Collaboration in Virtual Networks: Reasons and Benefits

Ann Lind

Abstract


Papernumber:
Collaboration in Virtual Networks: Reasons and Benefits
Ann Lind
University College Borås, Sweden
ann.lind@hb.se
The changes of the conditions in the society that we have experienced during the end of the 20th century are extensive. The transition is characterized by the conversion of a materialistic culture into a new technical paradigm dominated by information technology. Many companies and institutions cooperate today in virtual networks. This is something that becomes increasingly common in order to meet competition and increased demands on technological development. My focus in this paper is on Solution Sharing Networks. In such networks organizations share knowledge and resources around a solution to a specific problem in their environment. In this case the problem is related to the development of software applications (co-design). In a solution sharing network, people thus come together in order to cooperate for a more efficient development of new solutions. Some networks are very successful in their cooperation whereas others have difficulties to get the cooperation work smoothly. It is therefore of interest to further investigate the transformation processes within the networks. The aim of this paper is to identify and discuss possible reasons and benefits of collaboration and co-design in virtual networks as well as to look further into the characteristic of the co-design process in such networks. Analysis will be performed using the social constructivist perspective enhanced by activity theory and the virtual network will be seen as a human activity system according to Checkland. Reasons for collaboration can roughly be devided into different cathegories and subcathegories. There can be internal reasons, that is reasons that depends on circumstances within the organization, or external reasons that emanate outside the organization. Internal reasons may be economy, efficiency problems, competence problems or time problems. External reasons may be preassures from authorities, from customers or from competitors. Many different benefits from collaborating in virtual networks may be identified. By combining different skills, the network may perform tasks that individual members might find impossible on their own. If solutions are shared, individual members can refrain from developing individual solutions and thus not reinventing the wheel over and over again. Software solutions that are used by several different organizations are also tested to a greater extent than individual solutions and should therefore be expected to create a safer environment than solutions that are individually developed. Sharing applications that one organization already is using is also time efficient. Sometimes central authorities may put demands on organizations that may require software applications. In such cases all authorities will require the same or similar solutions. Collaboration to create the necessary applications will then be highly efficient, reduce costs and development time, enable more ideas to influence the application and result in a safer software than if every organization had developed its own software. Sometimes demands may also come from customers instead of a central government, and if these demands are similar for different organizations, they may also in this case gain the same benefit from collaboration as in the previous example. In the paper a few models to illustrate the collaboration are presented.
Keywords: Virtual network, virtual society, social constructivism, collaboration, co-design, activity theory

Keywords


Virtual network, virtual society, social constructivism, collaboration, co-design, activity theory

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