ASTC Adaptive Support for Team Collaboration

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a workshop that every Business Process Management practitioner should be present in order to set you free from bias, prejudice and noise. The conference User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization held in Spain and next year will be in Canada.

The workshop I attend ASTC: Adaptive Support for Team Collaboration, covered important research topics like:

  • Collaboration
  • Team formation for research
  • Microworld
  • User Modelling

Nowadays, these topics are in every BPM mouth, blog, twitter message, regarding social BPM, ACM, whatsoever.

I have experience as a project manager that when coordinating people in big projects and specially in crisis management, that:

As a manager, a project manager, a head of a business unit you cannot impose knowledge workers rules to execute work, because knowledge workers take plenty of time to understand how to comply with it rather that perform the work someone assigned instead. You need to spend time to coordinate and join the right team to achieve the outcome or resolve the problem.

Curiously this is one the first conclusions from this workshop, and you should made a serious reflection about it instead of wasting time looking to ACM, Social, call what you want, methods/ software/ architectures /visions / frameworks.

Jim Sinur’s latest update about Social BPM alerted to the perils:

A number of folks think Social BPM is adding some nice interfaces with social software only

Gloria Mark keynote: An activity awareness visualization approach supporting context resumption in collaboration environments, brought some important aspects regarding how knowledge workers behave, interact and how it must be sparked and coordinated in order to achieve outcomes. Gloria presented it’s ideas based on experience working with Boeing and NASA and other dynamic and stressful business contexts. I’m aligned with the conclusions and I have a bitter feeling about Social BPM and ACM, like this outburst – Plato’s cave.

Now, switch off the system stuff (the case, the data, dynamic, unstructured, ad-hoc, adaptation, flexibility, scada). The challenges that must be addressed are:

  1. Different dimensions of distance
  2. Articulation
  3. Activity awareness
  4. Supporting social arrangements

Different dimensions of distance:

There are some distances category to look for:

Cultural: Japan/US/Europe/Iberia

Language: machine translation does not work

Time zone: impact on work progress

Organization: silos

Contextual: some teams “start” working on the same page after learning business language and environment.

Some examples:

  • Cultural: The typical Spanish approach vs Portuguese. Spanish finish everything next day, Portuguese start working at 7pm and finish work at 2am next day.
  • Contextual: It can take 1 day or months to a team speak the same language but in the first case, if you have 4 hours to accomplish something, 1/4 of the available time is already burned.


Articulation is the way to make it work. To foster goal achievement, to eliminate barriers that block collaboration.

You can argue: “It can’t be denied! ACM software enables articulation”. Are you sure about this?

I remember in a crisis situation the team I was coordinating was all together around a table, papers where all over the place, flip-charts sheets were being written, there was no time to document anything. Time was spent discussing solutions, making impact analysis. looking to results. If info was to be share among all the team it was sent to a big screen.

If communication tools are so intelligent, why the fail to become effective when time is come to use it?

Methods are deeply embedded within team cultures, how can systems be so smart to adapt to cultural differences?

You cannot tell someone to archive a document using a special code, tag or folder. Just let the person to create the content.

Content/workflow systems can be user friendly and allow users to take control the interface, but they don’t have time to learn how to interact and on every project they participate, also due to the fact they change everytime.

People need to access to data to think and for reasoning purposes. They cannot waste time writing/structuring the tasks. They need to have their minds free to achieve results.

Don’t impose. People won’t obey.

Activity awareness

This is all about how people interact and the medium used to communicate. Lot’s features that can be used in a ACM system right?


Good quality audio is critical.

Surprised? This means:

  • It’s not so important to enable document/flow/e-mail/data sharing.
  • It’s not so important video capabilities.

Video is important for presence sensation and awareness but is annoying distracting. Video does not support dynamic team coordination.

Supporting social arrangements

It’s all about how you gather a team , manage interactions, distribute the tasks, erase the alarms and set clearly the outcome. It’s not about project management. It’s about human socialization and have the right persons performing the tasks.


3 thoughts on “ASTC Adaptive Support for Team Collaboration

  1. Other add on:

    Some thinkers pledged that empowerment driven to the ultimate can be a enabler to high speed social collaboration. On this book, Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, Transform Your Business, thinks like let the people decide what tools to use google docs, whatsoever, and IT should get rid of that security psychosis and let people work the way they want, makes me thing again that letting people free to achieve results and figure it out how to do it better cannot be so straightforward.

    Unfortunately these days we are facing riots in London, and on this great article from Fast Company: London Rioters’ Unrequited Love For BlackBerry:

    “Rioters in North London have been using BlackBerry Messages – BBMs to rally, presuming RIM’s phone-to-phone, encrypted messages won’t land in the hands of authorities. But in an increasingly familiar move, RIM has now pledged to work with those authorities.”

    Rioters who pursue the ultimate outcome (of the rioting process) to spread anger decided the best way to communicate is using BBMs (like employes using google docs exposing sensitive information) now once this is an insecure procedure, RIM decide to help authorities stop using its technology to such evil acts.

    But on the other hand British police :

    “This assistance could come in the form of cooperation with the British police force, who have already hinted that Twitter users who played a role in escalating riots could face arrest. ”

    Thus we watch the police embrace a dynamic hunt for crucial information that helps to halt and control the riots, finding every bit of data, most of them in code to spot rioters and their intentions.

    This means contrary to the book authors that is not so back and white the approach of letting employees making their own riots inside the companies.

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