Readings' list

Orlikowski, W. J. 1992. Learning from Notes: organizational issues in groupware implementation. In Proceedings of the 1992 ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (Toronto, Ontario, Canada, November 01 - 04, 1992). CSCW '92. ACM Press, New York, NY, 362-369.


The paper explores the deployment of a groupware software, Notes, in an organization to understand the changes in work practices and social interaction facilitated by the technology.

The decision to introduce the software was done by the CIO. There was no deployment plan and scarce training. The CIO policy was to get people the software as soon as possible and let users learn how to use it.

The research is based on field work within the company: unstructured interviews, review of documents, observation of meetings, work session and training sessions.

The findings suggest that two organizational elements are particularly important: 

  1. Cognitions or mental models about technology and their work
  2. Structural properties of the organization, such as policy, norms, and reward systems.

Cognitive Elements

Cognitive elements are the mental models or frames of references that individual have about the world, their organization, work, technology and so on.

When confronted with a new technology, individuals try to understand it in terms of their existing technological frames, often augmenting these frames to accommodate special aspects of the technology.
How users change their technological frames in response to a new technology is influenced by:

  1. The kind and amount of product information communicated to them
  2. The nature and form of training they receive on the product.

In the study the user received relatively little information about Notes.
Training was limited to the basic functionalities, and similar to that of personal productivity tool. It did not give users a new way of thinking differently about their work in term of groupware. Users received the message that Notes is an incremental rather than a transforming technology.

Structural Elements:

Structural properties of organizations encompass the reward systems, policies, work practicies,, and norms that shape and are shaped by the everyday action of organizational members.

  1. Reward system: all employee hours should be billable to clients. Employed did not perceived use of Notes as a client related activity
  2. Policy and procedures: during the study the office had not yet developed norms relative to data quality, security, confidentiality, and access control. This situation inhibited a lot of users.
  3. Firm culture and work norms: the office had a very competitive culture and collaboration and sharing of information is not incentivated.