Recent advances in Web-based technologies along with investments in international outsourcing and offshore locations have unquestionably increased the importance of global virtual teams. However, because global virtual teams have their members dispersed in different countries and rely extensively on electronic communication to exchange information, complete tasks, and coordinate activities, their implementation is accompanied by challenges beyond those found in traditional teams whose members often meet face-to-face in the same cultural context. One such challenge has to do with cross-cultural collaboration. Although there is a sense that collaborative technologies offer the essential tools for supporting collaboration, it is unknown whether virtual members will actually adopt collaborative technologies in a cross-cultural setting. To gain knowledge about this potential endemic aspect of cross-cultural teamwork, one needs to examine the factors that influence the adoption of collaborative technologies in global virtual teams. Drawing on the work of organizations, cognitive theory, and information systems researchers, this study offers a framework that describes the key components underlying collaborative technology adoption in global virtual teams by integrating both social and instrumental aspects of group work.
Organizational theorists (e.g., March & Simon, 1957; Rogers, 1995) and MIS scholars (e.g., Daft & Lengel, 1984; Fulk, Schmitz, & Steinfield, 1990; Karahanna, 1999; Zmud, Lind, & Young, 1990) have long been concerned with the understanding of IT adoption. Two major schools of thought have offered alternative views on this topic: a) the instrumental school and b) the social constructionist school. Typically, models rooted in the instrumental school suggest that technology directly and positively influences organizational productivity as long as people objectively (or rationally) evaluate and select the technology best aligned to their skills and the requirements of the task. While this view has yielded extensive literature on IT adoption, the social constructionist school argues that such technological determinism fails to recognize that “behavior occurs in a very social world which is far from neutral in its effects” (Fulk et al., 1990, p. 117). In other words, IT adoption is not always as simple and rational as it could be because it is a complex, subjective, and evolving process that is subject to social influences. The social constructionist view suggests that people’s subjective interpretations of their work, the organization, and technology help determine IT adoption. While each of these two schools offers important analytical tools with which to examine technology adoption in organizations, recent theorizations suggest that, in the real world, both instrumental and social aspects of teamwork coexist, making them difficult to distinguish (Fulk, 1993). In other words, social behaviors and subjective interpretations, as much as objective perceptions of technology, help determine IT adoption in organizations.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Global Virtual Team: A group of people who work on interdependent tasks guided by a common purpose across space, time and organizational boundaries with technology-supported communication substantially more than face-to-face meetings (adapted from Maznevski & Chudoba, 2000). Typically, these teams are located in two or more countries.
Culture: The collective programming of the mind that builds on shared norms and values (adapted from Hofstede, 1980).
General Computer Self-Efficacy: “An individual’s judgment of efficacy across multiple computer” (adapted from Marakas, et al., 1998).
Collaborative Technologies: Technologies that support collaborative efforts among multiple geographically dispersed teams when carrying out their tasks and social needs over the Web. They can be synchronous or asynchronous.
Task-Specific Computer Self-Efficacy: Refers to “an individual’s perception of efficacy in performing specific computer-related tasks” (adapted from Marakas, et al., 1998).
Synchronous Collaborative Technologies: Allow teams to communicate and exchange information in a real time fashion. Examples of synchronous collaborative technologies include Web-based tolls such as chats, instant messaging, electronic meeting systems or group decision support systems (GDSS) that support same time meetings, voice over IP, and videoconferencing systems.
Global E-Collaboration: The process of information sharing, communication, and coordination between geographically dispersed teams in two or more countries working together toward a common goal using collaborative technologies over the Web.
Asynchronous Collaborative Technologies: Allow geographically dispersed teams to work on a common task but at different points in time. These technologies are particularly useful tools for teams located in different time zones and include Web-based collaborative tools such as email systems (e.g., gmail, hotmail, and yahoo), document management technologies, knowledge-management repository systems, intranets, listservs, group calendars, and newsgroups.