Selecting appropriate tools for synchronous communication and collaboration in locally distributed product development

Year: 2016
Editor: Boks, Casper; Sigurjonsson, Johannes; Steinert, Martin; Vis, Carlijn; Wulvik, Andreas
Author: Walter, Benjamin; Rapp, Simon; Albers, Albert
Series: NordDESIGN
Institution: Karlsruher Institute of Technology, Germany
Section: Collaboration & Creativity
Page(s): 258-267
ISBN: 978-1-904670-80-3


Following progress in information and communication technology (ICT) on the one hand and considering the potentials of global markets on the other hand not only production facilities are distributed worldwide. Product development processes themselves are distributed among different locations and across borders. Thereby the need for media-based synchronous communication in product development increases continuously. At the same time virtual teams in product development and their communication demands face a great number of available collaboration tools.
Findings based on media richness theory and media synchronicity theory state that these tools should be selected according to the requirements of the given task. However these recommendations tend to be too unspecific for the differentiation of available and sometimes very similar tools. Moreover, intuitive usage might be difficult for most product developers. Additionally these theories don’t satisfy specific characteristics of product development like different types of data (e.g. texts, sketches, FE models) and important methods (e.g. creativity methods).
The presented paper addresses the question of how product development in virtual teams can be supported in the selection of media for synchronous communication and collaboration. First a model which describes types of situations by activities and characterizes tools by features is developed. Secondly, these aspects are systematically connected. Additional elements of the model refer amongst others to the possibility of combining different tools or the resources tools occupy. Based on the model methods for the selection of tools both on a strategic and an operational level are proposed. Furthermore as a first evaluation and to gain information for further development of the model a laboratory study was performed with 16 participants in small groups carrying out creativity methods by using software tools selected out of approximately 35 tools. Overall the chosen approach seems useful. Nonetheless further research is necessary to select appropriate tools for conducting specific methods of product development in virtual teams.

Keywords: product development, virtual teams, selection of tools, communication, collaboration

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