Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 14 Number 4 1998 pp. 5-6

Special Section: Managing Virtual Workplaces and Teleworking with Information Technology

Igbaria, Magid


THE RECENT RAPID AND ONGOING ADVENT OF INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE and superhighways in many nations is prompting fast transformation of organizations toward the virtual workplace. As the growth in the virtual workplace and teleworking accelerate, organizations face new challenges to cope with their new organizational structure. Some of these new challenges include understanding the emergent work environment, the changing social work order, and the dynamic requirements of the knowledge worker. Indeed, it is challenging for organizations to manage the complexity of the new social and work structures, which is exacerbated by the increasing mobility of the new type of office worker. To meet these challenges effectively, management needs to develop strategies to support what is called "moving work to where people are, rather than people to where the work is." Thus, in order to maintain its status quo and also to be comparatively competitive, management must not only understand the

new structure but also take innovative steps to adopt new organizational forms and arrangements to accommodate the increasingly diverse workplace.

Companies no longer talk about "work at home" programs. Rather, they are speaking about "working anywhere, anytime, and with anyone." The concept is fast becoming a reality where the use of information technologies makes connectivity, collaborations, and communication easy. Does it matter whether that critical voice-mail or message comes from the home office, the client's office, the airport, or the middle of a traffic jam? The workplace environment is changing. These changes may have minimal effects on some people, yet, for others, they may bring about radical changes in their workspace, and in their life-styles and habits.

This Special Section discusses how individuals and groups function in the new environment. We are very grateful to the authors who submitted their work and to the many reviewers who have provided constructive comments and suggestions.

In the first paper, Mary Beth Watson Fritz, Sridhar Narasimhan, and Hyeun-Suk Rhee examine the relationships between organizational factors and individual satisfaction with office communication among telecommuters and traditional office workers. Their study was conducted through a survey of telecommuters and a comparison group of non-telecommuters in nine firms with telecommuting programs. The authors found that telecommuters report higher satisfaction with office communication than do non-telecommuters. However, organizational factors such as task predictability, IT support, and electronic coordination are found to have similar influences on satisfaction with communication for both groups. The authors conclude that managers should develop strategies for managing a network of distributed workers (i.e., workers in a variety of different geographic locations) and suggest a number of different managerial actions. In addition, they suggest a number of areas for future research.

Sirkka L. Jarvenpaa, Kathleen Knoll, and Dorothy E. Leidner explore the antecedents of trust in a global virtual team setting, using seventy-five teams in different countries. They argue that trust can be predicted by perceptions of other team members' ability, integrity, benevolence, and propensity to trust. The relative importance of these predictors may vary by time and phases of teamwork. The authors found that, in the early phases of teamwork, team trust was predicted more strongly by integrity and benevolence. The salience of perceived ability on trust diminished over time. They found that the members' own propensity to trust had a significant, although unchanged, effect on trust. The authors also report that high-trust teams exhibit "swift trust." Finally, the authors provide several suggestion to reinforce trust and eventually improve team process outcome.

In the final paper of the Special Section, Alan R. Dennis, Sridar K. Pootheri, and Vijaya L. Natarajan address the development of a Web-groupware system in building virtual communities. They discuss the analysis, design, and implementation of the system and the results of series of interviews with users. They found that Web-based groupware can improve communication among the participants and help to build virtual communities. However, organizations should be aware that technology alone cannot build virtual communities. They report that Web-groupware is a pull technology that requires users deliberately to access the system. In cases where users did not find a compelling need or desire to interact, the system did not help to build a virtual community.