Technology-Related Risks in Virtual and Traditional Information Systems Projects

Technology-Related Risks in Virtual and Traditional Information Systems Projects

April H. Reed
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4856-2.ch009
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Technology is important to software development projects; however, virtual projects are more dependent on technology than traditional co-located projects due to communication and collaboration needs. Two research studies in this chapter sought to determine whether seven technology-related risks pose a greater danger to virtual projects than traditional projects and to determine if technology-related risks have a high impact on project success. Results indicate that two technology-related risks exhibited a significantly greater impact on virtual IT projects: (1) inexperience with the company and its processes and (2) inadequate technical resources. Project managers need to be aware that traditional project risks can have a greater impact on virtual projects. Additionally, technology-related risks in the second study were found to have low levels of impact on project success. Results indicate in cases where a majority of team members are experienced with the application, development technology, and project technology, the risk of technology-related issues seems to lessen.
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The use of virtual Information Systems (IS) and Information Technology (IT) project teams has continued to grow and change the way we work (Berry, 2011; Brandt, England, & Ward, 2011). Several factors have influenced this growth, including the increased use of outsourcing and off-shoring, as well as a shortage of skilled resources in particularly narrow specialties and a need to access those resources wherever they reside (Aspray, Mayadas, & Vardi, 2006; Barkhi, Amiri, & James, 2006; Jones, Oyung, & Pace, 2005). An IS/IT project team is a group of technology professionals working together towards a common goal such as software development, to create a unique product, service or result (PMI, 2013). A team is considered virtual when its’ members are not co-located but reside in different locations where they must rely heavily on Information Communication and Technology (ICT) tools in order to communicate across distances. For these teams, face-to-face communication is either limited or non-existent. Dube and Pare (2001) in their research indicated there are a wide range of collaborative technologies that can be used to support these types of teams, such as videoconferencing, intranet, collaborative software, etc., especially for global virtual teams (Dube & Pare, 2001). Such technologies and their associated risks are the main focus of this paper.

Although the concept of 24 by 7 work and better access to expertise are aspects that make virtual teams potentially beneficial, these teams can have their own issues. Dube and Pare (2001) reviewed literature on virtual teams and found some of the “key challenges” that face virtual project leaders to be communication and technology. Oshri et al. (2008) in their research on globally distributed teams found the management of dispersed teams to be more challenging than the management of traditional co-located teams (Oshri, Kotlarshy, & Willcocks, 2008). Berry (2011) acknowledged a higher level of complexity in managing virtual teams than traditional face-to-face teams while at the same time recognizing they share some common characteristics and dynamics of teams in general (Berry, 2011).

Two similar research studies will be referenced here. The first study considers whether technology related risks are greater for virtual IS/IT projects than for traditional co-located IS/IT projects. The second study re-visits the analysis of the same set of risk factors several years later to determine if they still cause issues for virtual IS/IT projects. The research is based in the following two factors: (1) Technology-related risks are recognized as threats to Information Systems and Information Technology projects in general; (2) Virtual Information Systems and Information Technology projects by their nature are compelled to supplement or replace face-to-face communication, and typically they do this by leveraging the use of technology. In the Background section that follows, I discuss each of these two factors in greater depth. Additional details about the two studies are outlined in the Methodology section.

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