Improving Inter-Organizational Processes with
Volker Wulf, Matthias Krings, Oliver Stiemerling
Integrated Organization and Technology Development
(Universität Bonn, Institut für Informatik III
Giulio Iacucci, Martin Maidhof, Ralph Peters
(Fraunhofer-Institut für Graphische Datenverarbeitung (IGD)
Dirk Fervers, Paul Fuchs-Fronhofen, Bernhard Nett
(MA&T GmbH, Aachen
Postfach 33 04 40
Abstract: The goal of the OrgTech-project is to improve
the cooperation between two engineering offices on the one hand, and a
major German steel mill, on the other. An integrated change process has
been initiated which combines the introduction of a groupware application
with methods of organization development. This change process draws on
the framework of Integrated Organization and Technology Development which
is presented first. Then we
describe its application in the OrgTech project. The results of
the first project phase are presented and discussed.
Keywords: Groupware, Organization and Technology Development,
Tailoring, Requirements Analysis, Concurrent Engineering.
The introduction of groupware and multimedia applications into organizations
holds a lot of promises for improvements [Lloyd (1996)].
Nevertheless, in many cases the full benefits of these technologies can
only be realized if their introduction goes along with a change of the
underlying business processes [Ciborra (1996), Orlikowski
(1996)]. Therefore, an integrated approach is required which combines
technological and organizational change [Wulf (1997)].
The framework of Integrated Organizational and Technology Development (OTD)
is a participative and evolutionary approach to support changes of work
systems. Within this framework instruments of organization development,
work psychological guidelines, approaches of software development and tailoring
in use are applied in an integrated fashion. It was originally developed
to guide change processes within a single company [Wulf
and Rohde (1995)]. In the following we will show how this framework
is applied within the ORGTECH project where inter-organizational
work processes have been supposed to be improved.
ORGTECH (Organizational and Technical Development in the
Context of the Introduction of a Tele-cooperation System in Small and Medium-Sized
Engineering Companies) aims at supporting the cooperative work processes
within and between two engineering firms and a steel mill as one of their
customers. The two engineering firms take on subcontractual work for a
large steel mill in the German Ruhr area, e.g. the construction and documentation
of steel furnace components. A construction department inside the steel
mill coordinates the construction and documentation, and manages the contacts
with external offices at the steel mill. The external offices, however,
complain about the specification of the construction orders being vague
and due to this several meetings will have to take place before the project
is over. The difficulty to gather the documentational data about the actual
state of the plants is another problem. This has to do with the way the
sketch archive of the steel mill is run. This situation often causes inconsistencies
in the final design of steel mill components. This problem is seemingly
caused by the huge number of sketches and the organization of the electronic
archive, by the complexity of the construction
development process, and by communication problems among the engineers
and their clients [Iaccuci et al. (1998)]. Besides,
the work planning (work preparation) and the production department of the
steel mill are not involved in the construction process which often leads
to problems during the production process. Given this initial problem description,
our key questions are:
In the following we will describe and discuss our experiences so far. Our
approach is based on the OTD framework. First we will describe its roots,
explaining its components and how they are integrated into one process.
In [chapter 3] the application of this framework within
the ORGTECH project is described. In [chapter 4 and
we describe the measure taken so far. The paper concludes with a discussion
of the findings. The outcomes of the first steps of the project ORGTECH
are analyzed and the overall methodology is evaluated.
How can the underlying work processes be changed?
How is the role to be determined which information and communication technology
can play within this change process?
Which applications should be chosen?
What would be the best way to introduce these applications into the different
While this paper focuses on the steel mill / subcontractor scenario
with all its specifics, the application base of the ORGTECH project
actually comprises a number of other engineering companies (with other
customers). Our experience shows that the characteristics exhibited by
the scenario discussed here are widely reflected in these other fields
of application. Furthermore, we have presented the scenario during a project
transfer workshop to an even wider audience and their affirmative responses
indicate the relevance of our findings for their respective domains.
2 Integrated Organizational and Technology Development
The integrated organization and technology development (OTD) process is
characterized by a parallel development of workplace, organizational and
technical systems, the management of (existing) conflicts by discursive
and negotiative means, and on immediate participation of the organization
members affected. Such a change
process is thought to be an ongoing one [Hartmann
(1994), Wulf and Rohde (1995)]. The next paragraph
introduces the four components of OTD:
The approach was developed in the context of the POLITeam project where
groupware was introduced into single organizations [Wulf
(1997); Cremers et al. (1998)]. While the premises
of the OTD framework are applicable to other technology-related change
processes, it takes the specifics of software technology into account.
