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Sunday, 8 June 2014

European Journal of Information Systems - Time and information technology in teams: a review of empirical research and future research directions

Review Article

European Journal of Information Systems advance online publication 3 June 2014; doi: 10.1057/ejis.2014.8

Time and information technology in teams: a review of empirical research and future research directions

Zixing Shen1, Kalle Lyytinen2 and Youngjin Yoo3
  1. 1School of Business and Information Systems, Dakota State University, Madison, U.S.A.
  2. 2Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, U.S.A.
  3. 3Fox School of Business, Temple University, Philadelphia, U.S.A.
Zixing Shen, School of Business and Information Systems, Dakota State
University, 820 N Washington Ave., Madison, 57042, U.S.A. Tel: 605-256-5135; Fax: 605-256-5060; E-mail:
3 July 2012; Revised 30 April 2013; Re-revised 22 October 2013;
Re-revised 29 January 2014; Re-revised 10 March 2014; Accepted
11 March 2014
Advance online publication 3 June 2014


technology (IT) is intricately bound up with time in teams. Yet a
comprehensive review of what is known about time in IT-mediated teams is
lacking. This paper addresses this gap. We classify time into three
categories: conceptions of time, mapping activities to time, and actors
relating to time. Drawing upon this framework, we review empirical
information systems (IS) research on IT-mediated teams over the past
three decades. Our review reveals that the research has approached time
predominantly using the clock view and has examined exclusively how to
map a single activity to the continuum of time. As a result, most
studies operate within a simplified temporal context by conceiving time
as an objective attribute that ticks away. Meanwhile, a void exists in
research that recognizes time as interpretive and experienced. Our
analyses also indicate that past research has been primarily interested
in the differences between face-to-face and IT-mediated teams and the
communication function of IT. Overall, IT remains roughly
conceptualized, and research has produced fragmented insights that have
small cumulative effects. To advance more substantive theory building,
we propose several research directions that invite richer theorizing
about how IT is related to time in teams.


time; temporal analysis; information technology (IT); team; IT artifact; IT functions


the past three decades, information technology (IT) – technologies for
storing, transmitting, and processing digital data – has permeated all
corners of organizational life: for communication (e.g., phone, e-mail,
chat rooms); for storing information for retrieval and sharing (e.g.,
databases, knowledge management systems, version control systems); and
for processing and transforming information (e.g., spreadsheet
applications and computer-aided engineering technologies) (Leonardi & Bailey, 2008). At the same time, time itself is a central element in scholarly accounts of organizational phenomena (Butler, 1995),
and organizational scholars have noted the critical nature of temporal
concepts in inquiries into organizing (see special issue in Academy of
Management Journal (Agarwal et al, 2002), and in Academy of Management Review (Ancona et al, 2001a)). Studies show that IT shapes temporal conditions of organizing (Lee & Liebenau, 2000b; Turner & Reinsch, 2007; Stephens et al, 2008), interactions (Ellis et al, 1991; Rennecker & Godwin, 2005; Reinsch et al, 2008) and performance (McLeod, 1992; Munck, 2001); regulates temporal behaviors (Jaureguiberry, 2000; Shen et al, 2006); and influences interpretations of time (Jaureguiberry, 2000; Green, 2002).
In this study, we review past studies on time and IT-mediated teams at
the intersection of three streams of research: (1) IT and time, (2)
temporal dimensions of teams, and (3) IT-enabled teams.
First, the intersection of IT and time has been studied at the industry level (Mendelson & Pillai, 1999); at the organization level (Stalk, 1988); at the process level (Lee & Liebenau, 2000a); at the team level (Barley, 1988) and at the individual level (Failla & Bagnara, 1992). In this paper, we focus on teams, which we define as small collections of people who work together to achieve common goals (Friedlander, 1987).
We focus on the team level for three reasons: (1) teams constitute the
fundamental building block of contemporary organizations (Friedlander, 1987); (2) time has consistently been considered a significant research topic in relation to teams (McGrath, 1991);
and (3) teams have been a focus of study in the information systems
(IS) discipline, including a significant amount of empirical research (Sidorova et al, 2008).
Second, time has been an essential background against which research on teams has been conducted (e.g., Tuckman, 1965). Teams operate under temporal ambiguity (uncertainty about when a task/event is going to happen), conflicting temporal demands, and scarcity (McGrath, 1991). Such temporal conditions shape how teams behave and perform (Gersick, 1988).
Teams also exercise agency in coping with temporal conditions by
enacting time through scheduling, synchronizing, and allocating (McGrath, 1991). As a result, teams and their members vary in their consumption, perception, and experience of time (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967; Dubinskas, 1988; Ballard & Seibold, 2000).
As time is intertwined with a team’s behavior and performance,
organizational scholars have investigated time in teams for decades
(e.g., Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967; Dubinskas, 1988; Gersick, 1988; McGrath, 1991; Okhuysen & Waller, 2002; Yakura, 2002) and have produced some powerful temporal theories, such as the time, interaction, and performance theory (McGrath, 1991) and the punctuated equilibrium model (Gersick, 1988). The literature also includes several surveys of time in teams (e.g., McGrath & Kelly, 1992; Mark et al, 2001).
The wealth of knowledge on time in non-IT-mediated teams thus provides a
significant backdrop for the inquiry about time in IT-mediated teams.
IT has been increasingly used by teams for communication and
collaboration. Scholars across diverse fields of computing study have
extensively probed the role of IT in teams. The earliest studies were
sparked mainly by the invention of e-mail in the late 1970s and the
introduction of personal computing in the early 1980s. As the ways in
which teams used technology became more sophisticated, these inquiries
were expanded across several rubrics, including computer-supported
collaborative work (CSCW), group support systems (GSS),
computer-mediated communication, and virtual teams. These research
streams have generated influential theories and models, including media
richness theory (Daft & Lengel, 1986; Dennis & Kinney, 1998), adaptive structuration theory (Desanctis & Poole, 1994), and task-technology fit theory (Goodhue &Thompson, 1995; Zigurs &Buckland, 1998),
all of which conceptualize the use of IT in teams. Some of these
theories and models cover explicitly the temporal dimension. For
example, media synchronicity theory (Dennis et al, 2008)
incorporates several temporal factors into new media capabilities
(e.g., transmission velocity, parallelism) so as to predict the choice
of digital media and the related communication effectiveness. This
theory has also been partially validated in IT-mediated teams (e.g., Murthy & Kerr, 2003; Maruping & Argawal, 2004),
and has been shown to better explain media choice than prior media
theories. The superiority of media synchronicity theory thus
demonstrates further that the inclusion of time in the analysis of
IT-mediated teams is likely to be a prerequisite to advance the
knowledge in the field.
Several reviews and meta-analyses of the research on IT-mediated teams have been conducted over the past two decades (e.g., Kraemer & King, 1988; Benbasat & Lim, 1993; McLeod, 1992; Fjermestad & Hiltz, 1999; Dennis et al, 2001; Powell et al, 2004; Hertal et al, 2005). These studies draw upon multiple frameworks, such as the group life cycle model (Hertal et al, 2005), the input-process-output model (Benbasat & Lim, 1993; Powell et al, 2004), and the fit-appropriation model (Dennis et al, 2001).
Although these studies have significantly improved our understanding of
IT-mediated teams in general, they have not addressed, and in fact have
largely ignored, the temporal dimension of IT-mediated team behaviors.
In addition, the recent technological developments enabled by mobility
and varying uses of IT also call for a more comprehensive review of how
IT has become intricately bound up with time in teams.
fill this gap in the literature, we review empirical research on time
in IT-mediated teams in the IS field. Our goals are to identify what we
already know collectively and to identify the promising avenues for
future research. Our review reveals that the vast majority of IS
research on IT-mediated teams has not considered time seriously as a
variable of interest, echoing the earlier observation that little has
been researched on time in the IS field (Boland, 2001).
When time is considered, most studies have adopted the clock view of
time and approached time exclusively as an environmental factor that
simply ticks away. When time is explicitly addressed, most studies have
exclusively treated time either as a single temporal condition under
which teams operate (e.g., one deadline) or as a proxy variable of team
outcomes (e.g., duration of task completion), and have examined
predominantly the effects of a single IT artifact (e.g., e-mail) on
teams’ temporal condition and outcome. At the same time, our review also
finds a lack of research on how time is interpreted and experienced in
teams. In short, time is oversimplified and under-studied in the
existing IS literature on IT-mediated teams. As a result, the literature
fails to explain how the use of IT shapes the temporal conditions under
which teams operate, and how teams, in turn, appropriate IT to organize
time and internalize temporal changes occasioned by the use of IT.
Consequently, IS research on time in IT-mediated teams has remained
largely fragmented, lacking a strong theoretical foundation and
organized research programs. Our review addresses these gaps in research
on time in IT-mediated teams. Specifically, our review presents a
well-regarded time framework as the theoretical foundation synthesizes
empirical research and proposes directions for future research.
remainder of the paper is organized as follows. First, we present a
conceptualization of time that we use to categorize and analyze research
on time in IT-mediated teams. This section is followed by an extensive
review of empirical IT-mediated team research that has addressed the
temporal dimension. Next, we synthesize review results by formulating
directions for future research. We conclude by summarizing the main
contributions and by noting limitations.

