Virtual projects are now surging in popularity thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and its results. The pandemic has forced companies to continue working while keeping employees safe and ensuring all the tasks are well-executed. This is where global virtual projects come in handy.
Now that most employees have tasted the experience of virtual projects, they realize that remote projects are much more efficient and much less time-consuming than their real counterparts. That's why virtual projects have become common in the corporate world these days.
However, there are still a few obstacles to making virtual projects a standard practice for everyone around the globe. Most of these can be boiled down to typical human problems: mistrust, fear of the unknown, inability to work together, or just people being inconsiderate towards their fellow human beings.
Therefore, companies still face many challenges of global virtual projects to start conducting remote or virtual projects for their employees.
What is a Global Virtual Project?
A global virtual project is essentially a project where people, sometimes from different countries, work together virtually across multiple timezones. Although it can be less time-consuming and more efficient, you can't really avoid the challenges.
For example, different cultures approaching the goal and methods for achieving it often result in conflicts between individual team members. There are also problems with communication and difficulty understanding each other's styles. In addition, decision-making takes longer within virtual teams due to diverse opinions that require extensive discussions before an agreement is reached.
Lack of face-to-face meetings also makes it difficult to build rapport and trust with teammates. And since virtual teams don't have the luxury of face-to-face meetings, it takes more effort to build these relationships. This slows down projects and requires additional work hours to coordinate with members outside one's time zone.
Also, virtual teams are usually less cohesive than their counterparts in real-life working environments. It can be quite difficult to create rapport among members who have never met in person since they often lack personal information to help them feel comfortable around each other.
Top 10 Challenges of Global Virtual Projects
Having different approaches toward the goal is one of the most problematic factors for virtual projects. Since many decisions are made virtually, it can take weeks or even months until everyone agrees on something and decides on the right course. This also means that achieving an efficient global virtual project can be challenging.
However, nothing is impossible if we have enough will and determination to turn our lives into something worth living. That's why we decided to take matters into our own hands and create a list of top challenges that global virtual projects may face.
1. Learning virtual software
This is the very first challenge on our list today. As you may know already, virtual technology has increased significantly since Covid-19 went a pandemic. Many companies have started using video conference software to connect with team members in real-time.
Due to the pandemic, the number of people who would like to learn these tools has grown exponentially. However, most employees can't keep up with the pace of using new tools. This means there will be problems for new software users to understand how things work, which can slow down the work if they are not trained properly.
2. Communication Failure
Virtual projects often use remote events, such as webinars or teleconferences, to communicate with team members and build relationships. Lately, they have become a significant challenge due to many factors, including time zone differences between participants from all over the world.
Otherwise, it might happen that certain people won't be able to attend since they are still asleep while your event or meeting is taking place. Therefore, organizing an efficient webinar may require a significant amount of effort on the company's side if you want it done successfully without wasting too much time.
3. Language Barrier
If your company consists of many employees from different countries, working together on a global virtual project can be a challenge if you don't use a universal language to communicate. Although English is the official language to communicate in different countries, some employees may not communicate with it.
Often, a few team members can experience a lack of communication simply because they don't quite understand the language you use to communicate. Language barriers can significantly hinder your team from achieving the project goals, especially when working on a remote term.
4. Bad Virtual Management
Managing the whole program may be a huge challenge when conducting virtual projects. Since people don't really meet each other and have regular, face-to-face conversations, most companies find it quite difficult to strengthen the relationship between employees.
This often leads to mismanagement of working on a certain project because managers don't know their subordinates well. That's why they can delegate tasks to the wrong people, expect unrealistic goals, and micromanage teammates.
Cybercrime is becoming more popular today as more people use the internet to find information and connect with loved ones. However, the massive use of the internet has led to a new kind of crime among internet users that most are unaware of. Nowadays, cybercrime has become a threat to that unknown of internet-related activity, including virtual events or working on virtual projects.
This is a serious threat since the gathered information is usually sold off on illegal markets and used by criminals online (for example, stealing someone's identity). Moreover, this malware often corrupts the file system and makes it impossible for users to run their programs unless they pay ransom money.
Therefore, being constantly aware of your surroundings when surfing the internet and doing the project is crucial if you want to avoid dangerous viruses as well as other kinds of cybercrimes.
6. Different Work Ethics
Working on a global virtual project means that you'll be surrounded by many different people from all over the world with varying ethics of work. You can't rely on them to behave similarly as they would in a real office because most of the time, they will feel limited due to their geographical location and inability to perform certain things.
For example, an overseas worker might not understand why it is necessary for them to arrive at 9:00 AM sharp if there's no one else besides themselves who needs to start working at that time. If this person gets hired, it means that you need a solid management system that can enforce the proper behavior and procedures required in your global virtual projects.
7. Culture Differences
Working under constant pressure due to tight deadlines is not peculiar only to the virtual workplace. However, many of these projects also include participants from various cultural backgrounds dealing with their own respective sets of beliefs and traditions, which are sometimes very difficult to overcome.
For example, some cultures may find it disrespectful if you don't arrive at least 30 minutes before a meeting they have scheduled with you. This is just one aspect where differences in opinions can arise between different people working together on one global virtual project - meaning that compromise is always necessary (even if it doesn't sound like your cup of tea).
8. Time Zone Issues
Time zones are an inevitable part of working for global virtual teams. They are why communication within the team is often restricted to specific hours of the day, which can lead to disconnection if you're not careful enough.
For example, let's say that you need to have a conversation with your colleague who lives on the other side of the Earth. If both of you have already gone to sleep by midnight, good luck trying to wake them up during working hours so they could help you out - unless you had prior knowledge about their sleeping habits.
9. Technical Issues
Even though we live in the age of the internet and technology is advancing quickly, issues still arise when working with global virtual teams. This is why it's crucial to always have a backup plan if something doesn't work out as planned or users decide not to cooperate.
For example, let's say that you want to use Skype for communication, but due to some technical problems (you're constantly getting disconnected from the session or hearing a crackling sound), it seems like you can't do that anymore. In such cases, you can try using alternative services such as Google Hangouts or Zoom - just make sure everyone else is aware of this change so no one would find themselves without options if needed.
10. Lack of Proper Organization
Working on a global virtual project can lead to disastrous consequences if you don't have a solid team. Sometimes, even though everyone might seem like they're cooperating and working together just fine - the lack of proper virtual team management can lead to neglecting certain tasks, making it impossible for projects to get done on time.
This is why every member of your team should understand that it's impossible to be "lazy" when working with people from other countries and cultures. They need to always follow the rules and procedures required by the management, or else chaos will ensue.
Global virtual projects may become an inevitable part of our lives in the future. However, this doesn't mean that they're going to be a walk in the park for people who would like to get involved with them.
If you are starting a global virtual project, make sure to check every possible challenge of global virtual projects listed above. After all, the earlier you learn how to work properly within a global team setting, the better it'll be for your career!