Due to their immaterial nature, these applications offer a high degree
of technical flexibility. Groupware applications are typically very intervinded
with the applying organizations.
work psychological analysis,
evolutionary models of software development,
tailoring in use.
2.1 Components of the OTD Approach
Organization development can be understood as a initiated and continuously
enabled, long-term, organization-wide process of change in the behavior,
attitudes and abilities of its members as well as its structures and its
The organizational development process can be characterized by four
steps: diagnosis, intervention planning, application of interventions and
evaluation. Within this process, methods and instruments of applied social
science such as theory of personality, social psychology, group dynamics
and organization theory are applied [Huse (1980)].
Moreover, [Pieper (1988)] has proposed to modify
traditional approaches of organization development towards a discursive
one which offers a wide extend of participation to all members of an organization.
Organization development approaches alone do not offer adequate criteria
for the evaluation of their results.
To evaluate whether certain work systems are human centered and effective,
psychological research seems to be very useful. The Handlungsregulationstheorie
[action regulation theory; Hacker (1986)] offers
a theoretical foundation of several evaluation criteria for human - centered
work systems. The theory focuses on psychological aspects of sensomotorical,
cognitive, intellectual, and psychological regulation of human work [Hacker
(1986), 73ff and activity theory by
Leontjew (1974)]. The completeness or wholeness
of tasks are structured in: preparation of actions, planning of superposed
and partial goals, organization of actions, coordination with actions of
colleagues, control of action, and feedback about the results [Ulich
(1991), Hacker (1987)]. On the basis of this
theoretical approach four work psychological criteria of task analysis
and job evaluation are derived: the possibility to perform the task
the harmlessness (Schädigungslosigkeit),
the avoidance of
impairments or interferences (Beeinträchtigungsfreiheit), and
promotion for development of personality including social skills and capabilities
(Persönlichkeitsförderlichkeit) [Ulich (1991)].
Concerning single workplaces, we propose to apply these work psychological
evaluation instruments (several procedures are available which are grounded
on these findings) within organizational restructuring processes especially
in the phases of analysis and evaluation of the work system.
Organization development and work psychological analysis take software
as a given artifact, which is stable after its production. This perspective
was dominating software - engineering for a long time too. Contrary to
traditional approaches to software - engineering the STEPS - method
of Floyd offers an evolutionary and participative framework which seems
to be well adapted to develop software for organizational environments
which can be described according to the paradigm of self - organization
[Floyd et al. (1989); Floyd (1994)].
In order to keep pace with environmental changes it assigns an iterative
development process establishing a system's revision as soon as the functions
do not match anymore with the requirements of the users.
Evolutionary and participative software development has to be
supplemented by activities performed by end users or local experts of the
application environment [Wulf (1994); Stiemerling
et al. (1997)]. Approaches of end users' modification of a system have
been discussed under different labels [Trigg et al.
(1987); Fischer (1990); Henderson
(1991); Nardi (1993)]. We want to sum up these
activities under the label of tailoring. Contrary to the development
of a new system version the existing version is adapted by end users or
local experts. Tailoring allows for adaptation just as far as these
needs have been anticipated during system design. If there are requirements
for adaptation which have not been anticipated, it is necessary to redesign
the system. Therefore the activity of tailoring can become part of an evolutionary
approach to software development and usage as it is described in the STEPS
- model. As long as users' needs and environmental requirements can be
handled locally during usage, there is no need to establish a revision
of the system. So tailoring can play an
important role in enabling an organization to react to a changing environment
2.2 Integration towards a holistic approach
In the following we show how the approaches discussed so far are integrated
into an evolutionary and participative process model of integrated organization
and technology development. First, we will give a short description of
the single phases of the OTD process. These phases do not necessarily have
to be in consecutive order [Wulf (1995)]:
Establishing the process - A process of integrated organization
and technology development starts with the perception of a problem. As
a next step the discussion of the members of an organization, who are affected
by the problem, must be fostered. They should find out whether there is
a need for an integrated process of change.
Analysis of the actual state - First, the actual state has to
be analyzed with respect to organizational structure, technology and qualification.
The results of this analysis have to be discussed Such a discussion can
be prepared by change agents using open interviews or different work psychological
instruments for task and work analysis such as the methods mentioned before.
