Learning from Notes: organizational issues in groupware implementation

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Citation: Wanda J. Orlikowski (1992) Learning from Notes: organizational issues in groupware implementation. Proceedings of the 1992 ACM conference on Computer-supported cooperative work (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.1145/143457.143549
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.1145/143457.143549
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.1145/143457.143549
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Learning from Notes: organizational issues in groupware implementation
Tagged: CSCW (RSS), groupware (RSS)


Orlikowski (1992) is a highly influential article in the Computer Supported Cooperative work literature that bridges organizational theory, sociology more broadly, and issues of technology design. The paper looks at the deployment of Lotus Notes in a large consulting company and uses a dataset made up of 91 open-ended interviews made during the deployment. The result of the deployment was essentially a failure. Although Notes is deployed, users fail to take advantage of the groupware features and functionality and very little change is made on the work of the organization.

Orlikowski uses extensive quotes from her interviews to show that while the software is deployed, users mental models are not updated to include the new means of working and cooperating. Users "frames" (a concept from her previous) work are not updated to include the new style of or changed and, as a result, they fail to use the software differently. Additionally, Orlikowski shows that there are a number of organizational and structural aspects that prevent Notes from reaching it potential. In particular, incentive and rewards do not support collaborative work (and may even punish it!) and corporate policies prevent users from sharing widely.

The paper is a wonderful example of the limits of technology and the effect of psychological, social, and organizational qualities on the success of social technologies within organizations.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

Orlikowski's article continues to be one of the most highly cited articles in CSCW but is also cited in sociological and organization literatures. In provides perhaps the classic example of the limits of social and organizational factors on the success of CSCW examples within "real" groups and a reminder of the importance of "social problems" in the context of technology design.