Should "virtual" mean "vague"? A plea for more conceptual clarity in researching virtual organisations
Riemer Kai, Vehring Nadine
Around fifteen years ago the concept "virtual organisation" (VO) was coined to describe changes in organisational structures of value creation as a reaction to developments in modern market environments. Since then, the VO as a concept has been used to describe different things in different contexts, so that today we find a rather unsatisfying mix of VO notions in the literature. Moreover, in many articles the VO remains underspecified and vague; sometimes even a mismatch exists between VO definitions provided and examples discussed. Motivated by these observations we carried out a literature analysis to explore differing notions of virtual organisation. The contribution of our study is twofold. First, we identify and describe in conceptual detail three distinct types of VO as the basis for future research endeavours. Second, we point to a need for conceptual clarity in researching VOs in practice, in light of the rather different management challenges of the three identified types.