The use of virtual teams provides the organization more flexibility. No longer bound by time and distance, teams can come together as fast as the mouse click that logs them on to the Internet. The organization has more latitude in how, when, and where tasks are performed. Virtual team members are also afforded more flexibility on a personal level. Working virtually, people are not tied to a specific place or timeframe in which to perform the task, allowing the team members to organize their time in the most efficient and effective way for each of them personally
Because virtual teams can consist of members from all over the world, there is a larger group of people to draw from. The diverse makeup of the virtual team provides for more ideas from a variety of viewpoints. With virtual teams organizations can also utilize expert consultants and bring in team members with specific expertise more cost effectively. There is also a much greater opportunity for information sharing and collaboration among virtual team members using Internet-based communication technologies, along with more occasions for input and feedback from all virtual team members.
There are chances for creating strategic partnerships or alliances that may not have been feasible without employing virtual teams. Organizations may become more competitive. An increase in the product cycle development or reduced time to market is possible when using virtual teams. Utilizing virtual teams can also provide an organization the opportunity to increase productivity. Internetbased communication technologies allow virtual teams to essentially work around the clock from any geographic location.
Virtual teams must address a variety of challenges that can be detrimental to the organization. While being separated geographically can be an advantage for virtual teams, it can be a disadvantage as well. If a face-to-face meeting is required, the logistics of arranging such a gathering can be cumbersome. Even an Internet-based synchronous meeting can be difficult to organize due to time zone differences.
Often virtual team members will feel isolated, lonely, and disconnected from the organization and consequently will not form a productive, cohesive working unit. They may fear their accomplishments will not be recognized by the organization. Conversely, the line between work and home can become blurred for virtual team members. The constant communication among the virtual team can result in information overload. It is possible that virtual team members will lose focus on the task if they are not self-directed personalities.
Miscommunication can happen very easily in virtual teams. Cultural differences can be barriers to effective communication among all members of the team. Not everyone may speak the same language, resulting in misunderstandings that can be damaging to the organization. Using Internet-based communication technologies can also result in an increase in costs for the organization. Technology is very resource intensive. Initial purchase of the hardware and software, upgrades, maintenance of the infrastructure, training of employees, and the creation of a support team can be an ongoing expense that is detrimental to the organization. New technologies may not be compatible with existing technology, resulting in further cost to the organization. Keeping the Internet-based technology used by the virtual teams secure from outside destructive forces such as hackers requires further outlay of revenue.
If the administrative structure of the organization does not support the concept of virtual teams, the team will fail. Working in a virtual team requires a new way of thinking for both employees and management. Organizations that do not provide the tools necessary for the success of the virtual team will be at a distinct disadvantage.
The virtual world is a reality. More and more people are interacting at all levels—economically, socially, and educationally—solely in a virtual environment. Because of the nature of business today, using virtual teams is rapidly becoming an industry standard and organizations must adapt.
Successfully implementing a virtual team demands careful planning and preparation. The need for a virtual team must be well established. The virtual team members and the leader of the team need to be identified. A task for the virtual team and the processes to complete that task have to be clearly articulated. The challenges of culture, geography, technology, and resources must be dealt with accordingly.