On Theory-Driven Design of Collaboration Technology and Process
The design and deployment of collaboration technology has, until lately been more of an art than a science, but it has produced some solid successes. Commercial groupware products now support millions of collaborations per year. Under certain circumstances teams that use Group Support Systems perform far better than groups that do not. However, as impressive as the achievements are in this field, we can do better. A rigorous theoretical approach to the design of collaboration technology and process can lead us to non- intuitive design choices that produce successes beyond those possible with a seat-of-the-pants approach. This paper explains the simple structure of a rigorous scientific theory and offers examples of theory-driven design choices that produced substantial benefits. It then differentiates rigorous theory from several classes of theory that have intuitive appeal, but cannot inform design choices. It then argues that the logic of the theory-driven design approach suggests that the most useful focus for collaboration technology researchers would be the technology-supported work process, rather than just the technology.
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