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How Virtual Teams Bring Real Savings

June 1, 2001
Related Topics: Training Technology, Telecommuting, Featured Article
Companies that use virtual teams say they save money, result in more productive and effective use of workers' time, and ultimately generate better products because of the collaborative nature of the teams. Though data is hard to come by, HR managers whose firms have virtual teams say there is no question about the value.

   Nortel Networks has a vast voice and video network to connect its teams. In 2000, the company held 44,000 hours of video conferencing in their 240 video-conference facilities and held 17,000 teleconferences per month. Though they don't have any specific cost-savings figures, company officials are quick to say that virtual teams save a tremendous amount of money.

Virtual teams allow employees to be fast and competitive in disseminating information. In addition, they reduce travel expenses. "There's a phenomenal cost savings for people not having to meet face-to-face," says HR director Pratt, whose IS department has studied travel savings. Travel is expensive not only in airfare and hotels but also in lost work time. Cutting travel budgets is a matter of cost savings and efficiency. Pratt suggests the following ways to gauge specific business needs:

  1. Assess the work that has to be accomplished. Is it just information sharing? Is it creative brainstorming? Is it work that teams have to build relationships or develop new skills? This information helps you to determine the type of electronic approach you will use. Teleconferencing, for example, can be used for brainstorming so people can introduce new ideas and conduct open exchanges. If the need is for information sharing, a company may want to add some sort of meeting manager so that team members can view and manipulate charts on a screen. If the need is to dispense information to a mass audience, a Webcast might be used.

  2. Identify the interpersonal relationships. Ask questions such as: Who needs to be on the team? Where do they work, and what are their relationships? If they already know each other, teleconference and Meeting Manager work fine. If they don't, a video conference might be helpful.

  3. Consider the cost. It isn't cost-effective to buy a whole video conference system if you're going to use it only a few times a year. Build phone relationships instead. Because technology is so expensive, conduct a cost-benefit analysis.

Workforce, June 2001, p. 62 -- Subscribe Now!

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