Category Archives: Virtual Strategies

External Communication

External Communication Done Virtually

by Mark Sivy

Effective unambiguous external communication is essential to the operation of a virtual business organization. Chances are that the means of external communication are more conventional than for internal communication (see previous post) and usually involve email exchanges or phone conversations. Virtual organization leaders engage in a variety of face-to-face external interactions, including one-on-one conversations, private group meetings, and corporate and industry events. Some types of communication to consider are general external communication, client communication, organization representation, feedback and input, and marketing.

Groupsourcing

General External Communications

Even though internal staff may receive training and mentoring to engage in intentional and meaningful communications, the individuals who are outside of the organization may not. This means that special attention must be given by leaders to ensure proper reception and perception of both outgoing and incoming messages. Prepared leaders make sure that communication plans are in order and that staff understand their responsibilities.

Client Communications

virtual communicationGiven client diversity, issues with communications will result from having too many options for communication or lack of productive communication. Usually the task for a client is to determine with whom or what they are to communicate, whether it be someone at a home office, a sales representative, and automated response system, or through an online text message system. It’s the organizations challenge to ensure that the processes are streamlined and the clients receive the attention they need and deserve.

Organization Representation

Organization staff and leaders are involved in an assortment of meetings, conferences, committees, and other external gatherings relative to their schools. Depending upon the function, these could include their peers, vendors, stakeholders, members of the media, government officials, special interest groups, and investors. Some of these events are in-person and must then be maintained through virtual communication, while others are strictly born and nurtured through digital means.

Feedback and Input

Virtual businesses often use outward facing surveys, opinion polls, assessments, and evaluations for the purpose of enhancing their operations and offerings. The data can acquired from different sources, such as customers, market specialist, advisory groups, and product testers.

virtual messaging

Marketing and Branding

Virtual organizations must promote themselves to remain viable. Successfully branding a company and marketing its solutions and products digitally requires more that preparing a trendy website. There are needs for legal and social considerations, creation of accurate product images, development of brand recognition, establishing a client base, maintaining a positive public image, making announcements and press releases, and pushing out other forms of communication.

To do all of this properly, there must be substantial market research and trend monitoring. Additionally, there must be measures to ensure that the intention of organization communication matches its perception by clients and the public. For instance, the American Dairy Association’s huge success with its campaign “Got Milk?” prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention that the Spanish translation read “Are you lactating?” To learn more about improving your advertising communication, check this out.

So What Can We Do?

After having been involved for many years with virtual communication with work teams and clients, here are some pieced of advice to keep in mind:

  • It’s all about trust and team building – you have to develop these over time.
  • Create communication standards, including response times, strategies and expectations.
  • Empower those who you are communicating with. This is done in part by setting the tone of trust and expectations.
  • Remember to compensate for the lack of nonverbal visual cues.
  • Be aware of time zone differences.
  • Schedule synchronous meeting times well in advance, including sending out discussion points.
  • Keep communications focused on the topic. This is particularly a challenge with synchronous meetings where conversations can wander.
  • Be aware of and respect cultural diversity.
  • For synchronous meetings remember to speak slowly, don’t multitask, pause and listen to understand, don’t interrupt, and set aside time for developing relationships.

Reflection Point – “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ~George Bernard Shaw

Virtual Team Project Feasibility Study

Feasibility Study Outline for Projects Done Virtually

by Mark Sivy

feasibility studyA thorough feasibility analysis provides the necessary information to make decisions concerning the project and much of what is needed to develop a business plan.  One must keep in mind that the study should capture and examine all of the variables facing a concept so that an informed decision can be made concerning the investment of time and resources.

The feasibility study for a project that will be completed through a virtual team, online collaboration, or partners who are at-a-distance typically follows a traditional format, with special attention and modifications being made in certain aspects. Perhaps the most important of these is the level of consideration, care, and thoughtfulness that go into communication. This includes messages that are sent and received, and those that are delivered to virtual teams, individual employees, and stakeholders. (Virtual communication will be discussed in detail in an upcoming post.)