Creation of alternative options - Having clarified the actual
state with its problems, it seems important to generate alternative approaches
to its solution (organization, technology or qualification measures). The
members of the organization should discuss these alternatives and find
a solution agreeable to everyone. To judge the human centered potential
of the different options, they should be evaluated with work psychologicalmethods.
Planning of interventions - After choosing a development option
the members of the organizational unit have to decide on interventions
in organizational, technological, and qualificatory dimensions. If in the
context of the technological dimension software has to be (re)implemented,
the establishment of the software development project takes place in this
Interventions - Interventions derived from organization development
play an important role within the wider process of integrated organization
and technology development. Their main issue is the change of formal and
informal aspects of an organization. Concerning the structures and processes
of an organization, decentralization and new forms of labor division may
have to be introduced. Software will have to be (re - )designed or tailored.
Figure 1: Model for the ORGTech project
Within the process of integrated organization and technology
development two different requirements for qualification have to
be considered: special professional qualifications and social competences
as preconditions for participation. Task specific knowledge of organizations'
members has to be up-to-date if organizational development leads to new
task profiles for individuals or if the introduction of new technologies
requires new skills.
Qualification for participation - Furthermore, the individuals
involved in organization and technology development must be enabled to
participate in the process adequately. Therefore, the social competences
of the participants have to be promoted. Social competencies in this context
are communicative and cooperative abilities for an involvement in discursive
3 OTD Applied to the ORGTECH Project
In the following we describe the application of the OTD framework in the
project which deals with the improvement of a distributed engineering process
in the two small engineering firms, we call them here
and one of their major customers the steel mill called
[Stiemerling et al. (1998)]. The process model defined
in the beginning of the project is shown in figure 1.
After the project establishment (step 1) the process mainly
comprises two equivalent cycles which give the project staff the opportunity
to evaluate after 1.5 years (the whole project lasts 3 years) and use experiences
from the first phase as basis for the second. Each phase consists of an
analysis of the current situation in the field of application, the configuration
and tailoring of the technical system and - in parallel - the organization
development and the qualification of the employees involved. In this model
the phases outlined in the previous paragraph are deployed in a form, which
is project specific.
During the analysis of the actual state the current communication
and cooperation structures within and between the organizations are analyzed
with interviews, observations, and work psychological instruments. Based
on these findings alternative options for cooperation are
created participatively in workshops. To support the discussions about
alternatives and to encourage the participants we use standard components
and early prototypes of the communication system. Also, a qualification
program which is aimed to improve the social and communicative competencies
of the users involved, is introduced. It is supposed to enable the users
to participate adequately in the process. Besides they are trained to moderate
discussions and problem solving processes by themselves.
This qualification for participation, will be
applied continuously by change agents during the project's phases. We have
applied a concept by [Sell (1994)] who proposes an
approach to qualify for participation which is directed to analytical,
synthetic, and dialectical abilities for problem solving and conflict management.
These abilities are practiced by using methods as group discussions, group
training, practice of communicational methods, and theme-centered interaction.
The planning of interventions will consider technological,
organizational and qualificatorical aspects. The functions will be specified
and implemented, a new concept for cooperation in project structures and
task groups will be developed, and a concept for qualification of the users
involved will be worked out. In the phase of intervention
there will be an installation of groupware and multimedia systems, a restructuring
of division of labor within and among the organizations, an establishment
of project groups and a coaching and nurturing of users will take place.
After these modifications the work system will be evaluated by the users
in the different organizations. Change agents will collect additional data
with methods of observation and user interviews. The data is analyzed and
discussed with users involved on the basis of work psychological analysis.
We do not expect that the first development cycle will lead to satisfactory
results, and so another iteration of this development process is anticipated.
The iteration offers potential playground for evolutionary and participative
software development and tailoring in use, all of which has been explained
in the previous paragraph. So, based on the data analysis in the discussion
with the users, different options for further development will be created.
The technological and organizational requirements will be defined, organization
and technology development will be oriented again to the changed conditions
and problems of cooperation, and the users involved will be qualified for
the usage of the redesigned groupware and multimedia systems and trained
to perform further development activities by themselves without external
change agents. The second phase of the OTD process ends with another re-evaluation
of the integrated socio-technical work system and the feedback of the results
to the users involved. At this point the members of the organizations should
be able to continue the process by themselves, to perform workshops for
further qualification, problem solving and conflict handling, to tailor
the shared communication system according to their needs, and to restructure
task groups, if necessary. Thus, the OTD process is supposed to continue
without the involvement of external change agents.
