Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar iconNot recorded
Adobe PDF icon

Managing Virtual Project Teams

~ By Tim Bryce

Business meeting in a virtual space

Our electronic communications may be very slick, but if neither party knows what the other is talking about, you are going nowhere fast.

Bryce's Law

These are interesting times for managing systems development projects. In the old days (as late as the 1980s), whenever a development project was initiated, it was necessary to form a project team at a centralised geographical location in order to expedite communications between project members. But now we live in an age of electronic communications that provides greater flexibility in terms of allowing workers to work just about anywhere; some are at a central office, some are at home, some are consultants operating off-site, some are overseas in Timbuktu. Thanks to such things as collaborative software, the Internet, cell phones, etc., development staffs are as distributive as the systems they are trying to build. Whereas the development staff used to personally know all of the people participating on a project, now it is common for people not to be able to match a face to a name, be it nothing more than a UserID or an email address.

Although electronic communications is useful for instant messaging and exchanging design documents and files, interpersonal relationships are often sacrificed, and this is a vital part of any project. After all, if we do not know anything about an individual, we are less likely to trust and work with them effectively. Consequently, Project and Systems Managers ask me for advice on managing virtual project teams for which I offer three suggestions:

  1. Identify your cast of characters - for all members of the project team, define the project infrastructure in terms of administrative reporting relationships, along with a personnel roster. Such a roster should identify each person by proper name, nickname, and photo. There should also be contact data (including physical location), the duties and responsibilities of each person, and a brief biographical sketch describing each person. Such a sketch is invaluable for promoting understanding and trust between project participants.
  2. Define standard methods, techniques and tools. Since there are conceivably as many interpretations of systems development as there are project members, it is necessary to develop a standard and uniform approach that will result in consistent and predictable results. This means processes (phases of work) must be defined in terms of standard deliverables and review points to substantiate completeness, and standard techniques and tools to be used in the development process. Such standardisation eliminates confusion and materially assists the project team in communicating on a common level, regardless of where they are geographically located.
  3. Establish standard and routine project reporting cycles. Here, a good Project Management system can be invaluable. At minimum, project status should be reported on a weekly basis. If it is not possible to hold an on-site project review meeting in person, try holding an on-line meeting instead. Internet chat sessions and video conferencing have become very effective in this regards. The only problem though is knowing whether the participants are truly paying attention. A private project blog or discussion group can also be helpful for reporting problems and project status, as well as establishing punch lists and providing a clearinghouse for solutions.

When you think about it, there is actually nothing here that shouldn't be done under normal operating conditions where all participants are on-site and present. Electronic communications simply begs the issue. It also means standard methodologies, like "PRIDE," are just as important today as they were yesterday, perhaps more so. Consider this, without such standardisation, offshore programming is not truly feasible. Collaborative software, the Internet, and all of our other communications vehicles are nice, but without an organised and standardised development environment, chaos will inevitably ensue.


Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbour, Florida, a management consulting firm specialising in Information Resource Management (IRM). Mr. Bryce has over 30 years of experience in the field. He is available for training and consulting on an international basis. His corporate web page is at: http://www.phmainstreet.com/mba

Copyright © 2006 MBA. All rights reserved.


Advertisement


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
What is the next number: 2, 3, 4, ..?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

My Story: Working Smarter; Not Harder

Woman thinking with a light bulb drawn on a blackboard

When you realise that you have the power to change your beliefs and remove a limiting factor that has been constraining you, you have an AHA! moment.

Rolling Wave Planning

Blue rolling wave

What is rolling wave planning and how does it affect the critical chain? This article by John Goodpasture provides a detailed explanation.

Belbin and Successful Project Teams

Business team brainstorming using coloured labels on an office table

Creating successful project teams is a daunting task for project leaders. A good method for matching people to roles is the Belbin Team Inventory Method (BTIM).

Top 10 Steps to Successful Goals

Businessman sprinter winning a track race

Help avoid the great 'Rinse and Repeat Trap' by following these 10 steps to setting successful goals. You may have to work for it, however!

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Ashwini Pendharkar commented on…
10 Golden Rules of Project Risk Management
- Tue 20 June 1:32pm

Tery commented on…
A Brief History of SMART Goals
- Mon 19 June 10:10pm

Tammy Marin commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Thu 15 June 10:37pm

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Re: Web based open source calendar recommendaton required https://t.co/D20GkodlzD #projectsmart #pmot about 1 day ago

General Project Management • What degree should I choose to further my career? https://t.co/qGfgK50xLI #projectsmart #pmot about 1 day ago

General Project Management • Re: Manage Your Projects in Just 60 Minutes a Day https://t.co/Bwo6NtZF3z #projectsmart #pmot about 4 days ago