Virtual teams are defined as geographically dispersed teams who work together across time and space using information and communication technologies to accomplish one or more organisational tasks (Piccoli, Powell, & Ives, 2004). As virtual team members are physically distributed, they often need to work together as teams without ever meeting each other using only technology and electronic communication to collaborate, communicate and share information. Previous studies have shown that electronic tools are ineffective and do not aid in building trust and common understanding in a virtual team environment. This study challenges these previous findings and assesses the use of unified communication as a tool for leading virtual teams.
Many organisations use different tools such as e-mail, instant messaging, IM presence, conference calls, voice calls and video calls. The concept around unified communications is the integration of data, voice and video into a single tool. Is unified communication an effective tool for leading virtual teams?
This research paper defined the sample population as any team member working in a virtual team anywhere in the world. Data was collected from one large multinational with offices in 112 countries as well as virtual team members around the globe. The sampling technique used was based on non-probability (subjective) sampling. The sample size of 220 individuals, representing virtual team members was originally targeted for this research. Data was collected over a three month period with two hundred and thirteen (213) responses received from thirty seven (37) countries using both qualitative and quantitative methods.
The study found that effective communication is vital for the success of virtual teams. It found that even though communication tools are vital, a unified communication toolset was not necessary as only some components of a unified communication tool were used on a day to day basis. Some components in a unified tool were regarded as nice to have but not vital.