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Unlike 2 decades ago, when many managers had teams based in the same location, the 21st century organisation provides team leaders with a new host of challenges and opportunities. With that in mind, this article looks at how IT managers can embrace this new operating model. There are many techniques and strategies that meet the challenges associated with virtual teams.  
   
As an experienced IT professional working at either a mid-size or large company, you will now most likely be working with or managing an outsourced team. Whether it is locally with EDS, CSC or somewhere off-shore with Wipro and TCS, you may experience some of the common challenges.  
   
Communication: The most common challenge boils down to difficulties in how and when to communicate. As the famous news reporter Edward R. Murrow said, "The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it". In other words, just because we can send out hundreds of communications in a day via email it still does not prevent us from failing on a regular basis. If you are an IT manager facing communication challenges, we recommend that you:
- Hold regular, recurrent scheduled team communications
- Maintain strong, clear, central documentation for plans, communications, goals, performance expectations, and team structure
- Provide complete information to all team members to keep them involved
- Coach your team on the style of communication you'd like to receive
- Use a communication plan that shows the who, what, why, where, and when of team communications  
   
Execution: As your team is spread across different locations, you will be met with a new set of challenges - particularly if you add the complexity of multiple time zones. Just try a long distance relationship and you will get the gist - it's about as pleasant as bungee jumping with a steel wire. People's mental energy levels are not at par at different times of the day. There will also be difficulty in understanding shared values, visions and plans. Finally, it is quite difficult to ensure a level of trust so that people who have never met you in person have the same personal connection as a team member sitting next to you. Some of the most effective mitigants to these problems include:
- Establishing clear roles & responsibilities
- Implementing simple measures that promote effective time utilisation (E.g. prior sharing of the agenda and objective of a meeting/teleconference)
- Identifying a single leader for the team, with complete accountability for success and failure
- Transferring key team members to different geographical locations in diverse roles when necessary
- Leveraging web-based project management & document management tools for centralised visibility  
   
Summary:
Remote teams are a key component of today's global workplace, but the focus remains on people, process & execution. There are many strategies & tactics. Select the few that will make the greatest impact, and use them consistently.
In next month's newsletter we will look at how to mitigate issues around Performance Management and Team Cohesion with a Remote team. 

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