This chapter endeavours to clarify some of the concepts related to the virtual organisation and to move away from the definition of a “virtual organisation” as one with few or no tangible assets, existing in virtual space created through information communication technologies (ICT) (Warner & Witzel, 2004). The authors focus on the concept of an organisation, which is “virtually organised,” employing ICT for the majority of its communication, asset management, knowledge management and customer resource management, across a network of customers, suppliers and employees (Venkatraman & Henderson, 1998). The authors consider the concepts of virtual organisations and virtual organising and develop an instrument that can be used to evaluate organisational readiness to exploit virtual networks. The instrument can be used initially to measure the value of virtual models to the organisation and then reapplied to measure the extent to which these values are actually embraced.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Virtual Readiness: The authors define virtual readiness as how ready an organisation is to collaborate virtually; the extent to which it has utilized ICT in identifying an exploiting strategic advantage external to the organisation with partners and suppliers.
Virtual Organisation: The authors define the virtual organisation as a collaborative initiative whose members, although geographically apart, are enabled via ICT to develop significant strategic competitive advantage while appearing to others to be a single, unified organization with a real physical location.
Virtual: The authors define virtual as meaning the quality of affecting something without actually being that something. The authors further define virtual as those activities within and external to an organisation, enabled by ICT rather than face to face. The nature of ICT lends credence to Webster’s definition, “being in essence or effect but not in fact.”
Information Communications Technologies (ICT): The authors define ICT as an all-encompassing term that includes any communication device or application including but not restricted to communications networks, software and systems and the proliferation of information technology-enabled access devices.
Virtual Collaboration: The authors define virtual collaboration as a joint effort of multiple entities either internally or externally who work as groups to accomplish tasks or projects. Collaborations may be asynchronous; not necessarily working together at the same time, or synchronous; collaborative partners are working together simultaneously and in communication, enabled by ICT.
Virtual Enterprise: The authors define the virtual enterprise as globally dispersed entities enabled by ICT. The collective term encompasses corporations, small businesses, non-profit institutions, government bodies, and possibly other kinds of organizations.
Virtual Organising: The authors define virtual organising as the process of sharing knowledge and intellect through ICT-based communication; creating an organisation wide means of creating and adding value to existing activities and processes. Operation integration is another term for virtual organising.