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Exploring the impact of technology capabilities on trust in virtual teams

Dawn Owens (University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas, USA)
Deepak Khazanchi (University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, USA)

American Journal of Business

ISSN: 1935-5181

Article publication date: 25 October 2018

Issue publication date: 1 November 2018



In an environment of constant technological change, the use of virtual teams (VTs) has become commonplace for many organizations. VTs bring together dispersed individuals with varying knowledge and skill sets to accomplish tasks. VTs rely heavily on information technology (IT) as the medium for communication and coordination of work. The issue of establishing and maintaining trust in VTs poses challenges for these dispersed workers. Previous research has established that higher trusting teams have better cooperation and experience improved outcomes. The authors hope to contribute to the literature on trust in VTs by exploring how technology can facilitate high trusting teams. Specifically, the purpose of this paper is to report the results of the research addressing the following question: how does the use of technology capabilities (TCs) afforded by virtual worlds (VWs) affect the development of trust in VTs?


A multiple case-study approach was used as the primary research design. Each case spanned a two-week period allowing for longitudinal data collection. The research was conducted within a VW setting with an emphasis on IT capabilities that are unique to three-dimensional VWs. Both qualitative and quantitative data collected during this process were analyzed at the group level.


The authors found that communication, rendering and interaction TCs allowed participants to use the technology to assess individual capabilities. While this paper answers some questions about how TCs can help develop trust in VTs, it also raises many questions. This study offers a model and framework for further work on this topic and encourages researchers to investigate other social and behavioral issues faced by VTs in a VW setting.

Research limitations/implications

While this paper answers some questions about how various TCs can help develop trust in VTs, it also raises many questions. The study results may not be generalizable if the respondents who visit an immersive VW are different from those who do not have sufficient VW experience. However, the authors believe that the relationships between the constructs would remain. Another potential limitation has to do with how often trustfulness/trustworthiness were measured in the study. Measuring trustfulness/trustworthiness at additional points in the study would help determine specific points where these constructs changed. Finally, the study suffers from the common criticisms of case study research. Case research requires direct observation which includes cost, time and access hurdles. However, many of these challenges were addressed by using various data collection methods. Another difficulty is the need for multiple methods for triangulation and lack of controls. Again, the study addressed these difficulties by combining qualitative and quantitative data sources.

Practical implications

This research provides deeper insight for organizations using VTs in terms of how TCs can be used to engender trust. This has implications for how we design collaboration technologies.

Social implications

The fundamental societal implication of this research is the conclusion that human behavior in the present world can potentially carry over in the VW and that TCs can be adapted and used to influence trust in VTs. This has implications for how we design collaboration technologies.


This paper offers practical implications for developing trust in VTs, specifically, how the use of TCs can facilitate trust development. The goal was not to recommend a specific technology platform, but rather explore how unique TCs impact behaviors in VTs. The study identified interesting findings relating to how people use TCs to complete tasks and collaborate on a team. These findings may be used to help develop guidelines and recommendations for using technology to enhance work practices in VTs.



Owens, D. and Khazanchi, D. (2018), "Exploring the impact of technology capabilities on trust in virtual teams", American Journal of Business, Vol. 33 No. 4, pp. 157-178.



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