Virtual project teams are the quintessential example of a matrix and cross-functional team. As a result, risks around geography, culture, communication, and organizational structure present themselves in ways that havent done so in the past. In addition, there is a higher probability with virtual teams for misunderstanding and conflict that hinder their ability to produce and deliver a successful project.
It is bad enough that majority of project and initiatives fail to meet their original success criteria, but when you add the additional risks and burdens related to a virtual project it seems doomed to certain failure. Given the critical importance that virtual projects and initiatives have for an organization, how can you avoid failing?
The success of a virtual project team depends highly on five critical steps. These steps, if in place and executed successfully, will dramatically improve the productivity and overall success rate for any virtual project.
Organization to any project is very important, but it is critical to a virtual project. From the very start, there needs to be a very clear vision and mission statement for that project. Every person on that team needs to know what the project is chartered to complete, the timing, and the success factors that will be used to track and measure it along the way.
In a partnership, the roles and responsibilities of each member of the team from the sponsor, project manager, to the most junior person need to be documented and understood. It is recommended that a project-specific document is created in addition to the normal roles and responsibilities document. The project-specific document should include a biography of each team member preferably with a picture. The bios should include the role and skills of the individual, but also have something about them as a person. It will help for the team to bond a bit more if they are able to see that there may be others with like interests even if they are half a world away.
Finally, it is important that each team member is rated and tracked based on their performance; within their specific assignments as well as the overall performance of the project. They need to have some "skin in the game" so to speak with respect to making sure the overall project is successful. The rating process is important even if there is no monetary component tied to the successful delivery of the project. The rating process must be consistently applied across all geographic areas covered by the project so that there is no possibility of dissension within the team because one group is looked upon more favorably than another.