Global virtual teams for value creation and project success: a case study

The case study has found that as workers become more accustomed to virtual team-working, many of the anticipated difficulties become increasingly unimportant for their performance. However, actual use of communication technology lags behind technical developments and more could be done to encourage people to develop greater confidence on the suitability and dependability of the new technologies.

Keywords

  • Distributed working
  • Global virtual teams
  • Virtual projects
  • Project success

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What does the paper cover?

This qualitative study examines whether virtual projects present challenges that are different from conventional projects and how they might be more useful than face-to-face teams in delivering value. Using a post-implementation review and lessons-learned approach, the study examines two distributed information technology projects in a global banking corporation, exploring the structure, composition and communication and co-ordination methods used, as well as the elements underlining virtual project success. The authors also identify the issues and offer suggestions that might help actors overcome or lessen the impact of difficulties attributed to virtual cooperative working.

Methodology

The case studies chosen were two migration projects carried out by the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region of BankCo Inc, a large consumer bank with branches in 100 countries. As BankCo Inc. evolved from a number of multi-national companies, the move towards a single global brand led to a requirement for a standard IT system to reduce costs and improve software management.

The UK was selected as the first business to migrate to an enhanced application version of the Asia Pacific (AP) regional standard, with Greece to follow. These migration projects were especially complex as they were the first installations in Western Europe of the enhanced version of the AP regional standard software application. Eleven interviews were conducted with people close to the migration projects, all at project manager level.

Research findings

Findings indicate that time zone and cultural differences in particular, affected communication and team relations. Other barriers included more conventional issues such as management agenda and leadership style, requirements creep, asymmetry in processes, unclear roles and responsibilities, time zones, over-communication, cultural differences and trust.

Conclusions

The study concludes that virtual teams are useful for projects requiring cross-functional or cross-boundary skilled inputs, and the key to their value creation is to have a defined strategy to overcome problems associated with at-distance cooperation. For similar large-scale projects, personal project management competency, appropriate use of technology and networking ability, willingness for self-management, cultural and interpersonal awareness are fundamentals of a successful virtual team.

Significance of the research

The trend for virtual teaming has fuelled interest in associated structural, operational and human asset management problems. The question of ‘How can I manage them if I can’t see them?’ is an ongoing challenge and members are still concerned about their career prospects with reduced opportunities for social networking.

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