Thanks to technology and globalisation, many of us are working in a “virtual world” – from virtual offices, with virtual project teams, and participating in virtual events. This virtual world gives us access to knowledge, international markets and diverse resources like never before. Let’s look at how.
A good virtual office in Australia provides instant access to a prestigious city office address, at a tiny fraction of the cost of physical office leasing. Whether you’re a big company looking to quickly “turn on” presence in an overseas market, or a small business simply looking for a great mailing address paired with a low-cost, on-tap meeting space solution, virtual offices are attractive because they are available on a flexible, month-to-month contract. Some of the impressive features of virtual offices include luxurious boardrooms, professional receptionists and high-tech presentation facilities, as and when required. (Note some providers send reception calls offshore – it’s best to check the quality of the reception service, just as it’s important to check the facility itself, before signing up.) With no fitout, or capital outlay on things like phone systems, photocopiers and printers, virtual offices are being embraced by business people at all ends of town.
Once upon a time, in-person was the only way to learn or network in large groups. Then along came teleconferencing, web conferencing and webinars. These virtual events remove the barrier of physical distance, and have become part of the fabric of our working lives. Virtual events are attractive to:
- Finance, because they are way less costly than face-to-face events or training;
- Sales, who can leverage resources scattered in many locations to plan strategy, collaborate and devise solutions for tenders;
- Marketing, because virtual events draw in potential prospects from around the world rather than the comparatively tiny pool of one city, and they attract a higher percentage of the target market as they can typically be offered free of charge (without the overhead of a conference venue or delegate meals). Virtual event attendees can be polled for their feedback, providing an immediate pulse on the market. Virtual WORD documents allow for easy audience collaboration, which can be explored further through a web chat box. Social media can also be incorporated into a virtual event through hashtags. And at the end of the event, attendees can receive a virtual goody bag full of white papers or discount vouchers or anything else that a creative marketing team can dream up.
With technology at the backbone of virtual events, the IT department are also big fans.
Technology projects are actually a great example of how virtual teams can work well, despite the challenges of time zone differences and cultural diversity amongst team members. Certainly rigour around project management is more crucial than ever when team members are far apart. Reporting, meeting and communication frameworks need to be clearly defined, and collaboration tools, shared document repositories and templates need to be put in place. Virtual teams come alive through social media, wikis and videoconferencing. Further, team members need to overlap their schedules by at least an hour or two every day to enable handover and discussion. But virtual teams means less travel for all, bringing the benefits of:
- More time available for resources on the ground to be productive
- Less employee time spent away from home (resulting in a better work/life balance)
- Lower (travel) costs
- Faster, more agile working due to team members spread across follow-the-sun locations, covering the daytime shift in multiple time zones.
Face-to-face interaction should not be eliminated, however, particularly for longer-term or complex projects. For example, project leaders can build morale and team spirit much more easily in-person.
Virtual Outsourcing is on the rise. While cost is a key reason companies establish virtual teams offshore, innovation and access to the best possible technical talent out there is an equally important driver.