Toward Improved Community-Supporting Systems Design: A Study of Professional Community Activity

Toward Improved Community-Supporting Systems Design: A Study of Professional Community Activity

Malte Geib (University of St. Gallen, Switzerland), Christian Braum (University of St. Gallen, Switzerland), Lutz Kolbe (University of St. Gallen, Switzerland) and Walter Brenner (University of St. Gallen, Switzerland)
Copyright: © 2005 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/jthi.2005100102
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In this article, we analyze the design factors of community systems in two real-world professional communities — a learning network and an expert network — that employ a mix of communication modes, that is, face-to-face communication and computer-mediated communication. Our objectives are to determine which design factors influence community activity and therefore community output. We furthermore intend to make recommendations to improve the design of community systems that support professional communities using a mix of communication modes. Our study is exploratory and based on action research given the lack of studies on the design of community-supporting systems in professional communities that employ a mix of communication modes. To illustrate similarities and to enhance the generalizability of our findings, we analyzed two real-world professional communities in-depth, namely, a learning network and an interorganizational expert network. Our study shows that face-to-face communication is the primary mode of communication in these communities; the community systems that they employ only have a supporting function. This leads us to a few design guidelines for the systems that support such communities. Generally, community systems have to support professional communities’ work processes and relationship development. Important functions for work-process support are those that support face-to-face meetings (for the preparation and wrap-up of meetings) and that explicitly support specific work processes. Important functions for relationship development are functions that enable or facilitate face-to-face meetings, for example, member profiles.

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