Globalisation Online Communities & Virtual Teams

Globalisation Online Communities & Virtual Teams

For those who haven't realised yet, I am very much a proponent of Globalisation (and the outsourcing that comes with it), online communities (and the knowledge management benefits that come with them), virtual teams and fractional work. I believe that each of these key components to the future of the way we do work can only benefit us all. Not everyone agrees with me.

I recently read this blog where the author clearly wants to stop outsourcing and cites two reasons; firstly to stop jobs going overseas and secondly to prevent talking to call centres which are "obviously based overseas". the first of these two is of most interest to me. Of course, no-one wants to see jobs lost, more so if it's your job. However, I do believe that there are plenty of good reasons for jobs going overseas. If jobs were outsourced simply because of economics, whilst many would dislike this, what's wrong with it?

From a high-level view nothing has really changed here. You are in competition for your job. You always were and you always will be. What's slightly different is rather than be in competition with those who are, say, within a 50 mile radius, of your office location this radius how now potentially extended to contain the entire world.

There is a hidden change though and this is the one that I suspect is the most frustrating to those who are affected. Influence. Normally, you can influence whether you get, keep and progress in a job through your performance. Now, performance is not the single factor, money is under consideration. If you have generic, transferable skills then you must accept that just about anyone in the world can acquire those skills to the same level. At this point, given that the skill base and standard of it is constant, economics will prevail - as it should.

The proliferation of internet use and the more recent developments of online communities are making it easier and easier for us to conduct business on a global scale. Many thousands of people have a public, searchable profile on the internet enabling then to be "found". If you know what you are looking for, you can find it in seconds and not just one. You'll find tens or hundreds and probably in every country. So now you can build your virtual team of colleagues. Imagine the efficiencies you could realise if you selected your colleagues with geographic spread such that part, or parts, of your team are always working at any point in a 24 hour period. Seven hour days are out, flexibility is in.

So now you need to "manage" your virtual team. You all need a place to have your virtual meetings, there's no boardroom, no coffee and no biscuits in cyberspace. So you choose a collaboration platform, Basecamp is one example that I have used. Each team member has a logon. You give your clients and suppliers logons too (perhaps with slightly different access). No we can all virtually meet with ease. We can share files, comment on them, version them. Track meeting actions, tasks and their delivery dates and, of course, the project plan. Without realising it, and with no plan to do it, who now have a small knowledge management platform. A single repository that is searchable, containing all data pertinent to a project, country, client - however you choose to categorise. It's a permanent transcript of all events for future reference and learning.

OK, so what about fractional work. It's simple. How easy do you think it will be in the future to find a trulyfull time job? Be honest with yourself. They will be thin on the ground for sure. They are getting thinner now but the difference (read advantage) to the employee at the moment is that process hasn't changed. Take the IT contract market. Have you ever wondered why contractors are only ever needed for three or six month durations? They're not, but companies cannot work differently. Working part time is a foreign concept to many. It requires stronger management, which in itself is seen as a disadvantage by many. It requires some change to HR processes. In the main these changes have not taken place but they will.

There will be an early adopter, the first to deliver an IT project within budget, perhaps under budget. It will be done with fractional workers (part time in old language), used when they are needed and when they can be productive - when they can deliver value. We have the concept of Interim Management at the moment. This is the right theme for the future although I suspect it was driven initially by commercial force simply because companies could not afford to employ interim managers full time and so had to consider how and when to best use their services. To the best of my knowledge though interim management is still pretty local. I haven't seen any that offer remote work, virtual team work.

With technology such as JyvePro interim management companies could be marketing their members on a truly global scale. The managers themselves can be earning money in time that was previously "dead time". Once this is adopted, it's only a matter of time until the Interim Management Company becomes a cybermediary and then the future is truly upon us.

In the future we will become portfolio workers with many touch points around the globe. Many clients, many suppliers, many projects. Who could wish for anything more. We'll have unbeatable diversity and so stimulation. Diversity brings risk mitigation, if you don't perform or are let down by a supplier on one project you have others to fall back on.
The early adopters will lead the pack though. This may sound like stating the blindingly obvious but those who start early will build a reputation early. The better you reputation, the more people will want to work with you. If you're late to the game, you are putting yourself on a slippery slope and many will slide to the bottom.

Come back for more information on the future of work and also make sure that you visit Leon's blog - Winning By Sharing.

Globalisation Online Communities & Virtual Teams

Globalisation Online Communities & Virtual Teams

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