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Frank Reynold

Elements of Success in Virtual Collaborative Teams

Frank Reynold

Today, a lot of organizations profit of the technological development to build a worldwide business taking advantage of the world market skills, save time and costs. These businesses that adopt such model use what is known as virtual collaboration between teams to link those geographically dispersed team members using technological channels such as chat, e-mail, instant messaging, video conferencing …etc. But, what factors and skills needed to reach success in this virtual environment?

new study carried by researcher from Fairmont State University, USA has investigated these necessary elements of success in virtual collaboration. The study which is published in a Journal of Internet Social Networking & Virtual Communities insisted on different components of success including for instance “relationship building, communication, collaboration, and technological skills”

Relationship Building

Building relationship is important in every work environment, physical or virtual. Building great relationship is as important in virtual environment as in face to face environment to reach business success. The above study stated that relationship building helps “create team cohesion, sustainable relationships, encourage trust, team familiarity, and create a shared context among diverse team members”.

Also, the importance of having good relationship with team members lays in helping “decrease the intensity of conflicts, encourage the sharing of information, build a sense of community, and promote clarity throughout the duration of the project” the study affirmed.

Trust

All experts agree that trust is an important factor for efficient work environment and the virtual work is no exception. Researcher stressed out that “trust is the foundation for strong team relationships that enable team members to gain mutual respect for one another, to appreciate diversity, share information, and to communicate in an open environment”.

In order to build trust, team of the virtual collaborative team can meet face to face if possible, if not then they can “post biographical information and pictures online for everyone to see, or team members can meet one another through video conferencing technologies” the researcher added.

Trust can also be reached when employees know each other more including for instance knowing each one’s geographical location, cultural background, skills, knowledge, and more. By connecting with each other in an environment of trust, they would reduce the cultural differences that can hinder team success.

Communication 

Another main factor of success in every work environment, physical or virtual is communication. Members of virtual teams need to own necessary communication skills to effectively transmit message to others. For that, team members need to make sure that “their communication is simple and easy to understand, that ambiguity is limited in all messages, and that knowledge is readily shared throughout the entire team” researcher explained.

Because virtual teams are more diverse, there’s a great need of making language simpler for an effective communication. The study stated that “team must establish a common language, which means that all team members, regardless of their diversity, must use the same definitions for the same words in order to prevent misinterpretations”.

Team members can also prevent misunderstanding by using “asynchronous communication like wikis, forums, and message boards, which generally result in messages that are better thought-out than those presented by synchronous communication” as stated in the study.

Because verbal language always transmit better communication than any other form, there still “some ambiguity will always be present in VCTs, because there is a lack of nonverbal communication”. To prevent that, researcher said that “teams can change their preferred method of collaborative technology”. For instance they can make use of “voice-over-IP or video conferencing so that everyone can speak to one another in a more natural manner, and so that the team members can see the facial expressions of one another.”

Knowledge sharing

As it is said knowledge is power. At work, it is important to share knowledge with other members of the team to ensure the team work. Sharing knowledge is the way to innovation, and sharing knowledge helps in brainstorming and coming up with new ideas. Knowledge sharing is what helps the organization improve. The study explained that “In order for knowledge sharing to occur in VCTs, an environment that is trusting, free of major conflicts, and has strong relationships must be created”.

Collaboration Skills

As collaboration is the main objective of the existence of these teams, collaborative skills are required to succeed in this mission. “These collaboration skills include the ability to work autonomously and delegate tasks, the ability to motivate other members of VCTs, the ability to adapt to changing contexts, and the ability to innovate” the study mentions.

Motivation

To succeed doing a job perfectly and effectively, the employee needs motivation and passion. Because of the obstacles faced in the virtual collaboration teams such as “technological glitches, language and cultural barriers, and the increased amount of work that is needed by each team member to participate in VCTs”, team members can lose their temper unless they have motivation to collaborate and complete projects.

Technological and Web Skills

When we talk virtual collaborative teams, means that collaboration is done on the web and through the technological means. So, it is natural that members that form these virtual teams need to have technological skills to succeed in the mission.

Researcher stated that “members of VCTs must be proficient in the use of web collaboration technologies, and virtual worlds and avatars”. When they have wide knowledge and skills in using technological tools and web, members of these virtual teams can avoid the technical glitches they can face.

Against Virtual Collaboration

In spite of all the advantages offered by virtual collaboration, there are still people that are against it. Those that are not supportive of virtual collaboration see that “collaborative technologies cannot replace face-to-face collaboration… because the success of VCTs depends on the ability of the team to cross physical and cultural differences” stated in the study.

Among the other reasons cited by those who are not supportive of virtual collaboration is because “there is more conflict in VCTs than in face-to-face teams, and it is hard to establish common ground and for the members of VCTs to bond with one another”. They also see that members of virtual collaboration teams can’t succeed because of “the superiority of face-to-face communication include, the inability of some individuals to become comfortable working with VCTs, the difficulty of knowledge sharing in VCTs, and a lack of non-verbal communication cues.”

The other failure reasons provided are technical problems and technological glitches. The study stated “there is also concern over the amount of time that it takes the members of VCTs to type messages on a keyboard when using chat room or instant messaging technologies, and the need for everyone to use the same technological platform.”

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