4 The ORGTECH Project at Work
Let us now have a look at the first steps taken in the ORGTECH
4.1 The kick-off workshop
The kick - off workshop was intended to give us an idea of the existing
work processes inside MELTIT and between the steel mill and the
engineering offices. Furthermore, we wanted to introduce ourselves to the
project-partners and give them an idea what the ORGTECH project
could mean and what services we can provide. From MELTIT there
were seven employees and middle managers of various technique-oriented
departments present, from each engineering office, the boss and one employee
participated. After a short introduction into the institutional background
of ORGTECH, we handed out cards to each participant of the workshop.
We asked them to note down problems concerning their actual collaboration
and suggestions for improvement. Then we discussed the concerns written
on the cards.
We discovered three main groups of problems: organization and information,
technology and qualification. For the engineering offices two big organizational
problems were the missing of detailed terms and easy ways to interchange
information between them and MELTIT. Furthermore, the workshops
showed lots of technical problems and the participants also had many suggestions
for technical improvements. Quite a few cards mentioned problems with the
construction data base of MELTIT and suggested an easier access
to it for the engineering offices and a better organization of the data.
Many participants wanted to use 3-D construction tools, but they had not
found any suitable ones so far, and, again, they had no clue how to share
the resulting data and how to archivate it. Other cards dealt with CAD-CAM
integration and the problems resulting from the rapid development of exchange
formats. Under the topic "qualification" the biggest number of cards dealt
with special knowledge new employees had to gain in order to be able to
work efficiently. Another problem concerned the acceptance of new design
methods. The mode the engineering offices were paid by the steel mill was
mentioned as a further problem when introducing 3D technology. It became
clear that it is not easy to define the value of creative work like a construction,
thus it is not easy to find a fair mode to pay the work done. Right now
the offices are mainly being paid according to the amount of written lines
in the 2D sketches produced.
At the end of the workshop, we gave a broad overview, of what the project
capable of offering to overcome some of the problems. Besides, we used
the results of the workshop to develop the interview methodology described
in the next chapter.
4.2 The interviews
The objective of the interviews was not only the analysis of the needs
and requirement specification. The discussions with managers and employees
helped us to gather important information about social and political issues
inside and between the organizations. This brought us to understand the
political obstacles that we possible were to encounter when proposing or
discussing our suggestions.
Based on the results of the kick-off workshop we created a semi - structured
questionnaire, covering the following topics: task of the interviewee,
communication and cooperation problems, information and communication infrastructure,
data and archive management, CAD (Computer Aided Design) and CAM (Computer
Aided Manufacturing), 3D-CAD, and teamwork.
The interviews lasted from 70 to 120 minutes and were held at the workplaces
of the interviewees. They often involved quite a number of demonstrations
of the systems in use. The demonstrations were essential to discern improvement
potential. In the following, we will present the results of the interviews
of each organization.
4.2.1 The point of view of MELTIT
Only a few departments of the huge steel mill organization are relevant
for the project. We interviewed the managers and employees of the following
The construction department manages the maintenance of the different production
facilities. If an operator of a production facility requires a repair service
or a new part,
construction: manages the outsourcing of construction design,
production planning: receives sketches from construction department and
mechanical workshop: produces mechanical pieces, tubes etc. to maintain
systems and methods department: also managing the electronic archive of
the sketches used by all departments.
the construction department is contacted. That department
decides who will carry out the design and sketch and coordinates that process.
Nevertheless, the final decision whether the object being designed will
be produced in the company's workshop or by an external supplier is taken
by another department.
A typical task of the construction department is to supply the external
engineering offices with documentation and sketches, and discuss the design
with them. From the commission of the order until the final acceptance
, the external engineer may meet quite frequently with the construction
department. Sometimes an on-the-spot visit is needed or a discussion with
the operator, but most of the meetings have the sketches of the external
office as point of interest. On the basis of seven on- ite interviews we
were able to reproduce the typical development of a construction order
from the point of view of the different actors of the steel mill (Figure
The information infrastructure allows all departments mentioned and
all operators to access the central electronic archive of more then 100,000
sketches. The archive system allows for searching, viewing and ordering
of sketches. The system allows multiple users to simultaneously view the
same sketch in read only mode. An employee from the construction department
and one from the production planning department said that they used this
viewing functionality to discuss design or manufacturing problems over
the telephone. Such an improvised solution of computer supported cooperative
work has been tested by those employees, who were very interested in
such a new technology. This attempt was seen as a clear demonstration of
how application sharing or whiteboards would improve communication within
MELTIT or between the construction department and the external offices.
