Monday, January 3, 2011

Virtual Team Boundaries

Virtual teams have more boundaries than co-located teams. Some of these are internal to the team, but others are external and unique to the nature and architecture of virtual teams. Thus, there is an amplification of activities and relationships that are defined and constrained by boundaries, each of which is to be managed for the risk to both budget efficiency and performance effectiveness.

With virtual teams, every team member is a potential node on a network and a point of interface with other members of the team. At each node for each team member, there are governance rules. Some of these rules are general purpose and apply to every node, and others will be very specific to the circumstances at one node and not apply to others.

Governance on the network
The purpose of network rules is to control or direct workflow among team members, and to mitigate the risks of time and distance between team members. One mitigation is to use the rules at boundaries to establish a degree of command control that is naturally present in co-located teams, but not so in virtual teams.

Work cycles
Because virtual teams can operate around the clock, the need to synchronize configuration control of the project’s intellectual property—documents, standards, designs, reports, data, and procedures. Synchronization errors can become a significant risk to the integrity of the material. Rules for configuration control typically require that check-in and check-out cycles operate 24 hours per day so that no team member is locked out during their work day, but this puts unusual stress on the system because there is no time-out for stabilization, maintenance, and for processes to load and apply changes to run in batch cycles. One approach is to rotate required downtimes among all work day cycles.
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