Chapter Communications Blog

Event Report : Managing Virtual Teams

Author: Harish Ramakrishnan

H Ramakrishnan 2

What is the most important element in managing virtual teams?

How is communication different between physical and virtual teams?

Will we continue to manage virtual teams?

Some questions answered by the PMI-Switzerland chapter event "Managing Virtual teams" , which was hosted in IBM Zurich and presented by the CIO of Le Creuset AG - Mr. Rafael Almoguera .

There is no better way to start a session on managing virtual teams than having virtual participants, our audience was located in 4 locations, Spain, Japan, UAE and ourselves in Switzerland. This provided a practical example of what the future of team management, training and overall business looked like.

First, Rafael introduced what is a virtual team and which companies have virtual teams - practically every one. He then introduced to the concept of 3T- Trust, Time and Technology.

Addressing the elephant in the room, Rafael then talked  about the key challenges faced by project managers while managing a virtual team, and as well the challenges faced by the team members in such a project.  With communication being one of the most important elements of a project, we learnt that for those who manage a Virual team and for those who are part of a virutal team, ability to communicate with out the use of Non verbal cues is important.

He then explained the characteristics of good teams and how those characteristics need enhancement when the team becomes virtual. He detailed the most important ingredient needed for building the best virtual team - Trust, he clarified how simple team building activities could improve the working relationship in virtual teams, for example he explained how things changed when his team flew for a team dinner activity of having a dinner together with the team physically once or twice a year can build such a high level of trust and comfort among the team.

We learnt to be able to succeed in managing a vritual team, we need to be able manage across cultures, use technology effectively, have a well understood process and most of all have Trust. Both those who manage and those who are being managed in a virtual team have the advantage of work life balance, diversity of perspectives, reduction in unnecessary travel -> inturn CO2 emissions , reduction in costs and increase job satisfaction.

With so much at stake, I understood from the session, virtual teams are to stay and more and more leaders are going manage their companies from their holiday homes .

Kind Regards,


Event Report - 12th of May - Successful Agile Integration into Existing Methodologies

Author: Arbin Bhaghat


Agile implementation was started for small projects. Does it work also for big projects and structured large companies?

If yes, how can we integrate successfully Agile into existing methodologies and processes? Is it worth trying it?

These are the questions that Sascha Wyss, PMP, PMI-ACP, answered at the conference in Basel.

Sascha started with an example, based on his own experience.

A CRM solution implemented for a big concern over multiple countries in Asia. The project was rolled out in Agile and it worked! A tangible proof that Agile can work also in big companies.

Sascha examined then differences with traditional methodology - in particular Waterfall - and Agile, and key topics about implementing Agile successfully, including documentation, regulatory requirements and management approval.

Agile is a group of software development methods based on iterative and incremental development. In a company with traditional development methods,typically these problems occur:

  • Comparison with Existing methods, e.g. Waterfall, with defined milestones and deliverables
  • Depending processes, which stakeholders want to keep as they are
  • Wrong perception, when you think Agile as a method with no control, no budget, no documentation
  • External regulations, e.g. SOX
  • Hesitant management

When implementing Agile here, one has to consider that important milestones are at the starting and closing phases of the project lifecycle and that during these phases deliverables and documentation remain the same, regardless of the methodology.

Agile comes into plan during the Define/Plan phase and Executing. Inputs to the Define/Plan phase is the Requirement Specifications Document which is translated in user stories stored and elaborated in the so called Product Backlog.

How about documentation? Agile is considered often a methodology without enough documentation.

Sascha identified three categories of documents in Agile, when comparing it with Waterfall:

  • Untouched documents, delivered in the initiating and closing phase of the project: Project Charter, Lessons Learned, Closing Documents and so on
  • Open documents, created and delivered during the planning and executing phases. Those documents are taken one-to-one from the Waterfall method and applied to Agile, adapting them accordingly (Release Plan, Test Plan, User Acceptance Testing Plan, Defects Log, etc.)
  • New Documents, Agile typical documents that help the iterative implementation (Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Burndown chart)

In most of the cases, there are no documents that you would use in Waterfall and not in Agile. Sometimes Agile amount of documentation exceeds the Waterfall based.

Differences are also in roles: n Agile you might have more roles than in Waterfall. For example in Scrum, an Agile methodology, the Product Owner has the vision of what he or she wants to build and the Scrum Master ensures that the team applies Scrum properly. Where is the figure of the Project Manager? Does the team really need a Project Manager? The answer is yes, especially in big companies. PM's responsibilities would be communication with Senior Management, working with finance and reporting to the PMO, talk to the HR department for resources and so on.

How about regulatory requirements? Can Agile work with those? No doubts for Sascha, who suggested also two approaches. In the Agile's iterative process you can:

  • Perform validation at the end of each release, that means more work but possibility to deliver the product increment at each release
  • Perform a retrospective validation at the end of the development phase, with the big disadvantage that you are not allowed to deliver until the product is completely implemented and validated

Last, but not least, management buy-in is key in the introduction or integration of Agile in big companies. Sascha suggested organized workshops or conferences led by well prepared and experienced mentors. Important is not to use any pilot: they are easy to be failing, and if this happens, Agile is out.

In conclusion, Sascha presented ways how to integrate successfully Agile in traditional methodologies and how to overcome obstacles:

  • Preparation is required
  • Mutual trust and team spirit
  • Collocation, e.g. in Scrum at least the team and the Scrum Master must be located in the same room
  • You need management buy-in.

I am thankful to him for this interesting and valuable conference and to Arcondis for sponsoring the event.