Problem statement: Although, literature proves the importance of the technology role in the effectiveness of virtual research and development (R&D) teams for new product development. However, the factors that make technology construct in a virtual R&D team are still ambiguous. The manager of virtual R&D teams for new product development does not know which type of technology should be used.
Approach: To address the gap and answer the question, the study presents a set of factors that make a technology construct. The proposed construct modified by finding of the field survey (N = 240). We empirically examine the relationship between construct and its factors by employing the Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). A measurement model built base on the 19 preliminary factors that extracted from literature review. The result shows 10 factors out of 19 factors maintaining to make technology construct.
Result: These 10 technology factors can be grouped into two constructs namely Web base communication and Web base data sharing. The findings can help new product development managers of enterprises to concentrate in the main factors for leading an effective virtual R&D team. In addition, it provides a guideline for software developers as well.
Conclusion: The second and third generation technologies are now more suitable for developing new products through virtual R&D teams.
Key words: Collaboration teams, questionnaires performance, cross-functional teams, product development, structural equation modeling, measurement model, literature review,e virtual,
A virtual team is defined as “a small temporary group of geographically, organizationally and/or time dispersed knowledge workers who coordinate their work, mainly with electronic information and communication technologies to carry out one or more organization tasks” (Ale Ebrahim et al., 2009b). Virtual R&D team is a form of a virtual team, which includes the features of virtual teams and concentrates on R&D activities (Ale Ebrahim et al., 2011). The members of a virtual R&D team use different types of communication technology to complete the research beyond space, time and organizational boundaries (Ale Ebrahim et al., 2010). “We are becoming more virtual all the time!” is heard in many global corporations today (Chudoba et al., 2005). On the other hand, new product development (NPD) is widely recognized as a key to corporate prosperity (Lam et al., 2007). The specialized skills and talents needed for developing new products often remain locally in pockets of excellence around the company. Therefore, enterprises, have no choice but to disperse their new product development units to gain access into such dispersed knowledge and skills (Kratzer et al., 2005). As a result, enterprises are finding that internal development of all technologies needed for new products and processes are difficult or impossible. They must increasingly receive technology from external sources (Stock and Tatikonda, 2004).
Virtualization in NPD has recently begun to make a serious headway due to the rapid growth of a large variety of technologies. This means that virtuality in NPD is now technically possible (Leenders et al., 2003). Due to increasing and changing product features, by-and-large product development has become more complex, with increasing complexity in the supply chain. Therefore, more close collaboration between customers, developers, and suppliers has become vital. The foretold collaborations often involve individuals from different geographical locations that could now be brought together by using the various types of information technology (IT). IT offers a large number of benefits (Anderson et al., 2007). Although the use of the Internet for many purposes has received notable attention in the literature, little has been said about collaborative tool and effective virtual teams for NPD (Ale Ebrahim et al., 2009a). In addition, the literature did not reveal adequate focus on the factors which can construct a technological niche for a virtual R&D team for NPD. This aims to such a technological construct.
This paper is structured as follows. Firstly, based on prior research, we extracted the 19 factors of technology construct in the virtual R&D teams. Next, Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was used as an analytical tool for testing the estimations and testing the technology construct measurement models. Then, we adjusted the preliminary technology construct model by fitting the model according to the SEM fitness indices and made a final measurement model. The paper infers with a discussion and future guidelines.
2 LITERATURE REVIEW
Virtual teams use digital communications, video and audio links, electronic whiteboards, e-mails, instant messaging, websites, chat rooms, etc. as substitutes for physical collocation of the team members (Baskerville and Nandhakumar, 2007, Pauleen and Yoong, 2001). Simple transmission of information from location A to another location B is not enough. However, a virtual environment presents significant challenges to effective communication (Walvoord et al., 2008). Being equipped with even the most advanced technologies is not necessarily sufficient to make a virtual team effective, since the internal group dynamics and external support mechanisms must also be present for a team to succeed in the virtual world (Lurey and Raisinghani, 2001). Virtual teams are technology-mediated groups of people from different disciplines that work on common tasks (Dekker et al., 2008) and therefore, the way the information technology is implemented seems to make the virtual teams outcome more or less likely (Anderson et al., 2007). The virtual R&D team’s instructor should choose the appropriate technology based on the purpose of the team (Ale Ebrahim et al., 2009d).
The factors which make technology construct in a virtual R&D team are still not clearly set in the literature. We extracted 19 important factors related to the technology construct, based on a comprehensive review on technology view in the virtual R&D team working. Table 1summarizes the factors and their supported references. E-mails and conference calls are generally known as first generation technologies whereas online discussion boards, Power Point presentations, video tools and online meeting tools are second-generation technologies. Third generation technology refers typically to web-enabled shared workspaces with the Intranet or Internet (Lee-Kelley and Sankey, 2008).
Table 1 Summary of the factors related to technology construct in virtual teams
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3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DATA COLLECTION
To build a measurement model of information technology construct in virtual R&D teams for new product development, we conducted a Web-based survey mainly in Malaysian and Iranian manufacturing enterprises, in a random sample of small and medium enterprises. Web-based survey method was selected because it is a cost-effective and quick method to obtain feedbacks from the beliefs of the respondents. The rapid expansion of Internet users has given Web-based surveys the potential to become a powerful tool in survey research (Sills and Song, 2002, Ebrahim et al., 2010). A Likert scale from one to five was used. This set-up provided the respondents with a series of attitude dimensions. For each factor, the respondents were asked whether the factor is unimportant or extremely important using a Likert scale rating. The questionnaires were e-mailed to the managing director, R&D manager, new product development manager, project and design manager and appropriate personnel who were most familiar with the R&D activities within the firm.