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Time and Time Zones - E-commerce And Time Zones

communication virtual business issues

The advent of e-commerce led to a variety of issues corresponding to doing business in multiple time zones. Some of these presented opportunities for criminals to engage in malicious business practices. As Europe's Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) explained, "occasions will inevitably occur in e-commerce when goods are not owned by anyone (either inadvertently or deliberately) presenting opportunities for chaos and crime. Alternatively, goods may at the same time be owned by two parties. How many times in a minute could someone online sell a piece of software or intellectual property? Who would be responsible? Whose insurance/legal jurisdiction would apply?"

During e-commerce, positive and negative issues also arise involving intra-time-zone communication. This applies to business-to-business interactions, those between consumers and companies, and even virtual teams of employees who must communicate with one another over great distances. When the differences between time zones are great, people may be asleep in one zone while counterparts are working in another. Depending on the geographic differences involved, real-time communication via phone or satellite-or Web-based video conferencing is often limited to small windows of several hours.

Communicating between distant time zones often leads to asynchronous communication patterns in which people exchange messages via e-mail or electronic bulletin boards. On one hand, this can cause communication delays, and various date and time stamping issues can make it a challenge for people to sequentially piece together chains of correspondence should they need to do so. However, virtual teams communicating in this manner also are able to increase productivity by working around-the-clock. This is accomplished by passing the workload around—such as between London, San Francisco, and Hong Kong—every 24 hours.

With the growth in virtual teams and virtual offices, which consist of work groups whose members are geographically distributed, the role of time zones was an important one in the early 2000s. According to Time, a 2000 PricewaterhouseCoopers study involving 82 large multinational firms revealed that, although the majority still relied heavily on relocation, nearly one quarter permitted employees based at home to manage international operations. Many of the companies expected to adopt virtual approaches. One company that relied heavily on remote communication was Popeyes Chicken, the world's second-largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain. In 2001 Popeyes operated restaurants in 41 states and 17 foreign countries. Its employees were able to effectively deal with issues like chicken supply shortages in Alaska and the opening of new restaurants in remote locations like Iceland from the company's Atlanta headquarters.

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