Saturday 7 March 2009

Satisficing strategies and the impact of Web 2.0 on intranets

Dick Stenmark is an Associate Professor of Informatics at the IT University of Göteborg, Sweden. You might have seen him referenced in my Intranet 2.0 presentation and also in one of my lists of recommended reading.

I noticed a couple of new (dated 2008) conference papers from Stenmark:

In the email paper, this is the paragraph that initially jumped out at me:

"Previous  research has shown that employees are primarily concerned with accomplishing  their  tasks, and  therefore employ satisficing  strategies  when  using  information  systems,  rather  than  on  trying  to  become  proficient  with  the  tools  at  hand (Carroll and Rosson, 1987).  It has  therefore been suggested  that only when we stop studying  individual  tool  in great detail and  instead  look  at what  the user  is  trying  to  achieve  can we  begin  to  understand  the  bigger  picture  (Jones  et  al.,  2001)."

Nothing new here, but it articulates well a theme that is central to my own approach to the use of information technology in the workplace.

In the other paper, Stenmark reviews the discussion around what is Web 2.0 ("the  concept  is  not  about  technology  per  se,  but  about  a  shifting  understanding  of  the  user’s  role") and considers how organisations might respond to it. However, he observes that:

"corporate employees demand a frequently updated intranet, but the distributed nature that is inscribed in Web technology is partly put out of play by stiff editing policies. Web 2.0 technology can lower the threshold for participation but it will not affect the policies in place – these have to be replaced separately. The literature on intranet management almost unanimously and unreflectively  argues  in  favour of  aligned,  rigid,  and highly  standardised  information  infrastructures tightly administered by  top management. This  is at odds with  social media and Web 2.0 and a new generation of literature is needed to guide the manager 2.0."

There are no answers to this problem in this paper, but thinking about the points raised in the email paper, surely part of the solution is to realise that employees don't work in neat information silos and its time we gave them human centred information systems instead. And for once, thanks to Web 2.0 (what ever that might really mean) we actually have widely available technologies to do this with low barriers to entry. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. And thanks for the pointers to the papers! I hadn't heard of Stanmark, but I've been following Jones for some time now.
    I agree web 2.0 tool lower barriers. On the other hand I do think we are still trying to understand how we can truly lower barriers. Most people/k-workers live in their email client. (There's an interesting paper on this too: "Email as a habitat".) And what do you see IT do? They set up new tools next to email: blogs, wiki's, etc. Offering separate tools to k-workers creates barriers. They now have to move between tools and keep up. I think that's why most k-workers have a hard time blogging and updating the wiki. Moreover, they use their email client as an aggregator, collecting all information from the silo's, if possible. The best thing for them would be if they could work on all info straight from the email client (or from one location).


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