A deep understanding of requirements is the foundation of any good collaboration solution. Requirements are not separate from objectives; rather the opposite - requirements follow from precisely defined objectives. However, this translation is not always straightforward, and it requires some finesse and insight. Too often, requirements address symptoms and not the underlying issues. As I have mentioned before in this blog, Here is a very brief overview of the different requirement clusters identified in the ECOSPACE project (eProfessional Collaboration Space), where I recently participated in the final review (more from this review in a future blog post). ECOSPACE is an Integrated Project funded by the European Commission under the 6FP/IST Programme, Strategic Objective Collaborative Working Environments.
eProfessionals extends the traditional concept of professional in including any type of expert or knowledge worker that depend on ICT environments and tools in their work practices (see project description on AMI Communities or the ECOSPACE project website).
The following high-level requirement clusters (RCs) have been identified by the ECOSPACE project partners as generic requirements for eProfessionals:
RC 1: Activity space – Context-specific subset or representation of a work environment that includes resources, people and tools. Arranges everything that is needed to produce a typical piece of work in a team. This is where you go to produce outputs when objectives are clearly defined. Context-specific means adapted to the task at hand, e.g. smart use of desktop real estate – emphasizing relevant objects and hiding irrelevant ones using semantics or other approaches.
RC 2: Team setup – A simple way to connect people with the right individual competency profiles, help them develop a shared understanding, structure work, get them operational quickly, organize them in a group and link them together with all required connectivity options.
RC 3: Knowledge discovery – Identify available and relevant competencies and knowledge resources (documents, files, knowledge objects, ideas, concepts), create competence maps and establish proper links to particular project or community activities.
RC 4: Management overview on work – Management dashboard; gives project managers and innovation / community managers a quick overview of key issues and the status and progress towards objectives.
RC 5: Synchronous communication and collaboration – Seamless integration of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration into the work activities and support for synchronous collaboration processes.
RC 6: Personal work view – Support the self-organisation in the context of the collaborative activities; “myDashboard”, “iDashboard”, “iView” or similar. Highlights and structures relevant resources for each individual according to context and preferences. The key point is that knowledge and information requirements are dynamic and highly context-dependent, and this limits productivity because knowledge workers often have to spend mental capacity (that could otherwise be invested in value-adding activities) on configuring their own workspace to make it suitable for what they are doing. Each “shift” or “transition” between activities with different objectives and process inputs and resources hence forces the worker to focus on the technology and process setup rather than the objectives at hand. And as 1) relevant information in one context or work stream may be very different from what is needed in the next context, and 2) the number of such shifts or transitions can be substantial in any single day, the use of semantic principles and configuration technologies that could semi-automate or simplify the user interface not only in a single context, but across different contexts and work processes, could improve knowledge worker effectiveness and efficiency considerably.
In addition, change management was identified as a cross-cutting requirement:
RC X: Change management – How ICT can enable and support effective change management activities have been identified as a supportive requirement cluster. Some of the change requirements can probably be addressed from within the other clusters, but the point is to keep the required flexibility to stay agile and nimble under changing circumstances. The ICT systems in use should support the processes rather than restricting them.
An important research result from the ECOSPACE project is that although different industrial sectors appear to have similar collaboration requirements on an aggregated level, the manifestation of these requirements in actual collaboration concepts, systems and processes remain highly contextual. Therefore, the technologies developed to address identified collaboration requirements such as e.g. knowledge discovery or activity space, will necessarily have a different configuration or representation for different industrial sectors.