CSCW challenges: cooperative design in engineering projects
Communications of the ACM
This paper investigates how to support work and in particular cooperation in large-scale technical projects. The investigation is based on a case study of a specific Danish engineering company and it uncovers challenges to Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) in this setting. The company is responsible for management and supervision of one of the world's largest tunnel/bridge construction projects. Our original goal was to determine requirements for CSCW as they unfold in this specific
... ting as opposed to survey and laboratory investigations. The requirements provide feedback to product development both on specific functionality and as a long term vision for CSCW in such settings. As it turned out, developing our cooperative design techniques in a product development setting also became a major issue. The initial cooperative analysis identified a number of bottlenecks in daily work, where support for cooperation is needed. Examples of bottlenecks are: sharing materials, issuing tasks, and keeping track of task status. Grounded in the analysis, cooperative design workshops based on scenarios of future work situations were established to investigate the potential of different CSCW technologies in this setting. In the workshops, mock-ups and prototypes were used to support end-users in assessing CSCW technologies based on concrete, hands-on experiences. The workshops uncovered several challenges. First, support for sharing materials would require a huge body of diverse materials to be integrated, for example into a hypermedia network. Second, tasks are closely coupled to materials being processed thus a coordination tool should integrate facilities for managing materials. Third, most daily work tasks are event driven and plans change too rapidly for people to register them on a computer. Without meeting these challenges, new CSCW tools are likely to introduce too much overhead to be really useful.