In general, employees and managers were doubtful at first, being concerned
about potential benefits of groupware application in their daily work.
The arguments against the application of new technologies for collaborative
work were the following:
Another relevant problem area of the steel mill is the archive system of
the sketches. The system presents only the latest version of each sketch.
If anything is altered then saved, it is no longer possible to obtain the
older version of the sketches for the remaining parts of the same type.
Besides, the key number that allows for
real face to face is necessary to discuss problems,
normally not just one but several sketches are of interest,
some of the meetings involve more than two people.
Figure 2: Typical process when constructing
searching the electronic archive is too unspecific. This causes difficult
The production planning department complained that often the sketches
are not ready for the workshop and that considerable alterations have to
be made before the sketches can be used as a base for CNC programming.
In general, they felt that they did not have a possibility of sufficient
participation in the construction process. This causes additional efforts
during the production phase. Three dimensional CAD is not used in production
planning at the moment. It would be, in the opinion of a technician of
this department, useful for three reasons:
to communicate better with the workshop since the workers sometimes have
problems reading 2D sketches,
to improve the quality of the construction design by eliminating errors,
to automatically create lists of the parts.
4.2.2 The point of view of the engineering office TECHNO
The engineering office TECHNO offers services for planning, execution,
change, or capacity increase of conveying systems in heavy industry.
possesses various patents in this area. The office employs about a dozen
engineers. The manager had founded the office about 10 years ago. AutoCAD
14 is applied on a Novell network with 12 CAD workstations. One of the
workstations has an ISDN connection and is used to exchange files with
the steel mill.
The typical design project (compare figure 3) requires first of all
to get the sketches and documentation on the actual state. This need for
sketches and documentation remains during the whole order cycle. The sketches
are normally ordered by fax from the construction department, and after
the print out they are stapled at MELTIT to be collected by the
engineers. Although normally every day someone from the office drives to
(about a 30 min drive away) and checks if there are sketches to be collected,
the waiting time can be up to one week.
When a project is finished, the sketches are delivered to the steel
mill on a disk in an AutoCAD file and in an image file, ready to be saved
in the archive. This could be done by sending the files via ISDN, but at
the construction department only one of the group leader has a PC which
supports ISDN connections. Unfortunately, the recipient of the files is
most of the time someone else.
Figure 3: Information flow between TECHNO and the steel mill
The office has rather intense contacts with the construction department,
and the engineers meet the plant's operator only on few occasions. They
appreciate the high level of expertise of the construction department.
Contrary to the plant operators they are technically able to value the
Concerning future perspectives, both engineering offices would like
to have permission to search and download sketches from the steel mill's
archive via ISDN. On the other hand, MELTIT does not want to grant
such a permission for obvious security reasons. Besides an engineer explained
that he visits the steel mill every week. There, sometimes a brief teleconference
could be enough. He can also imagine discussing some of the problems with
a shared viewer. The introduction of groupware
technologies by TECHNO would be a long term strategic choice
considering that the office has many foreign customers, as well. For instance,
an engineer maintains contact with a steel mill in the USA, currently using
e-mail and telephone, and he said that in this case groupware would have
a greater potential.
The 3D design has been used but only for new constructions. The head
of the office is skeptic about introducing the 3D CAD mainly due to the
high costs and due to the maintenance construction a 3D model of the environment
which would be required.
4.2.3 The point of view of the engineering office DOKU
The construction office DOKU offers planning and documentation
within the area of pipe lines and plant construction In the sector "pipelines
and plant construction" the construction office DOKU offers planning
and documentation tasks). The office has a dozen employees and one manager
who is also the owner. They have a network of 10 CAD workstations running
AutoCAD 12 and 14. The office supplies the steel mill mostly with plant
documentation. The documentation is necessary in case of failure or breakdown,
but in the daily work the plant operator and the construction department
of MELTIT have more important things to worry about. Thus, the
work of the DOKU office is surveyed much less by the construction
department. More frequently than in the case of TECHNO,
has informal meetings with the operators and often starts the job before
it is officially commissioned by the construction department. Compared
to TECHNO, DOKU depends more on its tight relationship
with the plant operators.
Like TECHNO, DOKU would like to search and download
sketches directly via ISDN. Regarding the possibilities to apply videoconferencing
one of the technicians explained that visiting the factory is necessary
and that tele-cooperation would not improve the situation. This is due
to the fact that most of his communication partners on the shop floor of
the plant operators would probably not take the time to apply the new technology.
