A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF A DISTRIBUTED INTERNATIONAL COP


A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF A DISTRIBUTED INTERNATIONAL COP

The vignettes describe the work of the group as it was observed during the period of the contextual interviews. The main events are summarised in Figure 3.

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Figure 3: The Main Events of Case Study Stage One

Welcome to the World of WWIT

Monday, 16.00—E-Meeting

The time is late afternoon UK time and the beginning of the working day in California. Mike, DaveW and Stan are struggling to set up MS NetMeeting for an electronic meeting with their colleagues in California. The purpose of the meeting is for the UK group to leverage the experience of the Californian group. The Californian group has already implemented a system to act as a computersupport "knowledge base" that can be used by technicians and end users. The members of the UK team want to develop something along similar lines but do not want to "reinvent the wheel" and prefer to build on the experience of their colleagues, if possible. They have identified an opportunity for collaboration and have arranged this meeting with a colleague, Don. Don is the manager of the Applications Team in the US and is Stan's opposite number. Also to be present at the meeting is the person responsible for the administration of the knowledge base, Linda. This meeting is a result of Mike having explored the American knowledge base. He has also spoken on the phone with a colleague in the American group, and he has discussed the knowledge base informally with Stan. This formally arranged meeting is only one of the means by which they communicate—there are also numerous informal conversations taking place over the Atlantic via phone and e-mail in the normal course of events.

Debating the possible causes of the problem between each other they still fail to see the image of the lap top screen on the big white screen in the office. They are having a problem getting the system to work satisfactorily. They debate the possible causes of the problem between each other but still fail to see the image of the lap top screen on the big white screen in the office. They use the polycom (phone unit with keyboard, speaker and three microphones—Figure 4) to dial Don in America. He is due to be present at this electronic meeting, but they can only reach his voice mail. Mike leaves a voice mail saying, "We're here, waiting for the meeting."

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Figure 4: Polycom

As Mike and Stan discuss the possibility of the drivers being the cause of the problem DaveW goes to bring his personal computer (PC) to use instead of the laptop. He returns and sets up his PC and manages to get the screen image on the big screen. Mike relates the tale of a colleague who bolted a handle to his PC and used it as a "portable." DaveW tries ringing the American group again, but still fails to get a response. The group tends to try to use the electronic media to save video and travelling costs. NetMeeting is a free application, and the small cameras (although not yet widely used) are very cheap. Connection costs are also much lower than those of the full videoconferencing suite that is also available. The advantage of NetMeeting is that applications can be shared across the network, making, for example, documents visible to all parties. It is not an intuitive piece of software, but Mike observes that they have seen an improvement in the use of NetMeeting over the three months they have been using it as they have grown accustomed to it. It has also had the advantage of making meeting records visible as they are recorded.

The connection is finally made and the meeting gets underway. On the screen is an image from the PC in America—a demonstration of the Knowledge Base, the camera image of the two people attending the meeting in America, and a camera image of the people attending the meeting in the UK.

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Figure 5: White Screen View

Linda and Don put the Knowledge Base interface up on the screen and remotely demonstrate it to the UK people. After a while, the UK people ask questions and start to make suggestions as to how the system could be improved or adapted for company-wide use. DaveW suggests the use of a geographic location field. This raises a host of other issues and problems. The group discusses the issues and bounce ideas off each other, eventually working up a possible solution. Don recaps the proposed solution and makes notes of it in the "chat" section of NetMeeting. This will form the minutes of the meeting. He checks that the UK people can see the chat board and then he types it in. Mike says, "No, that's not right" and corrects him. Don still doesn't fully understand, so Mike goes over the proposed solution again until the note is entered in the chat section to everyone's satisfaction.

The Knowledge Base is brought back on to the screen and the discussion moves into technical issues and finds another problem. Further discussion reveals a possible solution at the American end. This is something that Stan needs to look into and they agree that the American end will help him with this. They return to the Knowledge Base demonstration on the screen and agree that it would be preferable for the UK members to build on it rather than develop a totally fresh one. The discussion now moves into the practicalities of doing so, with issues of speed and replication causing concern. They identify the issues and some possible solutions and note them on the chat board for further investigation. Don flags up an issue regarding further development of the Knowledge Base with links and cross-indexing to other web pages, for which he would like advice. The Knowledge Base disappears from the screen and a web page appears. Stan offers a solution. It is accepted that the solution would work, but there is one area within Stan's solution for which they would need further information. They do not have the answer but know a local expert at their site in California. They make a note of this on the chat board.

