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Technology and Virtual Teams

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The use of technology devices in any modern organisation is vital for its survival and smooth operations. As we are in the information age, technological changes and usage will continue to increase in companies that wish to compete in the global market. Besides, technological devices are argued to enhance team and organisational performance as a whole.

In modern organisations, employees work virtually more and often and are always charge to work together to be more productive and effective irrespective of their locations. As economic activities charge toward globalization (Rezgui, 2007), Workman (2007) argued that organisations are relying on technology and virtual teams as business processes becomes global. However, the investigation carried out on virtual teams showed that there are different dimensions to using technology to mediate compare to collocated teams (face to face).

As businesses intend to grow and operate globally, the use of virtual teams help organisations to execute their projects regardless of the geographical locations of team members. Virtual teams use technology not only as a means of communication but also to coordinate teamwork, especially with the introduction of the internet and other technological devices. Moreover, it is obvious that most western countries are already utilising virtual teams, while other parts of the world are starting to follow suit.

It is argue that as collocated teams, virtual teams need to communicate, share tasks, plan, monitor performance, and solve problems to achieve their goals. Also, the values and norms of different national cultures are accommodated in international virtual teams just as in collocated teams. A key advantage of adopting the concept of virtual teams is that the usage of technology to mediate among virtual teams allow organisations to reduce costs (human and non-human resources), most especially for international virtual teams. However, cost reduction could affect team performance.

In a collocated team, social identity is formed as social interaction increase. But, when technology mediates the social interaction between virtual team members, the team could lose its social identity. It is pointed out that where technology intermediate increase and there is decrease in proximal contact, team cohesion and relationship decreases. Although, it is further explained that job centred virtual teams are individualistic and depend more on technology and other non-social resources. Furthermore, the cooperation between team members is a key to effective team performance. However, the shortened informal and formal contacts between virtual teams could limit cooperation and have negative impact on team performance.

In addition, virtual teams could be ineffective when the organisation has a matrix structure. This is because a virtual team could be formed from a collocated team, to which loyalty remains and will later return to after completing a task. Work autonomy and ambiguity tend to increase in a virtual team setting because of technology, which is also argued to affect team performance. Besides, collocated team with an open culture is exposed to conflicts and may hinder team performance, whereas a virtual team with a close culture due to technology intermediate could avoid conflict and perform better. On the other hand, studies shows that collocated teams could overcome polarisation with increase in team interaction. While in a virtual team, there is greater tendency for group polarisation.

As organisations are growing globally, the use of technology and virtual teams would continue to increase.  Settle-Murphy (2012) suggested that it is important for future virtual team managers to ensure virtual teams receive relational link training to improve team cohesiveness, have better impression of virtual team meeting processes, and be satisfied in other to improve performance.

Nevertheless, the limitation of this article is that it failed to justify the cultural and subcultural influences on international virtual teams’ characteristics as Hofstede (1983) pointed out that cultural dimensions also apply to teams even when technology is use to intermediate. Another limitation is that the article did not consider individual virtual team member personalities to overall team performance. MacGregor and Corona (2007) argued that the extent of virtual team creativity depends on individual personality facets.

As Solalina Investment Group vision is to become one of Africa’s leading investment groups, eventually the organisation would at some point adopt virtual team concept. This is as a result of the continuous availability of sophisticated technologies and ICT trainings currently on going in the organisation. Therefore, it will be beneficial for management to take advantage of virtual team work in terms of reducing cost, getting hold of international markets, increase productivity, and to remain competitive in today’s information business world (Dorr, 2011). Nonetheless, the management should not disregard the challenges attached to virtual teams especially the inability to read nonverbal cues, difficult in decision making process, and the lack of trust and empathy not only between virtual team members but also with the virtual team managers.

 

Written by:

Business Development & Research

Department

 

 

Reference List

Dorr, M. (2007). Developing Real Skills for Virtual Teams. UNC Business. Retrieved February 10, 2016 From: http://cdn0.onlinemba.unc.edu/content/994b7cc73b8f49f4817fc9b3813432ba/developing-real-skills.pdf?_ga=1.97317527.969107992.1455266096.

Hofstede, G. (1983) ‘National cultures in four dimensions.’ International Studies of Management and Organization, (13) 1, 46 – 74.

MacGregor, S., P. and Coronas, T., T. (2007) Higher Creativity for Virtual Teams: Developing Platforms for Co-creation. London: IGI Global.

Rezgui, Y. (2007) Exploring virtual team-working effectiveness in the construction sector. Interacting with Computers, pp. 96-112

Settle-Murphy, N., M. (2012) Leading Effective Virtual Teams: Overcoming Time and Distance to Achieve Exceptional Results. Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis Group.

Workman, M. (2007) ‘The effects from technology-mediated interaction and openness in virtual team performance measures.’ Behaviour & Information Technology, (26) 5, 355 – 365

 

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