We may all have previously had some limited exposure to virtual team collaborations but 2020 has pushed this way of working to the forefront. So now that we are working in this new way on a day-to-day basis, let us pause for a moment to get a better understanding of the known challenges we face when working in virtual teams and how to combat these challenges.

Traditionally it was thought that teams needed to be in regular face-to-face contact to achieve an effective team that can be creative. However, it may serve us better to put that idea to one side and consider how to achieve goals, promote creativity and problem solving regardless of our geographic location.

A virtual team will, of course, use ICT as its primary medium of interaction. Virtual teams must place the ongoing challenge of managing the collaboration at the very center of teamwork. Managing collaboration involves assembling, scheduling, monitoring, and coordinating individual interdependent activities.

ERP virtual teams consist of the customer, the system supplier, and possibly other third-party integration suppliers. The first task of any ERP implementation is to form a project team consisting of various key stakeholders.

The role of the project team is to agree on a framework and key objectives from the start point to the successful adoption of the new system. The project team should create and share a clear pathway which both project team members and end-users can understand. The team should also work on developing a ‘shared meaning context’ so that the diverse team members can use this shared meaning to understand each other’s actions so that negotiations can be fruitful and communication breakdowns can be either avoided or quickly resolved.

Once a framework or pathway has been agreed the project team can then negotiate the priority of certain goals while promoting a shared team commitment to common goals. It is worth noting however that any and all component parts of the virtual team may change as the project progresses as priorities and resources change. If we agree that some problems may be hidden at the start of the project, then we must allow for appropriate responses as and when these hidden issues emerge into clear sight.

Using a virtual teamwork tool such as Asana allows us to prebuild the ERP pathway based on the experience of having moved many companies over many years from one system to another. Given that this framework is tried and tested, work can begin quite quickly on the component tasks. It also provides a dictionary of sorts for the language that will become our shared language.

The virtual workspace also provides visibility so that everyone can monitor the project as it progresses. In this regard, the virtual workspace serves as a kind of ‘social sphere’ in which team members can monitor and provide inputs as needed.

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