Virtual organization

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  • A virtual organization is an organization involving detached and disseminated entities (from employees to entire enterprises) requiring information technology to support their work and communication.[1] Virtual organizations do not represent a firm’s attribute but can be considered as a different organizational form.
  • Dramatically enough, it is quite hard to find a precise and fixed definition of fundamental notions such as virtual organization or virtual company.[2] The term virtual organization ensued from the phrase “virtual reality”, whose purpose is to look like reality by using electronic sounds and images.[3] The term virtual organization implies the novel and innovative relationships between organizations and individuals. This particular type of organization is supported by technology and driven by the internationalization of business.[4]
  • Virtual can be defined as not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so, in another words “unreal but looking real”.[5] This definition precisely outlines the leading principle of this unconventional organization, which holds the form of a real (conventional) corporation for externals but does not exist in reality and implicates an entirely digital process relying on independents web associates.[6] Thus, virtual organizations are centred on technology and position physical presence in the background. Virtual organizations possess limited physical resources, as adding value is varying according to (mobile) knowledge rather than (immovable) equipment.[3]
  • Virtual organizations necessitate associations, federations, relations, agreements and alliance relationships [4] as they essentially are partnership webs of disseminated organizational entities or self-governing corporations.[6]
  • It is more than necessary to understand the difference between the terms virtual organization and virtual enterprise.

Apparition and evolution[edit]

It is not achievable to affirm precisely the time of the apparition of virtual organizations’ notion. This concept was not born in one day nor conceived by one distinct researcher but results from several factors including our constantly changing and evolving society as well as the development in the information and communication technologies.

1980s[edit]

The emergence of outsourcing in the 80s unquestionably played a significant role as its aim is to eradicate unproductive internal services and transfers the difficulty outside of the organization. Outsourcing necessarily implies partnerships as companies resort to other establishments. Thus, this method highlighted the necessity of alliances and networking in a business and provoked a great interest for new disciplines. Indeed, this process has dramatically changed the way organizations consider partners and has raised their awareness concerning the benefits smart alliances can offer [7]

1990s[edit]

The terms virtual organization, virtual enterprise or virtual corporation were first utilized in the early 1990s as demonstrate the work of Jan Hopland, Roger N. Nagel, William H. Davidow and Malone.[8] The table below allows us to understand more specifically their faintly distinctive theories:

Virtual organizations' views
Jan Hopland Roger N. Nagel William H. Davidow and Malone
Position Digital Equipment Corp. executive Management expert Authors of The Virtual Corporation
Virtual organization’s depiction A company that knows how to utilise partnerships both inside and outside its boundaries in order to mobilise more assets than it presently has on its own Take advantage of market openings thanks to technology which allow enterprises to form temporary partnerships A broad and catch-all term comprising numerous management ideas and trendy terms

Today[edit]

As mentioned before, there is not yet a universal definition of the term virtual organization. Even though this concept started to evolve a long time ago it is still progressing nowadays.

Technology required[edit]

Virtual organizations are supported by primary technologies such as the Internet and the World Wide Web, EDI, telecommunications, e-mails, groupware, and video conferencing.[9]

Knowledge management technologies[edit]

Knowledge management technologies assisting virtual organizations comprise:[9]

EDI[edit]

EDI can constitute a useful tool for virtual organizations as it transfers information (in the adequate form which a computer can utilize straightforwardly) from a computer to another and does not necessitate the intervention of any individual. EDI could be a benefit to virtual organizations in numerous ways as the exchange of information between associates is facilitated and more efficient than with non-electronic transfer: better inventory management and shipping performance, amount of time saved and faults escaped by the fact that data requisite to be entered only once, as well as a rise of the speed and accuracy of processes. However, using EDI is not the optimal choice to make for assisting communication within a virtual organization, as the flexibility required for quick reactions is lacking in this system.[10]

Groupware[edit]

Virtual organizations can be supported by groupware systems as it delivers a shared core of information to partners, a platform to collaborate (contact and interactive discussion)ANDDD Moreover, it can assists associates to track the rate of progress in work being done in a way that they can cooperate on the project without being concerned about geographical barriers. However, in a similar way as EDI, groupware is not the ideal decision to make for assisting communication within a virtual organization. Indeed, even though it offers more flexibility than EDI, it is still not sufficient to empower businesses to rapidly form an alliance to respond to a market opportunity.[10]

World Wide Web (WWW)[edit]

Many virtual firms are using the internet-based WWW in order to support organizational communication, as it constitutes a practical solution to the EDI and groupware’s inflexibility. Electronic information sharing is allowed by worldwide network constituted by a certain range of information technologies. Even though the WWW was not developed particularly for sharing information among virtual organization associates, it offers a model for these categories of organizations. The web permits co-workers to share their thoughts, opinions and every part of any mutual project as it was shaped to be a pool of individuals’ knowledge.[10]

Benefits[edit]

To the organization[edit]

  • Competitive advantage [11]
  • A pool of abilities and knowledge
  • Flexibility, dynamism and better responsiveness : virtual organizations, also called "boundaryless organization",[12] do not imply time or geographical obstacles
  • Less investments costs initially
  • Productivity: the implementation of virtual organization implies a 30 to 50% rise of productivity [9]
  • Less costs, more profits: virtual organization are saving a huge amount of money as they are no real-estate investments necessary, the labor cost is inferior and the number of errors is poorer [11]

To the employees[edit]

  • More independence: individuals can work when they need to and decide in which ways [3]
  • Amount of stress reduced: no workplace pressure and consequently an improved personal and family life
  • Less money spent: diminution of gas consumption or money spent on public transports

To the society[edit]

