Technology Related Risks on Virtual Software Development Projects

Technology Related Risks on Virtual Software Development Projects

April H. Reed (East Carolina University, USA) and Linda V. Knight (DePaul University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jitpm.2012010101
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Virtual software development projects have a greater reliance on technology than traditional co-located projects because of the need to leverage technology to facilitate or enhance communication among virtual team members. The goal of this research was to determine whether technology-related risks pose a greater risk to virtual projects than to traditional projects. Seven technology-related risks were identified from the literature, individual interviews with IT practitioners, and a focus group. Then 154 practitioners, primarily project managers, participated in an electronic survey that explored the impact of these factors. Results indicate two technology-related risks exhibited a significantly greater impact on virtual IT projects. Project managers need to be aware that (1) traditional project risks can have greater impact on virtual projects, and (2) of the technology-related risk factors, inexperience with the company and its processes and inadequate technical resources have been shown here to pose a greater threat to virtual projects than to traditional projects.
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Project risk has been researched previously; however, much of that research focuses on traditional co-located projects. In this research, technology was found to be a major category of risk. Boehm (1991), one of the first to rank risk factors, referenced technology as “straining computer-science capabilities” (Boehm, 1991). A few years later, Barki et al. (1993) conducted a large study which identified risks (uncertainty factors) which were grouped into five areas, the first being “technological newness” (Barkhi et al., 2006). Within that category, the following specific risks related to issues with technology implementation on a project were recognized: need for new software, need for new hardware, and technical complexity. Likewise, several years later a Delphi study revealed “introduction of new technology” as one of a universal set of risk factors (Keil et al., 1998). Finally, Wallace (1999) conducted a survey whose results revealed six categories of risk. “New technology” was found to be a specific risk found in the Project Complexity category (Wallace, 1999). Project risk, especially that related to technological implementation, has not been researched as thoroughly on virtual projects. Instead, much of prior literature in this area has focused on investigating virtual team characteristics, such as trust, conflict and communication (Jones et al., 2005; Kirkman & Mathieu, 2005; Lipnack & Stamps, 1997).

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