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Six Strategies for Improving your Virtual Team – Two Paths to Select the Right Technology

How does technology factor into the performance of a virtual team?

With the global workplace becoming saturated with various forms of media, selecting the right technology to accomplish team objectives should not be entered into unadvisedly. A mismatch of technology to a team can slow performance, add ambiguity and result in ambivalence.

Additionally, the number of communication and project planning tools can be overwhelming. Your teams are already busy with their own projects and do not have precious time to spend testing out new technology. So, how can you introduce the right technology to your team?

Start by matching your communications methods to the message. When selecting a system to enhance virtual communication, keep in mind two factors to help make this decision — social presence and information richness.

Social presence is the degree to which the communication method creates a personal and emotional connection between the senders and the receivers. If your team is establishing new relationships, building trust, discussing emotionally charged issues or dealing with conflict, consider systems that integrate a high social presence into your communication techniques. These could include webcams, video conferencing or phone conferencing. If there is already high trust between your team members, communicating via IM, text messages, e-mail or other shared documents (Google Docs) may suffice.

Information richness is the degree to which a communication method helps reinforce intent or meaning while reducing confusion or misunderstanding. If your team is large and you want to ensure everyone is heard and understood, consider systems that integrate high information richness to allow everyone to stay on track. These could include video conferencing software with a panel for chat text and graphics to see feedback in real-time. This allows people to speak their mind without having to talk over others. Additionally, this type of software may allow meetings to be recorded, so team members in different time zones may play back the meeting for optimum clarity. Having this level of information richness with facial expressions and body language is advantageous to all teams and can provide more detail than a summary email.

Need recommendations for virtual team technology tools that offer high social presence and/or high information richness? Contact Partners in Development today!


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