  • An environmental benefit: less pollution
  • Expansion of the workplace area: possibility to work efficiently in the rural areas

Issues and challenges encountered[edit]

Despite the advantages provided, it can be quite challenging to those familiar to conventional work group to lead as a virtual organization. Thus, large risks are conveyed with the challenge of working virtually as this new organizational structure implies several issues [13] . Some people wrongly think that the challenges only come from the technology management but we should not forget the importance of humans. Clearly information technology offers an efficient and largely beneficial platform but we should not neglect the necessity, especially in a virtual organization, of the individuals’ skills and manner to collaborate.[14]

Communication[edit]

Communication is a crucial factor in a virtual organization as it is responsible of its efficiency and even to its survival. Virtual organizations imply various independent and global companies, which also involve challenges such as different time zones and language barriers. The collaboration between associates might also get quite complicated as this type of organization denotes only a slight amount of face-to-face interaction. Thus, a lack of multiple communication approaches can be observed in virtual organizations.[13]

Cultural[edit]

Culture constitutes an essential element in any organization of any type. Yet, virtual organizations have to be even more vigilant about this notion as they imply a shared leadership between the team, which is composed of independent companies from all around the world. Virtual organizations must find a way to overcome cultural differences, which involve dissimilar approaches of working (such as time and deadline) and living (punctuality for instance), in other words, distinctive philosophies. Thus, virtual organization must exegete respect for differences among the team.[13]

Interpersonal[edit]

Managing virtually successfully requires a good team communication, trust and cooperation among the team. Perceptions between partners might be quite dissimilar and could lead to conflicts concerning the management of the virtual organization. Thus, it is more than necessary that associates build a solid relationship despite the distance obstacle.[13]

Technological[edit]

Virtual organizations are completely dependent to technology as they are entirely internet-based. It is more than necessary for the corporations involved in a partnership to possess similar technological tools from its associates. Compatibility matters resulting from the hardware and software such as the operating system as well as certain computer’s software might disturb the efficiency of the virtual organization. For instance, the occurrence of incompatibility issues (difficulty in integrating information generated with dissimilar tools) concerning the hardware or software, would dramatically affect virtual organizations’ process and performance as they depend on these tools. A fundamental problem to virtual management is the failure to maintain and establish shared knowledge by team members and how that knowledge will be disseminated.[13]

Economical[edit]

Virtual organization involves considerable costs. Between the setup and equipment costs and the maintenance costs, the bill can become quite steep quickly. It also constitutes a challenge to measure, evaluate and track the work done within the different departments of the virtual infrastructure. This might lead to partners missing deadlines, the necessity to rework and, thus, a loss of efficiency and profit.[13]

See also[edit]

  • VOICED - Virtual Organization for Innovative Conceptual Engineering Design

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1] Gupta, Jatinder N.D., Association for Information Systems Preoceedings of the Americas Conference on Information Systems, August 15–17, 1997, Indianapolis, IN, 1997, pp. 417-19
  2. ^ [2], Afsarmanes, H. and Camarinha, M., 2004. Processes and Foundations for virtual organizations. USA: Kluwer Academic Publisher
  3. ^ a b c The Economist, 2009. The virtual organisation. [online] Accessible at: <http://www.economist.com/node/14301746> [Accessed the 13th October 2014]
  4. ^ a b [3], Greenberg, D. and Heneman, R., 2002. Human Resource Management in Virtual Organizations. USA: Information Age Publishing
  5. ^ [4] Oxford University Press, 2014. Oxford Dictionary [online]. Accessible at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com (Accessed the 14th October 2014)
  6. ^ a b [5] Burn, J., Barnett, M., Marshall, P., 2002. e-Business strategies for Virtual Organizations. Oxford: Taylor & Francis Ltd
  7. ^ [6] Afsarmanesh, H., Camarinha-Matos, L. and Ollus, M., 2005. Boston: Springer Science + Business Media. Virtual Organizations: Systems and Practises
  8. ^ [7] BusinessWeek Archives, 1993. The Futurists Who Fathered The Ideas. [online] Available at: <http://www.businessweek.com/stories/1993-02-07/the-futurists-who-fathered-the-ideas>
  9. ^ a b c [8] Isaca, 2001. Understanding Virtual Organizations. [online] Available at: <http://www.isaca.org/Journal/Past-Issues/2001/Volume-6/Pages/Understanding-Virtual-Organizations.aspx> [Accessed 10 October 2014]
  10. ^ a b c [9] Lin, F., Shaw, M. and Strader, T., 1998. Information infrastructure for electronic virtual organization management. [online] Accessible at: <http://ceit.aut.ac.ir/~sa_hashemi/My%20Teachings/MS-CEIT-Supply%20Chain%20Management/W-Selected%20Papers%20for%20class%20seminars-last/Information%20infrastructure%20for%20electronic%20virtual%20organization%20management.pdf> [Accessed the 11th October 2014]
  11. ^ a b [10] Igbaria, M. and Tan, M., 1998. The Virtual Workplace. USA: Idea Group Publishing
  12. ^ Maccoby, M., 1991. Closing the Motivation Gap. Research-Technology Management. [online] Available at: <http://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-769135/closing-the-motivation-gap> [Accessed 13th October 2014]
  13. ^ a b c d e f Lee, M., 2014. Leading Virtual Project Teams: Adapting Leadership Theories and Communications Techniques to 21st Century Organizations. New York: CRC Press Taylor & Francis group
  14. ^ Vakola, M. and Wilson, I., 2004.The challenge of virtual organisation: critical success factors in dealing with constant change. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, Vol. 10 Iss: 5/6, pp.112 - 120