Experts tout virtual work environments

Virtual work environments are the way to go when it comes to collaborating on projects, said experts at the Program Management Summit 2007 in Washington today.

“Get rid of e-mail and shared drives,” said Ron Simmons, director of knowledge management integration at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command’s Capabilities Development Directorate. His team uses a virtual shared space to work on projects. “You have to get out of running programs by e-mail.”

Virtual offices save time and money and make project teams more efficient, he said. “The team doesn’t have to be physically located together,” he added.

Virtual teaming presents some cultural challenges because it’s a new way of collaborating, said Randy Adkins, director of the Air Force Knowledge Management Center of Excellence at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“A lot of people aren’t comfortable with it,” he said. But moving people to a virtual office is “about change, adapting and doing things differently.”

Therefore, trust is crucial for a virtual team to overcome cultural resistance, he added.

For a virtual office to achieve success, team members must have a compelling reason to use it, they must participate and support it, and they must gain demonstrable value from it, Adkins said.

It takes seven to 14 months to launch a basic virtual work environment, Simmons said, adding that because there are plenty of commercially available options, developing a custom solution is not necessary.

The E-Gov Institute and 1105 Government Information Group, of which Federal Computer Week is a part, presented the summit.

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