate, coordinate and collaborate with each other on tasks and projects even though they may work in different geographical locations and for different organizations”, according to Casey and Richardson (2006).
There are benefits and drawbacks in the implementation of this concept into the business processes of any company or organization. Therefore, the high value of an individual, who is able to face the challenges and develop the successful achievements of a virtual team, is beyond any doubts. The role of a good virtual team manager in the overall success of any virtual team is substantial and needs to be discovered in order to understand the approaches and actions that lead to this success. The duties of a virtual team manager are rather the same as of any usual team manager, but they are more complicated in several aspects (Beise, 2004).
According to the definition, the virtual team differs from the traditional team in the geographical location of its members. The challenges that follow are inability to communicate in the usual ways and build interpersonal relationships in the team, different time zones could create the problem of the asynchronous work process, lack of the overall understanding of the final goal, and motivational issues (Powell et al., 2004; Casey & Richardson, 2006). In order to solve these issues, the need for new approaches and methods is obvious.
In my experience as an IT specialist, I had an opportunity to work on the project, where the virtual team was involved. I was the one, who had to manage the work of the team and to provide the supervisors with adequate results. At that time, my working experience as the IT manager was not that substantial, so I can look back now and conclude that I could have done some things better. Anyway, the objective of the project was to create an online shop. This shop was supposed to sell mobile devices, gadgets, accessories, etc. The goal was to create a comprehensive tool that would allow providing the full cycle service for the customers and maintenance personnel (Kimball, 1997; Ocker & Fjermestad, 2008).
I have found programmers, web-designers, product managers, and all other personnel that was needed in such a case. They were people from different countries, with different language and professional skills. The first challenge that I had experienced was the inability to gather the team members in one particular time to discuss the overall concept, work out the scheme of business, and solve the procedural issues. The thing was in the difference between their geographical locations and time zones.
After a couple of tries, I understood that simple “please” did not work, so I reminded all of them the terms of the contract, and it worked. Some team members were not too happy to hear that, the video meeting over the Internet went not so well, we had not worked out the business plan. It was the lesson for me, it was necessary to give the assignments for each segment of the team to create a comprehensive plan of action. Only then, it was reasonable to call the meeting and try to decide what to do (Kimball, 1997; Ocker & Fjermestad, 2008).
Another substantial issue was the inability to work as a team. People with different cultural backgrounds, professional experiences, and approaches to the work process tried to solve the difficulties. I was in the middle of these difficulties and understood that one universal approach to each member of the team was not working. I had to create new, various approaches and work with each team member as with an individual. Then we discussed the motivational issues, I managed to find the right words for every personality in our multicultural and multinational team. After a while, we worked out the procedure that allowed all team members working asynchronously, but we all were able to use the results of each other.
In the middle of the project, the problem with motivation occurred again. The problem was in the amount of the reward for the different members of the team. Some members were from the Far East, some from Eastern Europe, some from the USA, others from Europe. The reward levels were rather different; our project required different specialists and had a particular budget. People started to communicate with each other and found out these differences, despite the fact that they had signed the contract already and agreed on the proposed salary. It was a very serious challenge for me. I had to motivate very different people and it was difficult because the communication was totally impersonal (Ocker & Fjermestad, 2008).
We completed the project with delays and glitches in the system. I had a lot of things to think about. The work in such a virtual team on the position of the manager has taught me several things. First of all, it is very important to have a clear plan of action. It is necessary to create a personal approach to each team member as well. Moreover, the motivation should be built on a deep understanding of the personality, which is impossible without the previous exploration of the team member’s character. In the end, it is utterly important to show, who the boss is in the team, and why all team members must work as one team. In general, it was an excellent experience for me that made me better as the IT manager.