Communication

Below is a suggested table of contents for a feasibility study. It’s followed by a brief description of each element.

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Introduction
  3. Scope
  4. Terms and Acronyms
  5. Project / Concept Overview
  6. Description of Objectives, Products, and Services
  7. Assumptions
  8. Consequences and Risks
  9. Alternatives
  10. Technology Considerations
  11. Product and Service Market Analysis
  12. Marketing Strategy
  13. Training and Professional Development
  14. Staffing and Organization
  15. Timeline
  16. Benefits
  17. Financial Projections
  18. Findings and Recommendations

1. Executive Summary
The executive summary provides an overview of the content contained in the feasibility study document. This section is written after the rest of the document is completed.

2. Introduction
Describes the reasons for the concept or project and also the intended outcomes from the feasibility study.

scope3. Scope
Describes the scope of the feasibility study as it relates to the project, stakeholders, and those who it will impact. This is sometimes captured in the introduction.

4. Terms and Acronyms
Provides a list of the terms and acronyms used in this document and the definition of each. Working with team members and suppliers who are at-a-distance requires this section to be comprehensive and to provide a clear and common understanding. This is particularly important when members are internationally dispersed or have different cultural backgrounds.

5. Project / Concept Overview
Offers a brief overview of the proposed project or concept. This will serve as a point of reference for the remainder of the document.

6. Description of Objectives, Products and Services
This section provides a more detailed description of the objectives, products and/or services which are being considered as part of the feasibility study. The purpose of this section is to provide detailed descriptions of exactly what the organization is considering so this information can be applied to the remaining sections of the document.

7. Assumptions
Determine the project assumptions, such as operational life of the proposed system, maintenance, training, sustainability, and scalability.

8. Consequences and Risks
Includes consequences of not taking action, what delays and risks might occur during work, and what delays and risks can be tolerated.

Risk

9. Alternatives
Describes an alternative(s) to the suggested system and states the reasons why the alternative system(s) was (were) not selected.

10. Technology Considerations
This section should explain any considerations the organization must make with regards to technology, including hardware, software, infrastructure, skills, and interfaces. Technology may be developed or implemented internally or contracted through a service provider. This must consider the needs of the virtual organization and technologies that facilitate virtual collaboration and teamwork.

11. Market Analysis
This section provides and assessment of the existing domestic and overseas markets. It will describe who makes up the target market, who the competitors are, how products and services will be distributed, why users might select the products and services and how the market may change in the future.

12. Marketing Strategy
This section provides an analysis of the market and a description of the marketing process. This includes considerations such as a global competitor analysis, differentiating the organization and outcomes from competitors, determining who the marketing will target, and what types of marketing will be used.

13. Training and Professional Development
This is usually not included as a dedicated element in a traditional feasibility study, but in the instance of virtual undertaking it is a crucial component. Realistically, most leaders and team members are inadequately prepared for at-a-distance operations and this is a common reason why many virtual efforts meet with unexpected difficulties, cost overruns, or failure.

14. Staffing and Organization
This examines the people who are needed to implement an idea, including skills, backgrounds, and knowledge. At this point it is also necessary to consider the international nature of the undertaking, including differences in time zones, languages, and cultures. There will also need to be a plan for integrating additional staff and responsibilities into existing organization structures and staff.

15. Timeline
This section will provide an overview schedule, which serves as a guideline and includes major milestones and estimated time frames.

16. Benefits
It is important that the feasibility study captures the most important outcomes of the products and/or services that are being considered as well as how they may benefit the organization, workforce, end-users, and clients.

Finances17. Financial Projections
This section provides a description of start-up costs, operating costs, revenue projections and profitability.

18. Outcomes and Recommendations
This section will summarize the outcomes of the feasibility study and explain what course of action is recommended. This section may include advantages and disadvantages of doing the project and suggestion to enhance project success.

Every feasibility study has its own character and should be formatted accordingly. For other ideas on performing a feasibility study, there are many good web-based resources such as the Together Works discussion, HUD template and Wikipedia information.

Reflection Point – An absolute can only be given in an intuition, while all the rest has to do with analysis. ~Henri Bergson