Virtual Engineering Project Team (VEPT) Model: A Holistic, Four-Dimensional Model for Enabling High-Performing Virtual Engineering Teams Open Access
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Engineering firms continue to adopt the practice of utilizing virtual teams, which faces unique challenges and requires additional management considerations compared with co-located teams. While virtual teams offer incentives in terms of flexibility and cost savings, engineering firms should be aware of the added challenges that yield low-performing teams or result in failure, including challenges associated with team coordination, motivation of virtual team members, and establishing trust and team cohesion. Such challenges, in essence, are driven by geographic dispersion of members, core reliance on communication technology, and composition of various cultures. The subject research provides a robust, holistic model for enabling high-performing virtual project teams in engineering, referred to as the Virtual Engineering Project Team (VEPT) Model. An amalgamation of best practices derived from an extensive review of academic and professional literature yielded this model, comprised of four overarching dimensions: (i) Governance Methodology, (ii) Human Interaction, (iii) Technology Management, and (iv) Organizational Environment. A mixed-method research approach was conducted, gathering data from surveys and interviews of engineering practitioners, in order to validate the model and identify best practices for enabling successful virtual engineering teams. In particular, engineering practitioners within a global professional services firm who were involved in virtual engineering projects between 2017-2018 were included in the research.The model presents specific management practices for mitigating identified challenges and improving virtual project team (VPT) performance. VPT performance is defined in this research by financial, schedule, and quality performance, along with stakeholder satisfaction. Specific analysis methods were performed to assess the relationships between the four VEPT Model dimensions and project performance, including correlation analyses, predictive modeling and multiple regression analyses, and thematic analysis. The results indicate significant, positive relationships and correlations between the model dimensions and the parameters of project performance; additionally, the model dimensions are found to have significant predictive capabilities in terms of overall VPT performance. Lastly, the model is found to be of value to engineering practitioners in the industry. The findings should be leveraged by engineering professionals involved in virtual project teams, along with leaders and organizational executives seeking improved performance of their VPT programs.