To provide information for DOKU is not their main job but rather
a service they provide due to personal contacts. Moreover, these people
need quite some explanation to be able to understand the 2D sketches.
Three dimensional design is considered by the manager as a competitive
advantage that could change his business. The employees also consider three
dimensional design a useful technology, especially in documentation to
facilitate the work of the plant operators in case of a breakdown If they
had to locate the right pipe or valve fast.
4.3 Workshops introducing technological options
Having carried out and analyzed the interviews, we invited all the interviewees
to the Fraunhofer Institute. During a one day workshop we presented different
groupware applications and multimedia systems to five participants representing
the three organizations. Based on the results of the interviews, we chose
ten different applications which offered a potential to overcome the existing
problems. Some of them were directly available for the project, while others
were in the state of research prototypes, indicating future technological
developments. In a first block, we presented a smartboard, a video conference
with application sharing and whiteboard functionality, a workflow system,
and an electronic calendar. In the following an application converting
photogrammetric data into 3D models, a distributed 2D CAD application,
a high-end 3D CAD application, a shared 3D viewer, a distributed 3D CAD
application, and a 3D animation of a factory hall were presented.
Each of the presentations started by an introductory statement of the
presenter referring to some of the existing problems. As the group was
rather small, the participants were able to ask and get explanations instantly.
The workshop ended with a round table where the potentials of the different
applications were discussed. applications of those technologies, which
were ready for usage, were introduced and discussed. The interest of the
participants focused on the video-conference and different applications
of 3D CAD. Moreover, the integration of these applications in the existing
technological infrastructure and the investments necessary for hardware
and software were discussed. For administrative reasons, one manager of
the steel mill found it difficult to authorize these expenditures from
his current budget. Nevertheless, the workshop resulted in a certain preselection
of technological options towards video conferencing and 3D CAD applications.
4.4 Feedback Workshop
Shortly after the workshop on technological options, we had a second full
day workshop in which nine members of the three organizations participated.
The main goals for this workshop were:
to present and feedback our understanding of the distributed engineering
to develop a common perception of the existing problems,
to find a common focus for the intervention phase of the project, and
to establish joint work-groups to implement the interventions necessary.
Figure 4: The 3D Viewer developed by the Fraunhofer Institute [Kress
and Anderson 1996, Kress 1997]
The workshop started with presentations by two project members. Based
on a graphic image similar to the one presented in figure 2 the different
steps of the distributed engineering process were presented [chapter
4.2]. In the discussion following the presentation, some misunderstandings
concerning certain details of the engineering process were clarified and
missing information were collected. It became clear, for instance, that
the operators of the plants decide whether an object which has already
been constructed will be built. Thus, within the construction process it
sure whether it makes sense to consider the particularities
of the internal production department. Concerning the ''appropriate`` mode
to start a construction project and the role of the plant operators, the
members of the three organizations expressed slightly different opinions
without discussing these differences openly. The head of the DOKU office
pointed out the importance of the plant operators in this process several
times, because they have final budgeting authority.
In the following a project member gave a presentation summing up the
problems faced with in the interviews. This list of about 20 problems covered
the following aspects of the engineering process:
Most of the problems presented were commented extensively by the participants
from the different organizations. Some of them had to be rephrased due
to the results of the discussion. Nevertheless, the discussion resulted
in a rather homogeneous perception of the existing problems.
the cooperation of the plant operators with the internal and external construction
the cooperation between the internal and the external construction units,
the access to the sketch archive,
the cooperation of the internal and external construction units with the
internal production-planning and production department.
For those who did not participate in the previous workshop, one of the
managers from the steel mill gave a survey on the system presentation and
summarized the results of the final discussion round. Especially concerning
the relevance of 3D CAD different opinions were expressed. While the founder
of DOKU regards it as a strategic choice for his office, the head
of TECHNO pointed to the lacking 3D model of the steel mill. That
made it very expensive to apply 3D on a broader scale. An agreement could
not be reached during the workshop.
Finally, we agreed on a project structure to guide the upcoming phase
of interventions. The project team had suggested to implement four parallel
task groups dealing with the following topics: 3D-CAD, synchronous tele
- cooperation, conventions for the storage of sketches, and production
- oriented construction. These task groups should have been coordinated
by plenary workshops taking place every two months. Due to capacity restriction
especially on the side of the steel mill, we decided to deal with the second
and the third (group A) and the first and the fourth
topic (group B) jointly within one task group. The task groups
were asked to develop a concept on how to improve their aspect of the distributed
engineering process and test it out during their daily work routine.
