In my IT Dojo post, "IT must prepare for $200-a-barrel oil and a rise in remote workers," I described how rapidly increasing oil and fuel costs will raise the number of remote workers—including IT professionals. IT leaders who oversee teams of remote workers must develop the skills to successfully manage a distributed workforce.
According to the Global Knowledge white paper, "Successfully Managing Remote Teams," managers of distributed teams must:
- Develop and follow a team plan: Your plan should spell out the team's communication plan, the decision making process, and conflict resolution strategy. Furthermore, you must properly distribute goals, roles and responsibilities, ensure fair work distribution, and decide your leadership level.
- Get to know the team members: Face-to-face meetings are always best, particularly when meeting someone for the first time. Video conferences will do in a pinch. Telephone calls and e-mails should be your last resort.
- Stay in touch: Regularly check in with members to monitor progress and provide necessary feedback. Keep members apprised of critical information and decisions.
- Maximize meetings: Set and follow an agenda, be prepared and require others do the same, and ensure the right people attend. If necessary, allow extra time for preparation when using collaboration technology—video conferencing, shared desktops, conference phone systems.
- Leverage technology: As a member of a distributed team, I will attest to the benefits of video conferencing and collaboration technology. Seeing a coworker's face builds a stronger bond and hearing a disembodied voice on a conference call.
The suggestions are just a few of the remote management skills IT leaders will need to master in the coming years. Check out the following TechRepublic resources for more information on managing remote teams:
- 10 tips for managing virtual teams
- Managing Teams in a Virtual Environment
- Virtual team Development and Global Collaboration Part I: How to Engage a Mobile Workforce
- Virtual teams and Global Collaboration Part II - Winning Strategies for virtual teams
- Working Together From a Distance: Best Practices for High-Performance virtual teams
- Development of virtual teams and Learning Communities
- Real Problems With virtual teams: An Analysis of the Factors Leading to Dysfunctional Online
- 6 Ways to Work More Effectively on a virtual team
- How one consultant learned to connect with virtual teams
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.