What is a Virtual Team?
A virtual team, which may also be referred to as a team which is geographically isolated, is a collection of individuals who work together through the usage of communication technology. These people will typically have skills which complement each other, and these skills are geared towards the achievement of a specific goal.
The performance goals of this team will generally be interdependent, and each member of the team will hold themselves accountable when it comes to the completion of the shared objective.
The goal of the virtual team is to hire the most qualified people available, and the location of the individual is not important. While a virtual team will typically include people who work from home, this isn’t always the case.
Virtual team members work in offices as well as homes. There are a number of reasons why virtual teams are becoming so popular these days. The first of these is the fact that we live in the Information Age, as opposed to the Industrial Age. This means that information moves at the speed of light, and those who have access to the latest and fastest communication technologies are able to send data quickly.
The ability to send information at rapid speeds, combined with the power of the Internet, has given rise to the creation of "invisible corporations." However, the most powerful aspect of the virtual team is that it is is not restricted to their physical location.
In the past, international communication was very expensive. It could cost hundreds of dollars to speak to a person in a foreign country for just an hour, and computers were outside the price range of the poor.
With the rapidly declining cost of both computers and communication costs, more people are able to work together from different parts of the globe, and they are able to do so at the lowest price possible.
Because the cost of both computers and communications have fallen to a fraction of the levels that they were in the 1980s and the 1990s, this has allowed products and services to be produced at a lower price.
Virtual Teams: The Symbol of the Information Age
In the past, it was not feasible for a company based in any country to hire an employee from another country, unless this employee was so valuable that the expense of hiring them was worth it.
Make no mistake, brain drain has existed since the Industrial Age, but the difference between that age and the Information Age is that in this age, companies can hire the best and brightest from other countries without requiring them to relocate.
For example, today a world recognized software company based in the United States can hire high level programmers from India or China, and they can employ these individuals without requiring them to relocate.
In the past, it would have been necessary for these programmers to relocate to the United States, and employing them would have been very expensive. The advent of virtual teams has bypassed the challenges that traditional borders have typically created. Virtual teams have a level of flexibility which allows small companies to compete with a minimal amount of resources.
An organization which is flexible in its communication is much better able to adapt to the rapid changes which are being made in the global marketplace. Virtual teams are highly efficient because workers spend the majority of their time working as opposed to traveling, which means they save money.
Why Virtual Teams are Effective
Virtual teams are also highly effective because they don’t have any "off" hours. For example, with a traditional corporation, where all its employees are available in a single city, has an 8 hour work day.
In contrast, a virtual corporation which is comprised of employees that work internationally has a 24 hour work day. When the employees in one time zone are sleeping, the others are working. This means that in theory, the virtual team can get more done in a shorter period of time when compared to the traditional corporation.