4.5 The task groups in practice
Each of the task groups consisted of five to seven members all three organizations
being. Some participants took part in both groups. Contrary to the plenary
workshops, the heads of the offices and members of MELTIT's middle
management did not participate in the task groups. Both task groups were
moderated by project members who also provided a variety of services for
the groups (e.g. facilitating the discussion, protocolling, information
4.5.1 Task group A: Synchronous tele-cooperation and conventions for the
storage of sketches
Since we had assumed that the usage of video-conferencing and application
sharing systems would affect the mode in which sketches were stored and
accessed, task group A decided to allow for synchronous tele-cooperation
first. Having carried out a market survey, NETMEETING by Microsoft
[Microsoft (1998)]was chosen to be introduced. It
provides video-conferencing, application sharing, whiteboard, and file
transfer functionality. And as the software is free, the organizations
just had to spend money for the audio/video equipment of the PCs. Concerning
the network infrastructure the task group had to decide whether a RAS (Remote
Access Service) or an Internet-based solution should be realized. At the
moment of decision none of the organizations was equipped with firewall
technology, so the Internet-based solution seemed to be too insecure. Thus,
the NETMEETING applications were connected via RAS servers and
Actually six NetMeeting applications are installed at workspaces in
the construction and production planning department of the steel mill,
one centrally in the DOKU office, and two at the workplaces engineers
in the TECHNO office. To reduce initial investment some of MELTIT's
workspaces are not equipped with audio/video hardware. They use the telephone
to discuss shared sketches. Figure 5 depicts the actual installation (a/v
means full audio/video equipment). The new communication structure was
to be used in 3D-CAD and production-oriented construction projects.
Task group B decided to tackle both of its foci in parallel. Concerning
CAD the project members carried out a market survey and provided
the information for the three organizations. The construction department
of MELTIT decided to introduce Mechanical Desktop - a 3D package,
based on AutoCAD. It allows to parameterize the design components. While
TECHNO followed this decision, DOKU made its own additional inquiries
and decided to introduce Plant-4D - a 3D application which supports the
planning and animation of production facilities. To gain experiences with
the new applications three of the current construction projects were selected
by the group to try out the 3D applications.
Figure 5: Communication infrastructure
4.5.2 Task group B: 3D-CAD and production-oriented construction
In these projects the communication between the external engineers and
the production and production planning department should be established,
as well. To encourage mutual understanding the TECHNO engineers
visited MELTIT's production planning and production department.
was not informed about the visit beforehand. Even though production-oriented
construction requires additional efforts on the side of TECHNO,
its engineers wanted to proceed, because they thought that would improve
the quality of their design. They especially appreciated the video-conference
and application sharing tools, because these would reduce the communication
effort considerably. On the other hand, one of
MELTIT's CNC programmers
said that he would use the video-conference to directly contact TECHNO
in case problems occurred on how to use one of their sketches currently
In the following we will discuss the experiences gained when improving
distributed engineering processes by introducing groupware and multimedia
applications in an integrated manner.
5.1 Improving interorganizational engineering processes ...
The ORGTECH experience indicates that different actors in interorganizational
engineering processes have very individual perspectives on how to define
the relevant business processes and how to define quality measures. For
instance, from the perspective of the external engineering offices their
business process finished when delivering the final sketches. Thus, there
was little awareness concerning the production processes and their specific
requirements. Moreover, it was unclear to the external offices which ones
were the relevant quality measures for their services, because the competencies
in the steel mill were unclear. For instance, concerning the layout of
the final sketches the construction department focused on DIN and company
standards while the plant operators focused on understandability. These
differences in perspective have to be understood and tackled when trying
to improve inter-organizational business processes.
Beyond different perspectives on the business processes, we have to
deal with different long-term company strategies. Different strategies
may even lead to the introduction of incompatible technical applications
which endanger cooperation. For instance, the head of the DOKU
office decided to introduce a widely incompatible 3D application, because
he believed that its functionality would open new markets for other companies.
A similar problem arises concerning security standards for video-conferencing.
Right now MELTIT's central IT division builds up a firewall system
to link their local network to the Internet. Our approach of RAS-based
ISDN-connections is somewhat contrary to their centralized approach. Nevertheless,
Internet-based video-conferencing will require additional security efforts
on the side of the engineering offices.
