How to make your Virtual Team work – Part 2

This is the second short video based on the keynote presentation to the PMI Serbia Chapter Project Society Conference in Belgrade in September 2015.

In this section we’re talking about personal experiences of virtual teams and I’m presenting five of them: the first one involved a research team where everybody was in one city. We used to meet from time to time and in fact physically whenever we could. What was interesting was that when somebody was absent, they joined the meeting by Skype. One time one of the participants instead of being in Switzerland was in China and I hadn’t been notified in advance. I turned up to the meeting, asked where he was and someone said “oh that’s all right; he’ll join in anyway”. With that sort of environment where people are very used to using their smartphones, the interactions and the development of the project can be really very speedy, very fast compared to the old way of doing projects, where people used to hold their decisions until they actually met face to face.

A second format that I experienced involved bringing people together in the chapters of the Project Management Institute over all of EMEA, in other words from South Africa right up to Finland, which involves about a hundred and twenty countries. But this turned out to be particularly difficult because I think the people did not know each other. They spoke different languages, they had different cultures but there were also technical issues, for example some people preferred to join a meeting by telephone, others said yes, that was too expensive but they were quite happy with something like Skype. If you were on telephone, then you couldn’t share the slides and it took a lot of effort even to get consensus on things like how long the meeting should be, how often it should take place and what technology it should use. So that was a very challenging environment.

Another one that I’ve experienced involves PMI volunteers located globally.These people do in fact know each other and they meet each other once a year precisely to get to know each other. It’s called a planning meeting but it would be very hard to work if the people didn’t really know each other. It involves interviewing people and so that coverage can be offered globally.There are three people in each team and any two of them can usually make a meeting, regardless of where the applicant is.

Another format that I worked with was by having all the members of the team in one country.This meant that they shared language, time zone, legal environment and this made the contract issues easier.  From time to time there were face-to-face meetings but the international working was limited by the choice of language. If a project is going to be global, it really needs a global language or one that is at least spoken by the vast majority of the people involved.

And a fifth environment that I’ve had contact with was a network of teams. In the previous example it was a network of individuals but this has a disadvantage that if one person is away, than their skill-set drops out and they don’t really have anyone that they can brief. But by having contacts along the same lines but with teams means that when something needs to be covered, then another person in the team can be briefed and brought in. Also if there are problems or challenges or arguments, then it’s easier to change the people involved because there are more people there and that makes it easier to resolve.

However a feature of this type has been commercial differences an some of them very much unexpected. For example, between Europe and the United States there are very different ways of using banks. United States people use checks a lot; in Europe they have been superseded by electronic transfers completely. People publish their bank account number because all you can do with it is put money into it. In the United States there is a preference not to publish bank account numbers. So those sort of things can mean that the commercial interaction is that little bit more difficult.

So if you wish to discuss any of your own project issues with me please, to connect through all the usual methods either through our website at and email phone, call or connecting by LinkedIn. I look forward to hearing from you, thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.


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