Suddenly the sound disappears—Mike has pressed the wrong button. Laughing, he types his apologies onto the chat board and re-establishes the sound connection. After a short period of joking and laughter with the American pair, the discussion returns to the next steps to be taken. The discussion returns to the earlier problem of identifying location with another possible solution being suggested. This is noted as an action item. Don asks if they can go back to the Knowledge Base one more time as he wants to demonstrate another aspect. Don is demonstrating, but he is unsure of exactly what he is doing and is guided by Linda who is sitting next to him. Part way through, the demonstration makes Mike think of something else, and he asks Don to move onto the department home page in the US and then to the UK's departmental home page. He points out the inconsistencies and suggests they standardise the two. This is also noted as an action item. They decide that Linda (in California) will work with DaveW (in the UK) on this issue. They decide that there will be another e-meeting in three weeks, but that informal phone and e-mail communication will continue in the meantime as necessary. They end the meeting, and the three UK members discuss the meeting among themselves as they put away the equipment, and declare themselves happy with the outcome.

Tuesday Afternoon—Vertical Team Meeting and WWITMan UK

The following afternoon Stan has a meeting with his Informatics Team, comprised of himself, DaveW (the Webmaster who was also present at last night's meeting), Gary (the applications developer), and Steve (the Notes developer). Stan explains the purpose of the meeting as being to discuss how the three vertical teams can better learn from each other and what they need and expect from each other. Gary points out that an alternative model would be to have one large team rather than three separate ones. In this model there would be individual specialists or wizards and people would have better opportunity to learn from one another as they would not be operating so much in separate environments. At the very least, Gary emphasises the need for cross-team collaboration.

Stan hands each member of the team Draft 1.0 of WWITMan's planning document. This had already been worked on by the UK management team at an off-site meeting five days earlier, and Stan wants to use it to communicate with his team and to get its input. In the first place, he wants to use this draft document to discuss some project priorities. Scanning through the document, wry comments are made about the number of new projects and the number of times Informatics people are mentioned. They continue to discuss the document, leading into a discussion of who they would need for some projects. Talking about the skills of a particular individual in UKIT leads to a general discussion of PC support and the type of detailed domain knowledge that is now necessary. The conversation moves round to work with the Infrastructure Team and cross-team collaboration on backups, and on who to consult for specific problems—they need to know which expert to consult. Gary notes that there is a desperate need for an overall understanding and level of knowledge that crosses the teams, so Stan suggests that Informatics offer a series of seminars on the projects and applications that they deliver. Gary suggests that there should also be an accompanying web page. The discussion of the document continues. The discussion brings up various issues that are followed through and talked about. The team gets so involved that it fails to notice the time and are only made aware of it when other people arrive to use the meeting room for anther meeting.

Stan has half an hour before another meeting so he returns to his cubicle and updates his PalmTop computer from his PC so that all his MS Exchange files are synchronised. His next job is to work on the planning document. He has got lists of objectives from the other members of the UK management team and he wants to merge them all to a common form to feed into the planning document. He scans the documents and spends 20 minutes doing the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) corrections. Dave arrives and informs Stan that Wayne and Mike have not arrived yet for the next meeting. Dave and Stan discuss briefly what Stan is doing with Dave's objectives list, what Dave agrees with and what he would prefer handled differently. Their conversation then moves onto the forthcoming e-meeting with their American peers and how the planning document will help them. Dave suggests using the same headings as in a similar document produced by the American group. They compare the two documents and use them to see how they can adapt theirs so that there is some consistency. After this informal interruption, Dave and Stan go to the meeting with Wayne and Mike. The planning document is driving this meeting, and Stan hands out the updated version on which he has been working. Wayne wants to discuss the latest version that Stan has prepared and move from that to how they can present it to their American colleagues in the e-meeting. They take the document as the starting point and discuss how to prioritise. From there the discussion moves to what the drivers are for the projects, and then to whether the emphasis should be on development or consolidation, and from there to the Year 2000 problem that is a major element of the planning document. The planning document again becomes the focus of the discussion and this cycle continues—issues arise and are discussed, problems get flagged up from the discussions about the document. They talk about the problems and arrive at solutions or plans of action, always bringing their attention back to the document, the focal point of the meeting. Mike gets paged—he is due at an e-meeting with the overall manager of WWITMan (Dan). He leaves and Dave, Wayne, and Stan remain chatting informally for a few minutes and then adjourn, intending to continue the meeting the following morning. Stan returns to his cubicle and makes a phone call. As he finishes his phone call one of his team arrives to inform Stan of a problem—he cannot get onto the Exchange server. Stan makes a phone call to a colleague in California and leaves a voice-mail message. He also sends an e-mail message. These are both in connection with another project that Stan is working on with American and UK colleagues. They are developing a bibliographic reference database, and in advance of a meeting scheduled for tomorrow the UK people should have been able to access the directory on the American server, but they are not able to do so.

