Mapping the Workspace of a Globally Distributed “Agile” Team

Mapping the Workspace of a Globally Distributed “Agile” Team

Benjamin S. Lauren (Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSKD.2015040104
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Collaborative activities have become an important consideration of contemporary workspace design, and this is especially in software development companies as teams work to innovate products and customer experiences. Meanwhile, globally distributed virtual teams have also grown more common, but collaborating across time zones presents a new set of challenge to navigate. To address some of these challenges, many organizations are also implementing more agile information design strategies. Architecting user-friendly work environments that support collaboration for globally distributed virtual teams practicing agile methodologies is not a simple task, however. This article reports results from a workplace study of a distributed team of information experience designers at a multinational software company as the team worked through reorganization of their internal processes and workflow. The case study illustrates which environmental design features caused disruptions and contradictions for the team as they participated in project work.
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Background Of Msdc

MSDC is a large multinational software development company with offices all across the world. This study took place at an office in the southeastern United States where many of the technical communicators on the team were co-located. The technical communicators and their managers were undergoing reorganization, and as a result, the technical communicators’ job title was changing to “information experience designer.” Their job function was also changing to include more cross-functional involvement on teams and to include more collaboration and collaborative design methods. Management wanted employees to perform this collaboration face-to-face using “high-touch,” physical activity, such as affinity diagramming a customer’s journey. Their goal for adopting a more collaborative approach was to deliver just-in-time product information and documentation. As the manager of the organization noted in an interview, “One thing that is a challenge for us is that now we are in a new organization, and we are being asked to shift what we produce, how we produce it, and how we work.” For example, the manager also explained, “So we are right now in a transitional phase where the language sometimes that's being used may not mean much to them because they haven't experienced it yet. Even the words ‘design thinking,’ everybody knows what it means, but if you are on a project, you run a workshop, or you've gone through the process, you have a different appreciation for what that means than if it is just a concept.”

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