Saturday, 18 February 2012

Virtual teams - benefit or disadvantage?

I was recently at University (MSc course) where the topic of virtual teams and outsourcing was discussed.

There was a great deal of discussion about the benefit of virtual teams, i.e. how wonderful they are, all the benefits of them, etc. People were suggesting things like "you can have 24/7 production".  Well, that may be true, but that is not really an argument for virtual teams and outsourcing.

The reality is that virtual teams and outsourcing is good if you are only bothered about the cost of the item that you're producing. Everything else is a disadvantage, re-framed as a "cool feature".  For example, videoconferencing as a benefit.  It's a benefit if you or your organisation has outsourced production somewhere else, but if you're just on one site, then it's unnecessary!  What I'm saying is that by trying to save money in production, you've shifted the cost (and problems) to somewhere else, i.e. having to get around the issue that people are spread across multiple sites and timezones.

That's not to say that if you are a global organisation, you shouldn't do things like that.  All your programming talent may be in India, or wherever and you want to utilise their skills instead of using staff locally.  Or maybe you have a PM who is only available in another country or location.  I understand that.  But perhaps you should just produce the product in one place?  I just don't really see that virtual teams are really that much of a benefit apart from an attempt to reduce cost.

Perhaps I've missed something though, so I would welcome your input/discussion of this.  You can either reply here, or on Twitter to @jugglingsand

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