Classification of time

Time has been a significant research theme across several fields in the social sciences, including anthropology (e.g., Hall, 1983), psychology (e.g., Schriber & Gutek, 1987), sociology (e.g., Durkheim, 1965) and social psychology (e.g., McGrath & Kelly, 1986).
The interest in time in management can be traced back to Frederick
Taylor’s time and motion studies at the turn of the twentieth century.
Over the years, a vast amount of research on time has accumulated (e.g.,
Clark, 1985; Hassard, 1989; Das, 1990, and Butler, 1995), and produced a large number of ideas and observations about time (e.g., McGrath, 1991; Zerubavel, 1981; Bluedorn & Denhardt, 1988; Whipp, 1994; Orlikowski & Yates, 2002; Ballard & Seibold, 2003; Crossan et al, 2005).
We adopt in this review a definition and classification of time developed by Ancona et al (2001b).
Time in this paper is therefore defined as ‘a non-spatial continuum in
which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past
through the present to the future’ (Ancona et al, 2001b, p. 513). According to Ancona et al’s (2001b)
framework, there are three broad time categories: (1) conceptions of
time, (2) mapping activities to time, and (3) actors relating to time (Ancona et al, 2001b). Table 1 summarizes this classification of time, associated findings, and key references.

chose this classification because it synthesizes a large swath of
temporal concepts across diverse areas of temporal study and provides a
common organizing framework for these temporal constructs and variables.
As an extensive and widely recognized conceptual analysis of time in
organization theory, the classification offers a readily usable lens to
analyze time in teams. Particularly, it gives us a way to categorize and
analyze different streams of empirical research on time in IT-mediated
teams in the IS field, and enables us to interpret and integrate past
studies to identify what is known and unknown about time in IT-mediated
teams. Next, we describe this classification, and how it can be used to
study time in teams in organizational settings.

Conceptions of time

This category captures how actors conceptualize time (Ancona et al, 2001b).
The subcategory of types of time describes different ways of depicting
or characterizing the continuum of time and answers the question: ‘What
is time?’ (Ancona et al, 2001b).
The most common answer to this question relies on clock time, which
characterizes time as homogenous and divisible in structure, linear and
uniform in flow, and objective and quantifiable in measurement (Hassard, 1989; Das, 1990).
In contrast, time is sometimes conceptualized as interpretive and
heterogeneous, as reflected in subjective conceptions of time (Starkey, 1989),
and is thereby viewed as repeating over and over, as in such notions as
cyclical time (e.g., weekly group meeting, quarterly sales report) (Clark, 1985) and event time (e.g., change of CEO, launch of a new product) (Roy, 1959).
These concepts can be traced back to the ancient Greek words chronos and kairos,
the latter meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment)
and the former referring to chronological or sequential time. The latter
signifies a moment of indeterminate time in which something special
happens; the special something depends on who is using the word. Thus, chronos is quantitative, whereas kairos has a qualitative nature. Kairos – the socially constructed time – is concerned with the meaning and associated ‘use’ of time (Ancona et al, 2001b). The constructions of time vary across different social worlds and therefore come in plural forms (Adams, 1990). For example, Hall (1983)
finds that some cultures view time as linear continuity and seek to
control it, whereas other cultures view time as cycles and go with its
flow. Work organization, which defines the appropriate use of time for
work, is also socially constructed. For example, work and family life
are adapted to the nine-to-five workday in the United States and other
countries (Ancona et al, 2001b).
different teams, time has different meanings that suggest appropriate
ways of treating time. For instance, teams vary in how strictly they
adhere to schedules, deadlines, and pace. Teams also differ in how they
value time as a situational element and how they seek to control it (Ballard & Seibold, 2000).
The uses and meanings of time also create team boundaries in that they
indicate team membership, values, and expected behavioral patterns.

Mapping activities to time

This category portrays how actors explicitly and deliberately organize time to create order (Ancona et al, 2001b). The subcategory of mapping a single activity is concerned with how an activity is positioned in the continuum of time (Ancona et al, 2001b). It is reflected in scheduling, which determines the temporal location (when) of an activity (McGrath, 1991); rate (i.e., speed), which describes how fast an activity is completed (Schriber & Gutek, 1987); and duration, which shows the amount of time spent on completing an activity (Zerubavel, 1981).
subcategory of mapping a repeated single activity describes how to map
an activity that is repeated multiple times to the continuum of time (Ancona et al, 2001b). When an activity is repeated multiple times, frequency is used to depict how often a repeated activity takes place (Zerubavel, 1981). If such repetition occurs with periodic regularity, a cycle is manifested (Schriber & Gutek, 1987).
Mapping a repeated activity also introduces rhythm, which is the
orderly, recurrent alternation in the intensity of activity – being busy
vs less busy (Lee & Liebenau, 2000a).
subcategory of a single activity transformation mapping describes a
situation where a non-repetitive change transforms the old activity into
a new one during the process of the activity’s execution (Ancona et al, 2001b).
Transformational changes come in the form of mid point transition,
interruption, and deadline. Midpoint transition is a transformation that
occurs at the temporal mid point of an activity (Gersick, 1988). Interruption, an unanticipated transformation, can result in the discontinuation of an activity (O’Conaill & Frohlich, 1995). An approaching deadline results in a transformation that leads to an increased pace of activity (Lim & Murnighan, 1994).
the first three subcategories in the ‘Mapping Activities to Time’
category involve a single activity, the last two subcategories are
concerned with multiple activities. The subcategory of mapping multiple
activities describes how multiple activities are positioned on a single
temporal map (Ancona et al, 2001b).
It involves devoting a certain amount of time to each activity (i.e.,
allocation), coordinating activities that occur within the same time
span (i.e., synchronization), and arranging the order in which multiple
activities take place (i.e., sequencing) (McGrath, 1991).
The subcategory of comparing and meshing multiple activities is
concerned with how multiple activities are managed across multiple
temporal maps (Ancona et al, 2001b),
as embodied in such variables as entrainment and temporal symmetry.
Entrainment refers to the adjustment of activities to set them
oscillating in cycle, pace, and rhythm with other activities (Ancona & Chong, 1996). Temporal symmetry occurs when actors subscribe to a similar pattern of temporal arrangement (Zerubavel, 1981).
Multiple activities mapping is particularly crucial for teams because
interdependencies among multiple activities need to be managed and
coordinated (Bardram, 2000).
Meshing and integrating multiple activities can streamline
collaboration and thereby influence the dynamics of team cohesion and
conflict (Barley, 1988).

