Category Archives: Tools

Update on Whiteboards for Virtual Teams

whiteboard example
The design goal of many collaboration tools is to reproduce as closely as possible some aspect of the face-to-face meeting experience so that virtual project teams can be as productive as co-located teams. What I have found is that some tools developed for virtual teams actualy work better than the process they were built to replace. A great example of this is the whiteboard. Online whiteboards available today for free make many common whiteboarding tasks easier than the old fashioned flip-charts or dry-erase markers. You can use electronic whiteboards to brainstorm, problem solve, describe complex concepts, create flow-charts, or even vote on issues as a team. All it takes to be successful is a tool that has a minimum of features that are well-implemented and intuitive.

Just like desktop sharing tools (see my last blog), online whiteboards have come a long way in the past few years. There are now many free tools that have some excellent features and would be a great addition to any virtual teams’ tool box. I will mention a few here and comment on their pros/cons. Note: this is just a sample of current offersings and not intended to be an exhaustive list nor an endorsement of, nor recommendation for, any particular tool. Continue reading

Update on Key Communications Technologies for Virtual Teams

As someone with a great deal of personal experience working in virtual teams and having managed a collaboration technologies research team for several years, I am very familiar with the obvious as well as subtle problems with the collaboration tools available today. As  I am sure you know, there are just way too many tools from which to choose. For this post, I’ll touch on my recent experience with just a few examples of those that provide communications (auditory, visual and data). Continue reading

Communicate Effectively with Technology

canThe number of technologies we have at our fingertips today to communicate with our virtual project team members is nothing short of daunting. In addition to the most natural and effective method we all know as ” face-to-face,” we have phone (wired and wireless), voicemail, email, instant messaging, blogs, RSS, SMS and Twitter, to name just the big ones.  Unfortunately, none of us are taught how to best use these techologies to get our ideas across to each other and to minimize the impact on our colleagues. It is no wonder, then, that we all struggle with them.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out which technology to use when or how to use it properly–it just takes a moment or two of thought Continue reading

Resolving Disagreements in Virtual Teams

conflictOne of the more difficult team dynamics project managers must face from time-to-time is conflict. The ‘conflict’ can be project-related or interpersonal, but either way, strong feelings are often involved, making rational resolutions difficult. For virtual teams where face-to-face time is rare or non-existent, conflict resolution can be especially challenging, even for the highly skilled virtual team manager. Continue reading

The Future of Virtual Project Teams, part 2

rocketIn the first part of this series I talked about how future project leaders may select team members for their projects. In this installment, I will discuss the future of virtual team spaces, which include real-time tools that facilitate ‘in-person’ sharing of information and the online workspaces where project documents are stored. Continue reading

The Future of Virtual Project Teams

rocketI always enjoy imagining what the future will be like for all sorts of things: transportation, energy, architecture, space exploration, and the everyday chores of life. Perhaps it is my lifelong interest in science fiction, or perhaps I just want to believe that a better world is possible. One thing is for sure: all great productivity improvements start with people imagining how things can be better. So, let’s explore the future of teams. Specifically, virtual project teams, since that is my specialty. Continue reading

Teambuilding for Virtual Teams

Every project manager worthy of the title knows why effective teamwork is critical to project success. All members of great teams know their own roles, limitations and strengths, as well as those of everyone else on the team. They use this knowledge to avoid duplication, anticipate problems, and quickly determine who is most able and qualified to take on a new project assignment. These teams operate with minimal management oversight. In fact, wherever you find a micromanaging team leader, you are sure to find a poorly functioning team. Obviously there are many other factors that cause teams to malfunction (i.e., lack of clarity of purpose, roles, skills, etc.), but one factor is always critical: good teamwork. Continue reading


While instant messaging between telecommuters can replace some of the teambuilding function of chatting around the coffee machine in the office, and can help a supervisor to see who’s (virtually) at work, it doesn’t quite meet the need for replacing the general in-office chatter that keeps a team together. I’d wondered about Twittering, but security requirements for many companies would make that impractical.

B-NET points out Yammer, a Twitter-ish micro-blog for use behind the company firewall. How about using this for team members to keep one another abreast of what they’re doing and to update supervisors on who’s accomplishing what?

I like the idea that workers could present a view of progress toward objectives rather than showing simple presence through an instant message client. It lets people update coworkers at their convenience, too, rather than requiring them to start a “look what I’m doing” live chat.

Would it work for you? If you’ve tried it, what do you think of it?

Two great uses for SR

I have found two great uses of speech recognition for telecommuters. But, before I tell you what they are, I’d like to give you some background on my experience with speech recognition software.

My SR Learning Experience

My typing speed varies between 80 and 150 wpm, depending on how much sleep I’ve had the previous night and my caffeine intake at that point in the day. The more caffeine, the slower my net speed due to the increased frequency of the backspace key–the most used key on my keyboard. As you can imagine, this speed was taking a toll on my wrists. Since my job required me to write a great deal, I found I was starting to experience some repetitive motion pain. Before the pain turned to injury, I decided to give speech recognition (SR) software a try. I had already tried an ergo keyboard, which helped, but being the geek I am, I wanted to try out something I felt could really fix my problem. I figured, why type at all, when the computer (theoretically) could do it for me! Continue reading