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Identifying the development stages of virtual teams – An application of social network analysis

Chun-Nan Lin (Department of Information Science and Management Systems, National Taitung University, Taitung, Taiwan)
Jinsheng Roan (Department of Information Management, National Chung Cheng University, Chiayi, Taiwan)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 15 November 2021

Issue publication date: 7 December 2022




The purpose of this study is to explore some quantitative indicators from the social network analysis, observe the variations of these indicators over time and determine whether these indicators fit into the traditional team development stages model or theory. The primary focus is on the perspective of social interaction rather than the suitability of the indicator, i.e. the authors will not determine the optimal indicators nor compare the performance of different indicators. This study aims to propose a quantitative method to identify the development stages of virtual teams.


Two phases were designed in this study. The first phase was a simple study to prove the preliminary ideas and explore which quantitative indicators would be suitable for analysis. In total, 16 undergraduates were randomly assigned to two virtual teams. They were required to complete an information system (IS) project through virtual teamwork and use information and communications technologies (ICTs) to communicate with each other. After proving the preliminary ideas, the authors collected communication data of the 30 virtual teams working on IS projects in the second phase. The total duration of this process was two months.


The findings practically identified three stages, which were found to be consistent with that of the previous qualitative studies. In the initial (inclusion) stage, intensity had an upward trend. In the second (control) stage, centralization had an upward trend. In the final (affection) stage, intensity and density had upward trends and centralization had a downward trend. Both density and centralization also became smooth in this final stage. The conclusion can serve as a basis for further studies in virtual team development.


A successful virtual team will help industries to reduce their costs and increase performance and benefits. The findings will help industries quickly and objectively identify which stage they are at. This quantified approach will provide managers and leaders with a simple, useful way to highlight the needs for managing different aspects of team behavior at each stage of development. After establishing this approach, managers and leaders will be able to make plans to improve existing processes, set priorities, provide suitable principles and guidelines, etc., and eventually improve virtual team performance.



Lin, C.-N. and Roan, J. (2022), "Identifying the development stages of virtual teams – An application of social network analysis", Information Technology & People, Vol. 35 No. 7, pp. 2368-2392.



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