Purpose – This paper has two purposes. The first purpose is to study how groups and members of an organization use collaborative technology in accomplishing their everyday work. The second purpose is to study how interpretive researchers can use an ethnographic research approach, called the strip resolution process (SRP), to make explicit the process by which they achieve their interpretation, rather than provide just their interpretation leaving the process as a black box. Design/methodology/approach – Interpretive case study using interviews, observation, participant‐observation, and study of documents. Findings – For IS researchers, a key finding is that the SRP facilitates both an understanding of research phenomena from the members’ perspective and a means of explaining how that understanding was achieved. For IS practitioners, a key finding is that organizational work practices and reward structures should be “co‐designed” with the collaborative technology's functionalities to accomplish organizational objectives. Research limitations/implications – This study used ethnographically informed approaches, including the SRP, to collect and interpret data. However, the duration spent at the organizational site, 25 days spread over eight months, would not qualify this study as an ethnography based on the recommended duration of 12 months of sustained fieldwork. Practical implications – This study's findings have two implications for IS practice. The first implication is that practitioners planning to deploy collaborative technology in an organization should not focus primarily, or even mainly, on the technology's functionalities. Instead, they should pay most attention to the organization's work practices and reward structures. Work practices and reward structures should be “co‐designed” with the technology's functionalities to accomplish organizational objectives. The second implication is that the SRP could help close the “understanding gap” between IS practitioners and system stakeholders. Hence, a practitioner can use the SRP as a supplement to any systems development methodology for analyzing system requirements. Originality/value – The value of this paper for IS interpretive researchers is that it explains and illustrates how an ethnographic research approach called the SRP can be used by a researcher to understand research phenomena from the members’ perspective, test and validate his interpretation, and reveal how he reached his interpretation and not just provide his interpretation leaving the process of achieving it a black box. The value of this paper for IS practitioners is that it emphasizes the importance of “co‐designing” work practices and reward structures with a collaborative system's functionalities and provides them specific questions to ask, and reflect upon, before designing and deploying a collaborative system. In addition, practitioners can use the SRP as a tool to supplement any systems development methodology to help reduce the understanding gap between themselves and the system stakeholders.
Journal of Systems and Information Technology – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 1, 2009
Keywords: Ethnography; Research work; Systems analysis; Information systems
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