Collaboration in Translation: The Impact of Increased Reach on Cross-organisational Work
Coping with the increased levels of geographic and temporal distribution of work and the near ubiquitous accessibility of information fostered by today’s networking technologies has been recognised as one of the greatest challenges facing CSCW research. This trend is reflected in the development of workflow-based tools which cross organisational boundaries, putting pressure on established coordination mechanisms aimed at articulating the work of teams that include co-located and remote members. In this paper, we explore these issues by analysing a localisation activity carried out across organisational boundaries where the pressures for increased distribution and accessibility of information manifest themselves quite clearly both in the way work is specified and locally articulated. We look at how the work is realised in practice, and present an analysis based on the coordination mechanisms, awareness mechanisms and communication flows which occur both inside and outside of the formal workflow-support tools. The analysis reveals a wide variety of informal communication, ad-hoc coordination mechanisms and bricolage activities that are used for local articulation and metawork. As well as providing a concrete illustration of the issues caused by increased distribution, beyond those inherent in the complexity of the work, the analysis reveals a number of opportunities for better supporting the work and for the successful integration of new technologies.