Academic journal article Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory

Comparing Audit Team Effectiveness Via Alternative Modes of Computer-Mediated Communication

Academic journal article Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory

Comparing Audit Team Effectiveness Via Alternative Modes of Computer-Mediated Communication

Article excerpt


Most organizations today, including public accounting firms, use some form of computer-mediated communication (CMC) beyond electronic mail (email). For instance, several large public accounting firms have deployed group support systems (GSS), such as Lotus Notes and similar Web-based systems (Menezes 1999; Lamont 2000). A GSS can be defined as an interactive computer-based system that combines communication, computer, and decision technologies to support group decision-making and related tasks (Jessup et al. 1990). These systems enable auditors to work in "virtual teams" that are not bound by time and distance constraints and provide them with the option of conveying and discussing information in electronic meetings. The current study investigates whether alternative configurations of CMC tools affect the ability of audit teams to resolve problems that require team members to exchange and process uniquely held information.

Employing the theory of Task-Technology Fit (Zigurs and Buckland 1998), we compare problem-solving performance on a task requiring the exchange of uniquely held information across teams of auditing students interacting via (1) a bulletin-board system, (2) a synchronous chat system, and (3) face-to-face (i.e., unassisted control group). In addition, we examine the extent of conveyance and processing of information across the three interaction modes. Consistent with Task-Technology Fit theory, the results show that teams' problem-solving performance using a bulletin-board system was significantly higher than that of teams using the chat system or interacting face-to-face. There was no significant difference in the performance of teams using the chat system and those interacting face-to-face. However, teams using the bulletin-board system took significantly longer to solve the problem than teams using the chat system or meeting face-to-face. In terms of both conveyance and processing of information, the results revealed that teams using the bulletin-board system performed the best. This study provides evidence that, for tasks requiring the exchange and processing of uniquely held information, computer-mediated communication via a bulletin-board environment results in significantly more effective, but less efficient, problem-solving performance than synchronous chat or face-to-face interaction.

The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. The next section reviews prior work in this line of research and Task-Technology Fit theory. Thereafter, the research method is discussed, followed by presentation of the results. The concluding section summarizes the paper, discusses the lessons learned in this study along with possible explanations for the study's findings, and provides some directions for future research.


A considerable body of research has established that computer-mediated communication results in improved performance relative to face-to-face groups on idea-generation ("brainstorming") tasks and highly structured problem-solving tasks (Gallupe et al. 1988; Connolly et al. 1990; Gallupe et al. 1992; Valacich et al. 1993; Valacich et al. 1994). A few studies in behavioral decision making have examined the performance of interacting teams in relatively unstructured "hidden-profile" tasks. A hidden profile exists when team members individually possess only part of the information required to reach an optimal decision or solve a problem confronting the team, and the team must collectively pool this information to make the optimal decision or to solve the problem (Stasser 1992). As such, a complete problem representation, or profile, emerges only after all decision-relevant information is incorporated into the team's information set.

In auditing, especially on audits of large clients or those with multiple locations, hidden-profile-type tasks can arise when different team members possess relevant information, the integration of which is necessary for the team to reach an optimal or correct decision. …

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