Actors relating to time

The final category considers actors’ perceptions of and dispositions to time (Ancona et al, 2001b).
The subcategory of temporal perception is constituted by actors’
readings of the physical component of time, as reflected in the
experience of passage of time, duration, and novelty (Ancona et al, 2001b). The subcategory of temporal personality describes how actors act with regard to time (Ancona et al, 2001b) and is reflected in temporal orientation (Ballard & Seibold, 2003), temporal horizon (Ballard & Seibold, 2003), and temporal style (Butler, 1995). Teams can have a long or short time horizon and be oriented toward past, present, or future. Dubinskas (1988),
for example, observes that scientists work from the perspective of a
long time horizon whereas managers work according to a short temporal
horizon in a high-tech organization. Lawrence and Lorsch’s classic study
(1967) also finds that the length of the time period before receiving
feedback determines whether teams operate with a short- or long-term
horizon. Their findings show that the sales team has the shortest time
horizon, followed by the production team, with the research team having
the longest time horizon. Thus, a team’s sense of time is derived from
and varies on the basis of the duration of its feedback cycles.


Ancona et al’s (2001b)
framework conceptualizes that time has both an external and internal
aspect. The category of mapping activities to time is related to the
external aspect. The categories of conceptions of time and of actors
relating to time are concerned with the internal aspect. The external
aspect connects time with actions and events that can be observed
directly in relation to some operations. The internal aspect views time
as a mental process that manifests itself in externalized actions. Teams
and their members, based on their prior experience, values, beliefs,
and interests, come to different understandings and perceptions of time;
they thereby externalize time by performing varying actions (e.g.,
scheduling, synchronizing) that align with their current
internalization. Combining externalization and internalization (Bødker, 1991; Nardi, 1996) helps in the analysis of how teams manipulate, transform, understand, and interpret time.
Artifacts are mediators of internationalization (i.e., human thought) and externalization (i.e., human behavior) (Bødker, 1991; Nardi, 1996).
Because of their symbolic nature, IT artifacts can expand a team’s
ability to manipulate and experience time. At the same time, they also
set boundaries on how time can be manipulated and experienced. Ancona et al’s (2001b)
framework , summarizing succinctly both the internal and external
aspects of time, provides a sound starting point for reviewing how IT
artifacts mediate externalization and internalization processes of time
in teams, as well as for integrating into a common body of knowledge
various streams of temporal research on IT and teams. With this broad
temporal framework, we next conduct a literature review to examine what
is known about time in IT-mediated teams.

Review methodology

outlined the theoretical scaffolding that guides our classification of
IS research on time in IT-mediated teams, we now turn our attention to a
systematic coding and analysis of how time has been treated in
IT-mediated team research. Here, we describe the sampling and coding


noted, IT-mediated teams have been studied in several research streams,
including CSCW, GSS, computer-mediated communication, and virtual teams.
Therefore, we selected the following keywords as the basis for our
searches for IS literature: group, team, group decision support system
(GDSS), GSS, electronic meeting, virtual, virtual team, computer,
computer-mediated communication, computer-supported collaboration, IT,
information and communication technology. We selected six major IS
journals that publish academic research. Specifically, we aimed at
reviewing academic research that has focused primarily on IT and teams
and thus selected the following six IS journals: Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), the European Journal of Information Systems (EJIS), Information Systems Journal (ISJ), Information Systems Research (ISR), the Journal of Management Information Systems (JMIS), and Management Information Systems Quarterly (MISQ). In addition, we added two leading management journals – Management Science (MS) and Organization Science (OS) – because MS has a section on IS and OS
has an editorial mission that covers the effects of IT on organizing,
and both journals have published team-level IT-related research. We did
not include, for example, Academy of Management Journal or Academy of Management Review
because they do not have dedicated editors or sections that deal with
IT or IS. Although IT-mediated team research has also been published in
journals from other disciplines (e.g., communication, social psychology,
and sociology), we did not include them in our sampling because doing
so would have broadened the boundaries of the search too much so that
systematic coding would have been difficult. Therefore, we surmise that
studies published in these eight journals can be viewed as a good
representative (but not exhaustive) sample of the best research on
IT-mediated teams.
Using the keywords listed, we next queried the Business Source Premier Database for papers published in the eight journals, from the date that each of the journals was established to March 2013. As the Business Source Premier Database does not cover CSCW, we used the journal’s own website. We also examined hard copies of the earlier issues of CSCW, EJIS, and ISJ,
which are not available electronically. The keyword search generated a
large sample of 1270 potential studies. Of the 1270 papers, 114 were
from CSCW, 148 from EJIS, 155 from ISJ, 119 from ISR, 235 from JMIS, 135 from MISQ, 159 from MS, and 205 from OS.
The list of these 1270 papers is available upon request. Our initial
reading suggested that most of these papers did not study IT-mediated
teams empirically and thus they were excluded from further analysis. As a
result, the following categories of papers were excluded: (1)
non-empirical work, including conceptual and theoretical papers (e.g., DeSanctis & Gallupe, 1987); (2) meta-analyses (e.g., Dennis et al, 2001)
because papers in these would be included in our studies as separate
papers; (3) empirical research on implementation, acceptance, and
adoption, which did not focus on team dynamics (e.g., Dennis & Reinicke, 2004); (4) design research to support teamwork (e.g., Bordesky & Mark, 2000); (5) construct development for IT-mediated teams (e.g., Salisbury et al, 2002); (6) empirical research without tasks, such as online discussions (e.g., Jones et al, 2004); (7) studies on teams not explicitly mediated by IT (e.g., Faraj & Sproull, 2000,
who studied software development teams but ignored their IT support);
and (8) empirical research on dyads because they do not qualify as teams
(e.g., Dennis & Kinney, 1998). This reduced our final sample to 158 studies, which are available upon request.
research team next perused these 158 papers, paying particular
attention to the theory, the research design, and the findings sections.
Our reading revealed that 94 papers mentioned time only in phrases such
as ‘on the day of the experiment’, ‘during the meeting session’, and
‘soon after the session’. As these studies did not treat time as a
subject of interest, we dropped them from further analysis. At the end,
the final sample included 64 papers – 5% of all
the papers identified by our initial search. These papers are indicated
by an asterisk in the references. The coding of these papers is shown in
the Appendix.


