Making Virtual Teams Work

RT-170 Topic Summary
RT 170


CII created the Making Virtual Teams Work Project Team to study the challenges and to provide recommendations.

The implementation resource developed by Research Team 170 (RT-170) provides key information on:

  • Context – A definition of virtual teaming and an introduction to the opportunities, risks, barriers, and benefits surrounding the virtual team concept. 
  • Management Issues – The key management considerations required for the successful implementation and management of a virtual team environment. 
  • Technology Issues – A summary of the technology concerns that can enhance or defeat the implementation of a virtual team. 
  • Trust – An overview of the trust, communication, and team building that are vital to successful virtual teams. 
  • Case Studies – Brief overviews of the use of virtual teaming at The Boeing Company and NASA and what lessons can be extracted for the EPC industry. This section also includes key information gathered from the virtual team survey conducted by RT-170. 
  • A Primary Checklist – The five key areas for virtual team success and for enhancing the opportunity to achieve this success.

The conclusions from this research can be summarized in the following statement: Technology is not the barrier to successfully implementing virtual teams. Although technology can lead to virtual teaming failures, sufficient technology is available to successfully implement virtual teams. Rather, revising traditional management practices is the key to successfully initiating and implementing virtual teams.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Building the Virtual Team

  • Virtual teams require initial face-to-face meetings to develop a sense of “team” for their members. This sense of team establishes the mutual goals, trust, and relationships that are necessary to complete projects. (IR170-2, p. 7)
  • A primary task for virtual team managers must be the frequent restatement of goals to the team to ensure that every member remains focused on the common objectives and goals. 
Reference: (IR170-2)

2 : Technology ​

  • Technology is no longer a limiting factor for implementing virtual teams, but poor technology choices can defeat the implementation and operation of a virtual team. (IR170-2, p. 2)
  • Technologies that enable collaboration can be classified in three major areas:  information management, conferencing, and project management. 
  • Recipients and senders of electronic documents need to verify that the information transferred during a project is reliably being communicated and is secure in its transmission.
Reference: (IR170-2)

3 : Training

  • Every organization must commit to providing each member of a virtual team with equal training. (IR170-2, p. 7)
  • Provide cultural training for international teams. 
Reference: (IR170-2)

4 : Management

  • When determining work splits and the project execution strategy, focus on competencies, not geographies or organizations. (IR170-2, p. 19)
  • An undeniable fact of virtual teaming is that the amount of electronic communications will increase for every member of the team. It is critical to establish communication guidelines.
Reference: (IR170-2)

5 : Implementation Tool #1

IR170-2, Virtual Teams:  A Guide to Successful Implementation

Provides direction for implementing and managing a virtual team (a group collaborating via electronic media from various geographic locations) in a project management environment. This guide explains how management and IT issues common with most project teams require a different approach with virtual teams. Includes a primary checklist for implementing and managing a virtual team.
Reference: (IR170-2)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved engineering productivity

Research Publications

Virtual Teams: A Guide to Successful Implementation - RR170-11

Publication Date: 05/2002 Type: Research Report Pages: 148 Status: Reference

Virtual Teams: A Guide to Successful Implementation - IR170-2

Publication Date: 11/2001 Type: Implementation Resource Pages: 26 Status: Tool

Presentations from CII Events

Session - Making Virtual Teams Work

Publication Date: 07/2001 Presenter: Chris Parker Number of Slides: 30 Event Code: AC01

Session - Virtual Teams

Publication Date: Presenter: Number of Slides: 32 Event Code: PIW403