Improving interorganizational business processes, we have to keep the
underlying power structures in mind. For both engineering offices, MELTIT
is a major client. Concerning the ORGTECH project, MELTIT was
able to define the relevant business processes, and thus, influenced the
project's goals considerably. While acknowledging the given power structure,
facilitators in change processes need to balance their impact
on operative decision-making to avoid suboptimal solutions.
For instance, being confronted with the incompatible 3D CAD decisions of
and DOKU and an angry reaction of MELTIT's construction
department, we still tried to initiate a discussion on the advantages of
each of the two systems.
5.2 ... by means of Integrated Organization and Technology Development
Regarding integration, participation and evolution as the main characteristics
of an OTD process [chapter 2], they have proven valuable
within the ORGTECH project. An integrated approach is required to draw
on the interdependencies of organizational and technological change. On
the one hand the change in the construction processes, which require the
external engineers to discuss their designs more in depth, asked for technical
support to overcome spatial barriers. On the other hand, the new communication
infrastructure is impacting the construction process already in unpredicted
ways. We did not apply instruments of industrial psychology yet. To analyze
the given problems in cooperation, we preferred to apply semi-structured
interviews because they provided us with a broader picture of the actual
work process. Due to capacity restrictions of the application partners
-- especially in the engineering offices we did not apply these instruments
additionally. Nevertheless, they are still an option for the project evaluation
The participation of the employees in the different organizations proved
to be invaluable. Without the detailed knowledge of their daily work routine
the analysis of the actual state of cooperation could not have reached
sufficient depth. The employees' participation in the selection of different
technological options and in the planning and implementation of the interventions
secured a high level of motivation. Nevertheless, the participation of
the employees in the improvement project takes considerable time resources.
This causes problems-especially for the smaller engineering offices. Therefore,
the project team provided quite a lot of help to the task groups. We had
to reduce the speed of the project and became selective with the measures
applied. Moreover, up to now we were not able to integrate MELTIT´s
plant operators into the project. This is mainly due to inner-organizational
rivalry between different departments of the steel mill in the context
of a broader reorganization. Thus, an important part of the overall engineering
process did not yet get actively involved.
Being still in the first part of the project, evolutionary development
of the software and of the organizational interventions did not yet occur.
Nevertheless, the usage of the video-conferencing application has led already
to some requirements which will be implemented via the application programming
While the basics of the OTD framework seem to be sound, the
anticipated process model (see figure 1) needs ongoing revision. We had
to change the temporal order of certain measures and abandon or redesign
others. The market overview, for example, was carried out just after the
feedback workshop, because the focus of the task groups had not been well
defined before that. Moreover, we have not yet carried out any qualification
for participation measures, since the participants involved so far were
fully able to articulate their interests during workshops and interviews.
The qualification concerning the new computer applications was not provided
within a workshop, but by supporting the individual users at their workplaces,
via a telephone hotline and by handing out written documentation. Thus,
the project had to adapt itself in an evolutionary way.
Even though this paper has a look at just one specific case study, we
believe to have presented a scenario which is representative for many interorganizational
engineering processes and - to a certain degree - also for other cases
which concern the outsourcing of non-core activities. Any organization
deciding to go this route faces two primary problems:
At the beginning of the ORGTECH project the first problem had already been
addressed and the main point of the project initially was the participatory
design of a computer-based tele-cooperation system to address massive difficulties
with the second problem. However, the two questions could not be completely
separated, because, for instance, the introduction of the 3D technology
created problems in putting a price on the engineering efforts of the outside
firms. This clearly shows the
How to define ``outsourcable'' activities with enough sharpness in order
to precisely specify the interfaces between the outside organizations and
the relevant groups on the inside. Part of these interfaces are, for instance,
measures of performance which are exact enough to serve as basis for legally
binding cooperation agreements.
How to integrate the outside organizations into the overall business process.
This problem not only concerns ``official'' communication with entities
on the inside, but also the support of informal exchanges, perhaps not
anticipated by the management.
intervening of technological and organizational change and the need to
take both into account.
While the technological solutions designed in the ORGTECH project can
only be applied within the rather narrow focus of outsourcing engineering
work, the organizational questions raised and addressed within the project
and the general process model have a far wider applicability.
We first would like to thank our co-financees, the European Community
and the state of North Rhine - Westphalia. Moreover, we are grateful the
employees of MELTIT, TECHNO and DOKU for the time and efforts they spent
making the project work.
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