Using the classification developed by Ancona et al (2001b),
we classified each paper first into one of the three time categories
and then into a subcategory under each primary category. For example,
the paper by Dennis et al (1996)
was placed first into the ‘Mapping Activities to Time’ category, and
then into the ‘Mapping Single Activity Transformation’ subcategory
because it was about how a temporal constraint (deadline) increased the
rate of idea generation in teams.
We found many
papers that dealt with time in terms of team life span, team history,
and time zones. Papers interested in team life span and team history
were primarily concerned with how IT-mediated teams changed over time.
They viewed time as simply ticking away independently of actors and
therefore did not belong to the ‘Mapping Activities to Time’ and ‘Actors
Relating to Time’ categories. They did not explore how time was
socially constructed in teams but instead treated time as a background
against which changes in IT-mediated teams were identified or measured.
Accordingly, we coded these papers into the ‘Conceptions of Time’
category – specifically, into the ‘Types of Time’ subcategory.
paying attention to time zones were primarily interested in how time
zone differences among team members affect communication and
interaction. Rather than looking into how team members mapped activities
to time and related to time to cope with the differences in time zones,
they treated time zone differences as a given temporal structure under
which teams operated. Hence, we also coded these papers into the
‘Conceptions of Time’ category. As the papers were not concerned with
the meaning and use of time in teams, we classified them as falling into
the ‘Types of Time’ subcategory.
When papers covered
more than one time category, we classified them into one primary
category rather than locating them in several categories. For example, Massey et al (2003)
studied how a temporal coordination mechanism (i.e., a deadline)
structured interactions and affected the performance of virtual teams
that included members in different time zones working on a project that
spanned 15 days. Hence, the paper covered both the ‘Conceptions of Time’
and ‘Mapping Activities to Time’ categories. As the paper focused on
the effect of deadlines on the interactions and outcomes of virtual
teams, rather than on the effect of the team’s life span and the time
zone differences among team members, we classified it into the ‘Mapping
Activities to Time’ category.
Similarly, for papers
that covered more than one time subcategory under one time category, we
classified them into one primary subcategory rather than locating them
in several different subcategories. For example, Miranda & Saunders (2003)
examined how concurrent information sharing affected information
overload and reciprocity in teams under deadline. Thus, this covered
both the ‘Mapping Single Activity’ and the ‘Mapping Single Activity
Transformation’ subcategories under the ‘Mapping Activities to Time’
category. We found that the study emphasized the effect of concurrent
information sharing over the deadline effect and thus classified the
paper into the ‘Mapping Single Activity’ subcategory.
addition, for each paper, we coded the type of IT artifact under study.
The list included specific technology categories, such as GSS, GDSS,
electronic meeting systems, electronic brainstorming systems, e-mail,
listserves, computer conferencing systems, audio conferencing, desktop
video conferencing, news systems and non-simultaneous computer
conferencing. We adopted more generic terms to cover similar IT
artifacts with different names. For example, we classified GSS, GDSS,
electronic meeting systems and electronic brainstorming systems under
the more generic term GSS. As a result, we identified several generic IT
artifacts, including chat rooms, computer conferencing systems, desktop
file sharing, e-mail, GSS, and instant messaging. Of these, chat rooms,
computer conferencing systems, e-mail, and GSS received the most
attention. Instant messaging and desktop file sharing have been examined
primarily in combination with other IT artifacts. For example, O’Leary and Mortensen (2010) examined three IT artifacts: e-mail, computer conferencing, and instant messaging. Online chat and e-mail were studied by Kanawattanachai and Yoo (2007). When more than one IT artifact was included, we coded the paper into the hybrid IT category.
Finally, we coded the research method according to the scheme developed by Boudreau et al (2001).
The four categories were: (1) laboratory experiments, (2) field
experiments, (3) field studies, and (4) case studies. For example, Nunamaker et al (1991)
used laboratory experiments and field studies to investigate
computer-supported team options generation. This paper was placed into
both the laboratory experiment and the field study categories.

Review findings

this section, we present our review findings. We first show what we
have learned about treatment of time in the studies reviewed and then
present the findings related to IT artifacts and research design.

Time in IT-mediated teams

Conceptions of time
Table 2
summarizes the main findings on how time was treated in the literature.
Papers in the ‘Conceptions of Time’ category examine time in terms of
team life span, team history, and the effects of time zone differences.
They treat time as a singular element that exists independently of
objects and events (Hassard, 1989) and that remains invariant for every actor (Das, 1990). In other words, underlying all these papers is the concept of objective clock time (Hassard, 1989). As these papers adopt the view of linear time and uniform time, they fall into the ‘Types of Time’ subcategory.

