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Sunday, 2 August 2015

Factors and influences of effective virtual team performance

Factors and influences of effective virtual team performance

Dreyer, Eben
ABSTRACT: Virtual team research is very relevant today as organisations
have become more distributed and the use of so-called distributed teams
has become more common. These virtual teams allow organisations to
combine expertise from almost anywhere through the use of information
and communication technology (ICT) across space and time to complete
interdependent organisational tasks. To date research efforts have
yielded insights into many factors that affect virtual teamwork, but the
research has become somewhat fragmented. By means of a case study
approach, this research paper aims to provide virtual team leaders with a
more holistic understanding of the factors that influence virtual team

The researcher interviewed five virtual team leaders who have many years
of working experience with virtual teams. All the participants work in
the ICT industry sector and make extensive use of distributed teams to
perform day-to-day tasks, provide business services and to implement
large scale projects. The research assignment was constructed by
completing a detailed literature review in order to develop a broad
framework to evaluate five broad virtual team perspectives that
influence virtual team performance. The five perspectives included
organisation design, leadership, human resources, ICT technology and
process considerations. The following findings were identified for each
of these perspectives.

Organisational design perspective: The importance of a clearly defined
organisation structure helps to create a better understanding of
responsibility and ownership. It was also identified that an additional
layer of management within the virtual team structure reduces some of
the complexities of virtual team management and simplifies the
communication structure. The study also provides further insight into
the type of person, and the experience and skills of people suitable to
work in the virtual team environment.

Leadership perspective: The importance of management controls was
identified, like process orientation, practical awareness and management
awareness in terms of cultural and importantly emotional awareness.
Practical considerations for the performance management and rewards
systems include the need for a broader team focus rather than rewarding
individualist behaviour and performance.

Human resources perspective (people): The clear goals and objectives of
the organisation or project create the necessary focus, direction and
understanding that guide the individual virtual team members and allow
them to self-regulate. This is further supported by the a shared
understanding of functional and role requirements that promote ownership
and accountability which are considered to be the basis for a
successful empowering approach and which allow individual team members
to make decisions within the boundaries of their functions.
Subsequently, the effect of social and interpersonal factors was
identified as having a significant impact on virtual team performance
and success. The use of various activities to build relations and to
create an informal connectedness improves communication and promotes
team commitment, cohesion, knowledge and information sharing.

Technology perspective: The use of technologies that share the relevant
context and supporting information reduces ambiguity and provides a
mechanism to share information. All participants make use of
collaborative technologies to facilitate the day-to-day team
interaction, with a preference for technologies that promote easy
participation and sharing of information in real-time (synchronously).
Interestingly, none of the respondents provide ICT tool training to
improve the effective use of these communication technologies and they
expect their virtual team members to be able to use all the relevant
technologies as a basic skill.

Process perspective: The reliance on clear and agreed processes is
important in virtual teamwork and requires upfront alignment. The study
identified that a shared understanding by all team members of the
underlying delivery process, including all in-and-output controls is a
critical success factor for virtual teamwork and, because of the
fragmented nature of the delivery process, there is a greater reliance
on the efficient facilitation and coordination of specialised work. It
also further supports the additional layer of management, in which a
team leader and project manager facilitate and coordinate the
facilitation of work that relies on a well-developed communication
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Factors and influences of effective virtual team performance

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