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Skip to 0 minutes and 2 secondsThe same way as the transaction ability is the most fundamental and historically the oldest kind of thing about today's information systems. The newest one is the collaboration which we could also call interaction ability. Now if you think about the web pages, the first was the static web pages, which were not transactionable, not actionable at all. And then it becomes transactionable so you could interact with the system and you could get the information system to do something. Now this goes one level beyond when you are not telling the information system to do something. The information system becomes a channel that makes it possible that you interact with another person, OK?

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 secondsSo it goes beyond only running transactions by the system, it is-- system is supporting some sort of collaboration with someone else. Now this is very trivial since the time of the social media. And what is really interesting is that lots of these smaller social media companies were actually bought up by corporate portal providers and other large information system manufacturers because they wanted to include some sort of collaboration facility and these were the guys who were the best at it. So the basic level of doing any sort of collaboration is what we could call just simply information exchange so it is sending messages to one another. So the original ones were the e-mails, so just simple text.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 secondsThen it became a little bit faster, how you do that, so there are these various chat rooms. Of course, at the same time when we were getting fast with the chat, it was also important to make it really available for the asynchronous work so the forums became very popular about this. Now these are all these kind of prototypical things about collaboration and actually adding the voice conferencing, albeit is a huge leap in technology, it is just the logical next small step in terms of our user experience of that technology. Of course, we have some bad experience as well because, unfortunately, this kind of video conferencing is very sensitive to the bandwidth.

Skip to 2 minutes and 23 secondsIt cannot-- you have to have a very secure, and stable, and wide signal, and so on. So it means that it is sensitive to all sorts of technical conditions, but it is actually a very, very simple thing from user point of view and, of course, everyone is using this kind of stuff. However, this is not collaboration. This is the first level needed for collaboration, but it is only what we could call an e-community. This is what you will have in every single social media. So usually I associate this level with Facebook which is one of the really popular social media solutions. Now the next thing would be if you can add document management to this e-community type solution.

Skip to 3 minutes and 8 secondsAnd that is very different from putting an attached document to your email, or sending a file over a chat solution, or I don't know, uploading something to Dropbox, and make it accessible to someone else. So these things are also important, but this is not document management. Document management has everything to do with those things that I mentioned in another video about the freshness, so how we handle these ill-structured documents. So it means that the information system has to take care about all that versioning. It has to give you secure saved copies and so on. I had a horrible experience once.

Skip to 3 minutes and 53 secondsMy hard disc broke down and, of course, I had backup of everything on the university network drive so I said that I am perfectly fine. I don't mind that I lost everything. I lost only 24 hours of work. Only then, when I wanted to retrieve the securely saved copies, I realised that yes, sort of, there are two things missing from those backed up files. One was, it was an NVivo software in which I was using for my qualitative research. Now that means that I lost all my processed interviews with the Nobel laureates I had interviewed, so it was an enormous research work.

Skip to 4 minutes and 36 secondsThe other thing that was lost was the file from my reference manager, my reference manager library, which means all the references that I have collected over the years. Now this means that I actually lost the two most important things from my computer so you need to be careful about what is backed up or not. And that's why, in organisations that cannot afford this kind of lost documentation, they want to implement a proper document management system. Now this is already a proper e-collaboration. When you have the e-community and the document management stuff together so you can talk to other people, you can always access the right documents, you can search for them in very smart ways and so on.

Skip to 5 minutes and 21 secondsHowever, there is another layer that can be added to this and this is what I call the knowledge factory. That means that we also add some sort of knowledge modelling too. Why would that be necessary? So when I talk about this to a live audience, they are always start making faces about-- yeah OK, knowledge modelling. I'm not interested. You should be, if you are not. And the reason is, that imagine that you have a group of pharmaceutical R&D engineers and they produce some sort of molecule that is used, for example, in cancer research. How much is that molecule worth? A few hundred million pounds over several decades, a few hundred million pounds a year over a few decades.

Skip to 6 minutes and 10 secondsNow that means that it is very important whether your contribution to that molecule was 2% or 2.3% because it is measured in tens of millions per year. So this is why we need this knowledge factory level of the collaboration, which is, at the moment, the top of what we can achieve.


We need to collaborate to accomplish almost anything. If this is how we work, this is what our IS needs to support. Recently there has been incredible development in this area but if we are being realistic, we have to admit that most of us still depend more on emails than on any fancy collaboration tool.

Online collaboration is of immense importance as it bridges time and space. I regularly work with my collaborators who live in Hungary and Switzerland. This involves a large number of emails, a few hours of voice conversation, document exchange and co-editing, screen sharing, and various other things. However, this is not sufficient. We also need to meet from time to time. As one of my collaborators said, we need to occasionally smell each other. We have written a book together. It was during a conference in Bangkok that we came up with the idea and spent half a day working on it. Then we worked on it for a day in Beijing, and for a day in Budapest. Otherwise we were working on it individually as well as collaborating online. The fourth time we met after the inception of the idea was in Zagreb at the launch of the book. We could not have done this without the online collaboration. But we also could not have done it without meeting three times face to face.

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This video is from the free online course:

Understanding Information and Technology Today

University of Strathclyde