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IBM Cambridge Research Center

  Project: Collaborative Environments

Primary Researchers: Michael Fontaine, David Millen,Sal Parise

A Collaborative User Experience Project:

With the global economic crisis, political tensions, a potential world health epidemic, and the reduction in travel and discretionary budgets, collaborative work is increasingly taking place in shared virtual spaces and in new forms of collaborative environments. As a result, the Collaborative Environments research team is interested in learning how distributed and extended teams—both within organizations or with extended enterprise business partners—use shared virtual spaces to collaborate to achieve shared objectives. In 2002, we worked to understand how virtual collaboration is governed, supported and restricted by factors such as: purpose and strategy, content, technology, facilitation, governance and social norms. We also learned that participation and interaction in collaborative environments are driven by workgroup life cycles, interaction cadences, and the accumulation of shared content across three stages of group collaboration. In 2003, the Collaborative Environment project expanded its understanding of collaboration by addressing the following research question: How have collaborative technologies supported, changed, accelerated, and condensed business processes either within an organization or in the processes that require joint collaboration with extended enterprise business partners? Through case study interviews we sought to illuminate how organizations in different industries are using collaborative environments to improve efficiencies, innovations and team effectiveness within and across organizational boundaries. Our analysis of the findings across study participants will help members better design, use, and support shared virtual spaces.

To answer the above question, we interviewed key stakeholders (process/project managers, line of business executives, and IT managers) in several organizations to probe how a business process had changed as a result of the use of collaborative technologies. The questions we asked included:

1. What types of technologies are being employed to support internal and external collaboration?
2. How is your organization using collaborative technologies to support and improve business processes?
3. How did this effort crystallize? Was it strategy, process or IT driven?