Most studies in this category have examined changes in IT-mediated teams over time
using primarily laboratory experiments. Such temporal effects are
observed in three ways. First, IT-mediated teams evolve while they
interact with IT (Chidambaram et al, 1990; Walther, 1995; Chidambaram, 1996; Cummings et al, 1996; Burke & Chidambaram, 1999). Although earlier studies (Daft & Lengel, 1986; Sproull & Kiesler, 1986)
report that IT-mediated teams are inferior to face-to-face teams in
exchanging relational information and performing equivocal tasks, recent
studies have found an interaction effect of time on teams: Differences
between face-to-face and IT-mediated teams are reduced in the major
performance dimensions as time goes by.
Second, IT-mediated teams change over time in terms of team properties, including leadership, trust, and work organization (Orlikowski et al, 1995; Berdahl & Craig, 1996; Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999; Majchrzak et al, 2000; Dennis & Garfield, 2003). Third, team history influences team properties, such as cohesion (Yoo & Alavi, 2001), accuracy of attributing authorship of anonymous comments (Hayne et al, 2003), and the level of information sharing, decision quality, and satisfaction (Mennecke & Valacich, 1998). In addition, some studies (Souren et al, 2004; Majchrzak et al, 2005; Hanisch & Corbitt, 2007; O’Leary & Mortensen, 2010)
find that different time zones lead to varying interaction patterns
between or within teams. Such differences generate problems in
interpreting behaviors and understanding communication and result in
unproductive delays in IT-mediated teams.
Mapping activities to time
in this category examine time in IT-mediated teams in terms of an IT
feature, outcome measured in time, temporal pattern, and temporal
condition. They study how to map a single activity that occurs once or
repeatedly and how to map the transformation of a single activity.
features can help reconfigure the time and space boundaries of
teamwork. For instance, IT enables teams to communicate both
synchronously, either in the same place or in different places, and
asynchronously, either in the same place or in different places (Ellis et al, 1991). New forms of synchronicity/asynchronicity
afforded by IT are concerned with whether or not communicating as a
single activity occurs at the same time, thus affecting scheduling. Such
mappings have been found to effect changes in team performance. For
example, Smith & Vancek (1990)
find that asynchronously distributed teams are more effective than
synchronous face-to-face teams in completing an intellective task. Hiltz et al (1991)
show that statistical feedback and leadership have a greater effect on
the level of agreement in synchronous teams than in asynchronous teams
in the completion of a complex ranking task.
processing also involves the notion of the temporal location of an
activity. When enabled by a GSS, parallel processing allows team members
to contribute and receive ideas concurrently (Nunamaker et al, 1987; Lowry et al, 2009). This ability frees participants from turn-taking (Nunamaker et al, 1991)
and fighting over floor control. At the same time, it leads to
information overload and negatively affects reciprocity in communication
(McLeod & Liker, 1992; Miranda & Saunders, 2003). Similarly, Wiredu (2011)
find in a study of software development teams that conferencing systems
allow multiple actions at the same temporal location, which can both
facilitate and undermine information interdependencies. In addition,
conferencing systems, along with desktop file sharing, have been found
to increase concurrency processing and thereby improve team efficiency (Bayerl & Lauche, 2010).
of completion (i.e., speed) has been found to be affected by several IT
features. For example, IT artifacts (both e-mail and GSS) decrease
feedback immediacy because they are slower in transferring cues and
offer less immediate feedback (Kahai & Cooper, 2003). These lags reduce the credibility of information (Dennis, 1996) and amplify problems associated with information interpretation for a single activity (Cramton, 2001; Ruhleder & Jordan, 2001; Sarker & Sahay, 2004); they also decrease decision quality in a negotiation task (Kahai & Cooper, 2003). These findings validate Te’eni’s (1992)
propositions that feedback and its timing embedded in an IT artifact
affect task and decision behavior in teams. Several studies have also
recognized variations in the speed of typing and reading (Kahai & Cooper, 2003) and transmissions over distance (Cramton, 2001).
Differences in the speed of transmission make team members communicate
at different rates (e.g., some check e-mail every day, others check once
every few days), which in turn reduces feedback immediacy and
eventually contributes to the team’s inability to build mutual knowledge
(Cramton, 2001).
Duration is often used as a proxy for a team’s outcome for a single activity (e.g., Haines & Mann, 2011).
Results are mixed concerning the effects of IT (mostly GSS) on
duration. Some studies have found that IT-mediated teams spend more time
completing a decision-making task (Horton & Biolsi, 1993; Barkhi, 2002), while others show no effect on team writing tasks (Horton et al, 1991). In addition, team composition (majority/minority composition) often moderates the effect of IT on task completion (Dennis et al, 1997).
on a team’s temporal patterns look into mapping a repeated single
activity. They examine patterns of interaction and information access in
IT-mediated teams, paying attention in particular to rhythm. For
example, virtual teams with discernible rhythms are found to be more
effective in product development (Maznevski & Chudoba, 2000). In their study of meetings in a geographically dispersed medical team, Kane & Luz (2006)
show that teleconferencing can disrupt rhythms of executing pre-meeting
and post-meeting activity, thereby posing potential threats to meeting
success. In a similar vein, Sarker & Sahay (2004)
find that the lack of vigilance toward specific rhythms within teams
leads to unattended synchronous meetings or missed deadlines, which, in
turn, is interpreted as a lack of seriousness or commitment to teamwork.
studies on a team’s temporal condition examine how to map a single
activity transformation. They impose deadlines and interrupt teams to
study how a single temporal condition affects team outcomes. For
example, deadlines are set for brainstorming sessions (Dennis et al, 1999) and for a decision-making task (Massey et al, 2003). IT artifacts can be manipulated accordingly to regulate interruptions, such as frequency of prompts (Santanen et al, 2004), and to indicate the pace of team activities (Grise & Gallupe, 1999).
Overall, deadlines and interruptions have been found to increase a
team’s temporal control, which in turn improves performance (Massey et al, 2003).

IT artifact and research method

Table 3
summarizes how different types of IT artifacts have been shown to
affect time in IT-mediated teams. We categorize such effects based on
the time classification. GSS, the most widely studied type of IT
artifact, has been examined in terms of team life span, team history, IT
features, team temporal condition, and team outcome. Computer
conferencing systems have been analyzed in terms of team life span and
the embedding of IT features. E-mail has only been studied in terms of
team life span. Chat rooms have been studied to determine how team
history might help teams overcome problems with their use. The category
of hybrid IT artifacts has been studied in terms of team life span, time
zone differences, IT features, and a team’s temporal pattern.

in terms of research methods, experiments have been the primary method
used, whereby the focus has been on short-term and localized temporal
changes. Of 64 studies, 37 have used laboratory experiments, and 2 have
involved field experiments. Field study and case studies have been used
in 19 and 7 studies, respectively.


findings show that a reasonable body of knowledge about time in
IT-mediated teams has been established. At the same time, we find that
the research is fragmented and lacking strong theoretical foundations,
and that systematic empirical programs examining time in IT-mediated
teams are rare. Past research has approached time predominantly from the
linear clock view and examined solely how IT-mediated teams manage a
single activity. We also note that only limited IT functions and
features have been examined, typically in isolation. Taken together, the
following gaps or limitations are noted: (1) the dominant clock view of
time; (2) a simplistic treatment of mapping activities to time; (3) a
lack of research on actors relating to time; (4) attention to only a
narrow set of IT functions and features; and (5) limited use of
alternative research designs.

Dominant clock view of time

majority of the studies in our review fall into the ‘Types of Time’
subcategory in the ‘Conceptions of Time’ category. These studies focus
on the objective and physical dimensions of time in that they describe
time as uniform and invariant for actors and conceive it as a structural
attribute. Most studies gloss over or ignore the notions of time
without a careful theoretical analysis, and they rarely theorize
temporal constructs, choices in the research design, and
operationalization of temporal constructs. They are primarily interested
in the differences between face-to-face and IT-mediated teams. The
treatment of time as a background in research design and the reduction
of time as an environmental factor explain the failure in generating new
knowledge about time in IT-mediated teams. Many findings simply
replicate and verify what has already been accepted about time in
non-IT-mediated teams. For example, the moderating effects of time, the
effects of differences in temporal behaviors on team processes, and the
impingement of temporal conditions upon team processes have all been
well established in research on non-IT-mediated teams (e.g., Tuckman, 1965; Gersick, 1988; McGrath, 1991).
With such a view of time, research on IT-mediated teams has not tapped into the idea of Kairos
(subjective time). As a result, little is known about how time is
internalized and what roles IT plays in such internalization processes.
The research is also silent on how time is socially constructed in
IT-mediated teams, despite the importance of the social construction of
time in making sense of and assessing diverse temporal conditions and in
negotiating temporal conduct, as well as the significant effects of IT
on conditions involved in maintaining team schedules, project timelines,
and the like. The lack of research on the internal aspects of time and
its social construction also limits the understanding of the effects of
subjective time and socially constructed time on the temporal behaviors
in teams.

