Virtual teams in and out of synchronicity

Dorrie DeLuca (Lerner College of Business and Economics, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA)
Joseph S. Valacich (College of Business, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Publication date: 1 October 2006



The purpose of this paper is to provide an understanding of process improvement team member perceptions regarding the effectiveness of asynchronous e‐collaboration.


A field‐based, two‐phase canonical action research study was conducted at two different sites. Data were obtained from observations and interviews of all team members. Media synchronicity theory was utilized to hypothesize the interplay of media capabilities, task communication processes, and team functions.


Eight primarily virtual teams solved complex problems and provided feedback on the effectiveness of various communications media. The results support media synchronicity theory.

Research limitations/implications

Media synchronicity theory provides an alternative explanation for studies both supporting and contradicting media richness theory. The teams in this study were newly formed. Further investigation of established teams and other contexts is warranted.

Practical implications

For complex problem‐solving tasks performed by newly formed teams, communications media with low synchronicity (e.g. listserv, e‐mail, bulletin board) may be appropriate for conveyance of information; whereas media with high synchronicity (e.g. face‐to‐face, telephone) may be more desirable for convergence on shared meaning.


As geographic, temporal, and cost constraints move organizations toward virtual team work for increasingly complex tasks, research is warranted on effective utilization of available communication technology for solving business problems without face‐to‐face communication. This research paper examines the issue through an emerging theoretical lens, media synchronicity theory, and suggests a new proposition.



DeLuca, D. and Valacich, J.S. (2006), "Virtual teams in and out of synchronicity", Information Technology & People, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 323-344.

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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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