I’ve been working with virtual teams for more than three years and I’m building them up over and over again. Companies are often still classically organized and start with first virtual teams due to multiple locations and skill shortages. This makes sense, as in addition to location advantages (customers, resources), specialists can also be hired in each region.

In this article, I want to show my experiences, which are important for building such virtual teams and what exactly the specific differences to local teams are.

Virtual teams mean you have to work with tools. Tools such as phone, email, and video conferencing. Whatever it is, it’s a different kind of work and we’re still fully understanding it.

Member of the Executive Board of an IT service provider in the roundtable

Recreating work in a meaningful virtual way

Most companies are still testing virtual work. But basically, in my opinion, you can do a part of the work virtually in any company.

Managing Director of an IT service provider in the roundtable

This is precisely the key statement. The first step is to see what kind of work is actually suitable for a virtual team. I think that software development and knowledge-based work are more suitable than production tasks.

It is now necessary to visualize this work and make it virtually visible. I notice that e.g. the organization of the company celebration is rather subconscious and it is already very difficult to put together a checklist at all. Try a project of your choice.

I will show an example in the following by organizing a company celebration. These following packages can be mapped as tasks in a software, for example. I was inspired by a website.

  • Choose an occasion
  • Set the date and time
  • Choose and book location
  • Choose the motto
  • Setting goals
  • Set funding and budget
  • Create a guest list and invite guests
  • Choosing and booking artists
  • Choose and book party service or catering
  • Organize decoration and styling
  • Organize construction and cleaning
  • Create and send invitations
  • Compile framework programme / process programme
  • Organize technical planning (sound, light, stage, video)
  • Choose and organize company celebration marketing (give-aways)
  • Making place rules

With your abstraction, a virtual team could now work through this list, and an executive would just need to make sure that tasks are done in the right order at the right time.

Breaking tasks into small packages is important for virtual work

Reading tip: Requirements for work 4.0

Processes and tools

Now it is important to establish meaningful technology for cooperation. But I don’t want to get too deep on chat systems and co. because I’ve already done this in another article. I am concerned with setting up and using the tools on a daily- day-to-day way.

Reading Tip: Virtual Teams Tools

Projects that are shredded into work packages and tasks

The first step is to break down the tasks cleanly into small projects. This way, you can easily report the status of projects. For example, you have a project in 18 tasks. You know that 16 of the 18 are already finished and can say that the project is almost finished.

A clear and described task as an example in the Jira software

Now it is necessary to write sensible and good descriptions of the tasks. The goal is that every employee can understand them easily and quickly. Conversations and stati would also have to be recorded for the task. These can be recorded as comments in the system. You can see both in the screenshot above. Important contents of tickets are:

  • Who (customer/internal) is the stakeholder of the ticket?
  • What should be done?
  • Why do we need this task?
  • When do we need the ticket
  • What is the Definition of Done?
Kanban Board or Queue, which virtual teams can use

Now it’s about cleaning up this work cleanly on the board and ensuring that the tasks are done. Above, you can see a meaningful and clean picture of the work in the picture. They always know exactly who, when, what. This can now be mapped in any tool like Jira, ORTS, Trello, OpenProject and much more. The choice is up to you.

New Leadership: Digital Leadership

Leadership, in particular, is changing. While you were still leading the employees some time ago, now pay attention to the queue and the correct division of the work. Of course, there is still coaching of the staff, but I do not want to go into the human component in this article.

A leader becomes a little product owner on from Scrum. Not 100% but it is very similar. My main tasks were:

  • Coordinate goals with management and break the work into small tickets
  • To give the team the overall picture
  • All tickets in the queue have the correct status and are clearly formulated.
  • Ensure that the queue is visible, transparent, and clear to everyone what to do.
  • Sort the tickets in such a way that goals and missions can be optimally achieved
  • Optimizing the value of work
  • Ensure that the team understands the content of the tickets to the extent necessary.

You realize that the work of a leader from the prestige leadership tends to change in a queue filler and it sounds like a degradation but remains an important task. It is the basis that the team can work. You will notice that virtual teams with clear tasks are much more efficient than on-site teams, and you are often the star as a leader.

Reading Tip: Digital Leadership

Conclusion

You realize that virtual teams can bring a big advantage. It is important that you abstract the work cleanly and divide it into small packages. These must be mapped in a software. When processing, compliance with processes is particularly important (due to distance). As a manager, the work also changes fundamentally and can be compared a little with the product owner.

Tip: Read my book: SMEs in digital transformation at Springer Gabler orbook me for a lecture.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/de/photos/thailand-asien-koh-lanta-2113685/

Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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