Simplistic treatment of mapping activities

in the ‘Mapping Activities to Time’ category examine exclusively the
situation of mapping a single activity to the continuum of time. They
focus on how IT-mediated teams manage a single activity (e.g., one
brainstorming task, one decision-making task), a repeated activity
(e.g., recurring e-mail communication in completing one task), and a
single activity transformation (e.g., one deadline, one interruption).
They study teams that deal with one single task (e.g., one decision to
make), that operate under a single temporal condition (e.g., one
deadline to adhere to) and that have a single temporal pattern (e.g.,
one rhythm of interactions). In reality, however, teams and their
members are always embedded in multiple, and often conflicting, temporal
conditions (e.g., fiscal year, calendar year, multiple project
deadlines and so on), and have to cope with multiple activities and
engage in complex interactions and communication to deal with such
conditions. In other words, the literature adopts a highly simplistic
view of how activities are mapped temporally. In addition, it ignores
the incessant intertwining of plural temporal conditions to which teams
must subscribe, the necessary juggling of multiple activities in which
teams engage, and the tensions and interactions among multiple temporal
As such, the literature does not pay
attention to mapping multiple activities and how comparing and meshing
multiple activities in IT-mediated teams take place. Studies barely look
into how multiple activities are coordinated by allocating,
synchronizing, and sequencing them, and by comparing and meshing them
through entrainment and temporal symmetry. This lack of attention limits
the understanding of how IT is related to coordinating multiple
activities and mapping them to the continuum of time.

Lack of research on actors relating to time

review shows a paucity of research on the ‘Actors Relating to Time’
category. We could not find any study that probes how IT is related to
temporal perception and temporal sense-making. Consequently, there is a
dearth of studies that show how time is experienced in teams and how the
use of IT transforms time orientation and time horizons. In short, the
IS research community has neglected the experiential and interpretive
dimension of time in the past. As the ‘Actors Relating to Time’ category
is connected to the ‘Conceptions of Time’ and ‘Mapping Activities to
Time’ categories (Ancona et al, 2001b),
the literature so far has also failed to shed light on how temporal
perception and temporal personality influence types of time, socially
constructed time, or temporal mapping of a single activity and multiple

Narrow scope of IT functions and features

literature concentrates on a few IT features (i.e., synchronous
communication, parallel processing, communication speed, and feedback
immediacy) among a few types of IT artifacts (i.e., GSS, computer
conferencing systems, e-mail, and chat rooms). Most studies examine in
isolation how a single IT feature (e.g., parallel processing) within one
IT artifact (e.g., GSS) affects one time variable (e.g., duration). In
reality, however, teams use multiple IT artifacts that have multiple
features. These features influence more than one temporal variable,
which, in turn, generates new emergent temporal effects. In sum, the
literature has overlooked interactions among multiple IT artifacts and
features and resulting complex temporal effects.
failure to generate substantive knowledge about time in IT-mediated
teams may also be attributed to the fact that the literature does not
engage deeply with the nature of IT artifacts. Most studies adopt a
nominal view of IT (Orlikowski & Iacono, 2001),
often blackboxing the artifact into a label, such as GSS. Therefore,
they are not explicit about the IT functions and features that are being
enacted by teams, and about how these enacted functions and features
enable and constrain temporal behaviors. As a consequence, scholars have
a hard time probing how specific functions and features have influenced
the observed temporal effects. In addition, the studies fail to note
that IT features alone are rarely sufficient to produce the observed
effects. To this end, scholars need to carefully analyze the
interactions among multiple features and the team-level attributes and
dynamics. Without such analysis, how IT and time are interrelated in the
working of teams will remain poorly understood. Currently, either IT’s
more complex features and functions disappear from research designs and
theoretical models or IT broadly is taken for granted as a contextual
property that is present or not present.
IT is versatile, with communication, storage and processing functions (Leonardi & Bailey, 2008).
Our review finds that existing studies have focused primarily on the
communication function of IT, probably as a consequence of the reviewed
literature’s choosing four types of IT artifacts as specific treatments
and then analyzing them in team settings. As a result, specific features
characterizing the communication function, including synchronicity,
parallel processing, feedback immediacy, and communication speed, have
dominated the set of studied features, while the storage (e.g., recall
speed, search speed) and processing functions (e.g., computation speed
or visualization effects) have remained unexplored.
progress in IT spurred by mobile communication, instant messaging,
social media, and cloud computing provides new features. For example,
mobile technology offers anytime access to rich information services and
enables complex, real-time interactions – features that have not been
extensively studied in the past. Similarly, instant messaging allows
constant, spontaneous, and multiple parallel communication that was not
available in the past. Social media applications offer new forms of
information exchange, storage, and coordination, permitting new levels
of task and context awareness. All these features redefine temporal
prerequisites of work (Kakihara & Sorensen, 2002) and provide teams with novel opportunities to carry out multiple tasks over time and space (Lee & Sawyer, 2002). They can also alter the perception, consumption, management, and discipline of time (Jaureguiberry, 2000; Green, 2002).
Overall, scholars must be cautious in applying what has been learned
from past research, given its recognized limitations, to these
technologies. Technology developments present new research challenges
and call for intensifying research to understand time in IT-mediated

Limited research designs

noted earlier, the majority of studies have used laboratory experiments
that involve the use of a single IT artifact as a treatment condition
over a short time span. This choice limits researchers to considering
only short-term temporal effect and first-order effects. This limited
approach also constrains researchers’ ability to study teams working
with an expanding assembly of IT artifacts over extended periods of
time, or to perceive secondary effects. Furthermore, when multiple IT
artifacts are mobilized, their different combinations might influence a
wide range of additional temporal attributes and generate emergent
temporal properties. As a result, past experimental studies using a
single IT artifact are not adequate to reveal how multiple temporal
attributes, as shaped by multiple functions and features of IT, interact
with each other. In addition, experimental studies are not an adequate
means to explore how IT is related to subjective time, socially
constructed time, temporal perception, and temporal personalities.

Directions for future research

review has uncovered significant gaps in the temporal research on
IT-mediated teams. Systematic research is needed to close the observed
gaps, particularly in the under-researched areas of conceptions of time
and mapping activities to time, and in the non-researched area of actors
relating to time. In this section, we formulate future research
directions that can help advance the understanding of time in
IT-mediated teams. In particular, we focus on how the use of IT affects
time – its use and perceptions of it – in IT-mediated teams.
Specifically, we address the prospects of investigating how the use of
IT affects socially constructed time, mapping multiple activities,
comparing and meshing multiple activities, and temporal experience and
perception. Our discussion is not intended to be exhaustive, but seeks
to shed light on some promising ways of going forward to understand
better the temporal effects of IT on teams.

Socially constructed time

Work organization
temporal work organization (e.g., nine-to-five workdays), an important
variable of socially constructed time, can be affected by stretching
work across multiple temporal and physical contexts (Bolter, 1984). IT makes it possible to work beyond the ‘normal’nine-to-five work hours (Munck, 2001; Davis, 2002; Cousins & Robey, 2005).
For instance, mobile technology supports anytime and anyplace
communication, while cloud computing enables anytime and anyplace
storage and processing. Such anytime and anyplace communication, access,
and processing eliminate the dependencies on specific times and
locations for interaction within teams. As such, they enable teams and
their members to work and interact when they want, and therefore can
further blur temporal boundaries between work and non-work by extending
work further into times and spaces traditionally reserved for other
personal activities. More empirical research is needed to examine how
newer communication, storage, and processing functions of IT – anytime
and anyplace features in particular – pierce through temporal boundaries
that separate work time from non-work time in teams.
Effort and performance norms moderate such effects of IT on work organization. Norms identify appropriate behaviors (Bettenhausen & Murnighan, 1985)
and shape an individual’s understanding of behavioral expectations
within a team. Effort norms that require up-to-the-minute performance
may encourage team members to use IT after regular work hours. They will
expect others to do the same. Thus, if a team has high-level effort and
performance norms, the team is more likely to engage in work-related
electronic communication and interaction and to reconfigure temporal
boundaries between work and non-work. Other variables that moderate the
effects of IT on work organizations in teams deserve extensive probes.
Therefore, we ask:
Research Question 1:
do communication, storage, and processing functions of IT – the anytime
and anyplace feature, in particular – affect temporal boundaries of
work in teams? What variables potentially moderate such effects?
Time as linear continuity/renewing cycles
suggests that the processing function of IT influences organizational
members’ construction of time as a linear continuity or as renewing
cycles. For example, Boland et al (2007)
note that the use of three-dimensional modeling tools in construction
projects helps the entire work project to be observed and managed
simultaneously by enabling team members to view multiple alternative
sequences of actions. The visualization feature of the processing
technology transforms a construction process from one that is linear and
error-prone into one that is concurrent and iterative.
In contrast, other studies have found that IT promotes social construction of time as a linear continuity. For example, Lee (1999)
finds that electronic data interchange (EDI) systems streamline the
routines in a bank. Work activities are no longer conducted as they
naturally unfold but instead are performed at a particular time (e.g.,
10:00am) as regulated
by EDI service. In other words, the automation feature of a processing
technology standardizes how work is done and strengthens the sense of
linearity and regularity.
Such differences in the
temporal effects of IT may be attributed to specific IT features and the
task that an IT feature is intended to support. Three-dimensional
visualization tools provide a platform for cooperation and collaboration
during construction, supporting a semi-structured task that requires
unique and customized solutions. Automation technologies regulate
workflow and are intended for structured tasks that recur on a regular
basis and have programmed solutions.
As teams are
building blocks of contemporary organizations, we believe that the
processing function of IT can occasion changes in teams’ social
construction of time, whether as a linear continuity or as renewing
cycles. Future research can empirically investigate the effects of
different features of the processing function of IT on the social
construction of time in teams. In addition, future research needs to
explore why varying features of the processing function of IT affect
teams’ social construction of time in divergent ways. Therefore, we
raise the following research question:
Research Question 2:
and why do varying IT processing features have different effects on
teams’ social construction of time under varying conditions?

Mapping multiple activities to time

Mapping multiple activities
IT often permits several activities to take place simultaneously (Perry et al, 2001).
Examples include checking e-mails while traveling and conducting
organizational transactions while receiving information from databases.
By enabling superimposition of and participation in two or more
synchronous interactions at the same time, IT generates ample
opportunities for new levels of task synchronization (Leonardi & Bailey, 2008; Orlikowski & Scott, 2008).
addition, recent advances in the communication function of IT, such as
mobile applications, instant messaging, and simple notification service,
allow teams to engage in real-time and constant communication. Such
enhanced connectivity enables tasks to be delivered and allocated as
they emerge and activities to be activated by contextual triggers. When
teams and their members attend to real-time, constant, and instantaneous
communication, they tend to discontinue their activity at hand. As they
put the original activity on hold and switch to a new activity, they
engage simultaneously in multiple activities (i.e., synchronization).
That is, real time, constant, and instantaneous communication can induce
the concurrent execution of multiple activities so as to accommodate
emergent unplanned activities. Future research needs to examine how, why
and under what conditions the enhanced communication functions of IT –
the real-time and constant communication feature and superimposition
feature in particular – increase synchronization needs in teams. Future
research also needs to explain whether other variables, such as task and
norms, interact with these effects. Therefore, we ask:
Research Question 3a:
why, and under what conditions do the enhanced communication functions
of IT, the real-time and constant communication features in particular,
increase synchronization needs and levels in teams? What variables
moderate such effects?
enhanced communication functions of IT allow attention given to tasks
to unfold naturally as they occur in teams. As a consequence, temporal
locations and durations of these activities become less predictable,
which increases the temporal ambiguity of tasks (McGrath, 1991);
tasks vary in importance and urgency and demand varying temporal
commitments while competing for limited work hours. To manage such
complexities, teams need to allocate more time to evaluate task
priorities, to keep track of tasks, and to constantly reallocate time to
different tasks. They also need to keep task sequences more flexible
and open to change to adapt to new tasks that arise unexpectedly. While
giving rise to such needs, IT also offers means to address them,
providing more effective ways for teams to sequence their activities.
For example, e-mail, shared calendars, and new temporal coordination
tools (e.g., doodle) can be used to screen and reallocate the order of
work. Future research needs to explore to what extent the enhanced
communication functions of IT impinge upon allocation of time and
sequence in teams, and how teams respond to such needs with new
IT-mediated temporal enactments. Therefore, we raise the following
Research Question 3b:
what extent do the enhanced communication functions of IT increase the
need for constant allocation and flexible task sequencing in teams? How
are such temporal tasks supported by new IT features?
Comparing and meshing multiple activities
Past empirical studies show that IT often has direct effects on how teams compare and mesh multiple activities. For example, Barley (1988)
finds that radiologists adjust the temporal location, duration,
sequence, and frequency of their actions to match those of the
computerized radiology equipment. That is, radiologists become entrained
to the temporality embedded in the computerized equipment. Similarly, a
recent study in a hospital shows that physicians and nurses adjust the
temporal locations of their activities to correspond with those dictated
by mobile phones and patient record systems (Shen et al, 2006).
This study also reveals that because of task differences, nurses
exhibit entrainment to the patient record system, whereas physicians do
not. Future research needs to further investigate how teams adjust the
temporal locations and pace of their activities to the temporalities
embedded in the communication and processing functions of IT, and
accordingly develop new temporal theories about the influence of IT on
entrainment. We thus ask:
Research Question 4a:
do the communication and processing functions of IT impose temporal
maps onto activities so as to occasion the entrainment behaviors of
teams? What conditions influence the presence of such effects?
noted, teams increasingly use multiple and heterogeneous IT artifacts.
Embedded in these diversified technologies are different, sometimes
conflicting, temporalities. For example, one IT artifact providing
real-time feedback might compete with another that offers different
information at a different pace. Future research needs to tap into the
effects of these different temporalities inscribed in multiple IT
artifacts and how they might generate emerging patterns of entrainment.
Therefore, we ask:
Research Question 4b:
do different temporalities inscribed in multiple IT artifacts interact
so as to influence the entrainment behaviors of teams? Under what
conditions are such effects likely to happen?

Temporal perceptions

enhanced communication functions of IT, such as instant messaging and
social media (e.g., Twitter), enable teams to gather and share
information and also to seek help from others without leaving their work
areas. The enhanced storage function (e.g., repositories, wikis and so
on), combined with the powerful search function, provides team members
with a wealth of information and creates team memory. Such levels of
access to past communication and team history offer teams and their
members unprecedented opportunities to be fully engrossed in their work.
As they focus more intently on the abundant information made available,
team members can lose track of time and consequently feel that time
passes faster. Future research needs to empirically investigate whether
the enhanced communication and storage functions of IT affect team
members’ temporal experience. Therefore, we ask:
Research Question 5a:
How and why do the enhanced communication and storage functions of IT influence teams and their members’ temporal experience?
connectivity supported by IT might lead team members to feel that they
are more tightly connected to, or less independent from, other team
members. Therefore, mentally separating the extrinsic factors in
completing tasks is more difficult. Because of intense communications,
team members might experience constant distractions by disruptions (O’Conaill & Frohlich, 1995)
from electronic sources, and construe experienced time as being
increasingly fragmented. Future research needs to study such
fragmentation effects of IT on team members’ temporal experience. Thus,
we raise the following question:
Research Question 5b:
and why do the enhanced communication functions of IT increase teams
and their members’ experience of temporal fragmentation of work?
and their members might also believe that simultaneous engagement in
two or more activities in the same time span makes them work more
efficiently. For example, while waiting for a file to download, team
members can send e-mail and engage in IM with other team members.
Managing multiple activities (i.e., synchronization) enabled by IT might
also produce positive feelings toward the efficient use of time.
Experience of improved efficiency might also be observed when IT helps
turn idle time into productive time and thereby helps team members
accomplish more in a given time period. Future research therefore needs
to study the potential positive effects of synchronization enabled by
enhanced communication and storage functions of IT on temporal
perceptions in team members. Therefore, we ask:
Research Question 5c:
why and under what conditions do teams and their members positively
perceive the new levels of synchronization enabled by the communication
and storage functions of IT?
the same time, interweaving several tasks and activities into the same
time span (i.e., synchronization) might also lead team members to
experience the lack of task closure as both dissatisfying and
frustrating. In a similar vein, team members might feel distracted as
they have to put aside their activities to attend to the disruptions
imposed by enhanced connectivity. Such negative effects of
synchronization on temporal perceptions in teams also deserve empirical
examination. Therefore, we ask:
Research Question 5d:
why and under what conditions do teams and their members negatively
perceive increased rates of disruption resulting from enhanced
communication functions of IT?


Table 4
summarizes proposed directions for future research. It highlights the
areas for future research with specific research questions to narrow the
research gaps revealed by our review. The proposed areas of research
specifically address the richness and complexity of conceptualizing,
enacting, and experiencing time in IT-mediated teams. The research
questions call for increased attention to the interactions between novel
and combined IT functions and individual, social, and spatial features
in teams, and how they affect conceptualization, enactment, and
experience of time.

the proposed directions advocate articulating a more systematic view of
time while considering a wider array of IT functions and features that
teams can now use. The research directions urge for better theorizing
and scrutiny of IT functions as a starting point for insightful
research. They also call for richer research designs. We especially
recommend wider deployment of longitudinal ethnographic studies to
understand the role of the multiplicity of artifacts and the
interpretive elements of time, as well as controlled field experiments
to better understand causal mechanisms that generate specific temporal
effects. Such research designs can lead to a deeper understanding of
temporal dynamics in IT-mediated teams and thus to substantive theory


Our review confirms earlier findings that (1) the use of IT has varying effects on the time needed to reach a decision (Benbasat & Lim, 1993; McLeod, 1992) and (2) time moderates the interactions between the use of IT and team properties (Townsend et al, 1998).
However, our review adds several new insights that go beyond these
findings and demonstrate some advances in the field. We especially heed
how IT is changing the way that time is conceptualized, organized, and
experienced in teams. In this regard, our review provides the first
comprehensive synthesis of what is known and unknown about time in
IT-mediated teams.
Our analysis is not without
limitations. First, our review does not include papers that have
appeared in journals and conferences that were outside of our sampling
criteria. This circumscription might partly explain why newer IT
artifacts are not included in the sampled studies. Nevertheless, given
the representative nature of the journals we selected, we believe that
the findings faithfully reflect the state of research in the area.
Second, the classification of time, although it draws upon the
well-known classification of Ancona et al (2001b),
can still miss significant temporal attributes and relationships.
Subsequently, it might fail to unearth all temporal implications of IT
for teams. Third, our future research directions are solely concerned
with the temporal effects of IT on teams, that is, how the use of IT
affects time in IT-mediated teams. Future studies should cover other
dimensions of time in IT-mediated teams. For instance, they can
investigate the interplay between conceptions of time and mapping
activities to time in IT-mediated teams. In addition, our future
research directions focus primarily on intra-team phenomena. Future
research should explore the inter-team temporal dynamics and multilevel
interactions that were excluded from this analysis. Finally, our study
examined mainly the direct first-order effects of temporal changes in
team behaviors. Future studies should also consider the secondary and
mediated effects of varying temporal changes.
We hope
that the research issues set forth in this paper will stimulate growing
interest in the relationships between time and IT in teams and move
time from the background to the foreground in IS research. A deeper
appreciation of this topic can also be of practical use as organizations
increasingly adopt mobile applications and continue to virtualize their
work processes. Thereby, temporal considerations should also permeate
analyses of other constructs that are shaped by IT, such as trust and
cognition. A temporal focus can, in addition, help to explain the
complexities observed in the interactions between IT and teams. It can
also help to formulate more effective guidelines on how to adopt and
appropriate IT artifacts and help to shape their designs so as to
promote varying temporal effects. It is time to take time more seriously
in relation to IT.


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Coding of 64 papers included in the review

  1. The 64 papers that deal explicitly with time were coded on ‘IT artifact’, ‘Research method’, and ‘Time-related content’.
  2. There are 38 papers in the ‘Conceptions of Time’ category, and all of them belong to the ‘Types of Time’ subcategory.
  3. There
    are 26 papers in the ‘Mapping Activities to Time’ category. Among them,
    19 fall into the ‘Mapping a Single Activity’ subcategory, 3 into the
    ‘Mapping a Single Repeated Activity’ subcategory, and 4 into the
    ‘Mapping a Single Activity Transformation’ subcategory.
  4. Papers
    are first grouped by time category and subcategory and then listed in
    alphabetical order by author’s last name within each subcategory.

Category: Conceptions of time

Subcategory: Types of time

Category: Mapping activities to time

Subcategory: Mapping a single activity

Category: Mapping activities to time

Subcategory: Mapping a single repeated activity

Category: Mapping activities to time

Subcategory: Mapping a single activity transformation

About the Authors

Zixing Shen is an Assistant Professor of Management/MIS
at Dakota State University. She holds a Ph.D. in Management from Case
Western Reserve University. Her current research focuses on the
organizational impacts of IT. She has also worked in the areas of system
analysis and design and IT in health care.
Kalle Lyytinen
is Iris S. Wolstein Professor at Case Western Reserve University. He
holds a Ph.D. from the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland) and a Ph.D.
h.c. from Umea University. He is an AIS fellow (2004) and serves on the
editorial boards of several leading IS journals. He has published over
250 scientific articles and conference papers and edited or written 11
books. His current research interests include radical innovation in
software development, digitalization of complex design processes, and
the impact of digitalization on industrial organization and innovation.
Youngjin Yoo
is Professor of Management Information Systems and Strategy at the Fox
School of Business at Temple University, where he is also Irwin L. Gross
Research Fellow. He researches design, innovation, and evolution.

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European Journal of Information Systems - Time and information technology in teams: a review of empirical research and future research directions

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