They can see the directory, but the system is denying them access. Stan has been trying to get the problem sorted out, but has not yet managed to do so. With only 15 minutes to go before leaving for home, Stan synchronises his laptop with his PC. Another team member arrives to ask if there is a problem with the Exchange server. Stan says there is and packs up to go home where he spends more time melding the remaining objectives documents into the single planning document.

Wednesday Morning—More WWITMan UK

The day starts with a continuation of yesterday's meeting. Wayne summarises what was said in order that they do not go over it again, finishing up with the final point that was discussed yesterday—resourcing. This had actually been pencilled in for today's meeting, but discussion of the document had already flagged it up yesterday, so the subject has already been broached. There is some debate about what Mike had said, with Dave interpreting it slightly different from the others. They continue to talk around the resourcing issue, making a number of suggestions, with Mike referring to what happened when a similar problem arose a couple of years ago. The resource discussion leads in to a discussion about learning from each other, which at the moment is a matter of asking a "guru" when there is a problem. There is some recognition that Mike's team could do with more training on certain aspects, but it comes back to a resource problem. Mike offers his preferred solution but acknowledges the problems that it would cause. Another solution is offered but is a nonstarter because of finance problems. The discussion follows other suggestions but keeps coming back to the non-starter. Mike gets paged so they take a break. Stan goes and gets a cup of tea and Dave and Wayne continue the discussion informally, moving on to a chat about an international football match. They resume the meeting, continuing the resourcing topic for quite some time, revisiting previously suggested solutions, and encountering new issues, in particular the idea that they should be putting different people together to learn from each other and generally raising skill sets. They finally decide to move the resourcing issue on to the planning document in order to treat it as a longer term issue and take a much needed break. Stan and Dave leave the room so Mike takes the opportunity to discuss with Wayne a letter that he has received highlighting a problem. An informal chat enables Mike to suggest a solution. Wayne agrees, and the problem is solved.

After the break, the planning document is again brought to the fore. Stan explains that he has done some more melding and got the raw data in, but he explains the structure that he is aiming for, which will make it easier to use in the meeting with the American group. They continue the discussion about priorities and the Year 2000 problem and then work their way down the document looking for immovables and imposed deadlines, making notes on their individual copies of the document. As they work their way through the document, it fires up discussion about different issues, technical problems, and issues of timing. The purpose of the document at this stage is to be able to use it in the forthcoming e-meeting with the American colleagues so that they can show what they have done in trying to identify areas for collaboration. At the end of the morning they break for lunch. Stan will continue to work on the document, taking into account what has been discussed in the meeting and will change the structure of the document.

Wednesday Afternoon—Some Cross-Team Collaboration

After lunch, Wayne has a meeting with Dave and three members of one of the research groups. They have been working on an area of 3-D audio and VEs. One of the CoP members in the US has seen something of the research and would like to incorporate it as a product. The meeting itself, however, is a direct result of Wayne bumping into one of the researchers in a corridor and having a chat. The presenters describe the product that is a visual space with avatars[9] and 3-D sound. After the presentation and some discussion, Wayne collects Stan and goes with Dave and the researchers for a demonstration. After the demonstration, Wayne and Stan meet with Bea about the internal web design project, which is being run with colleagues from America so is working as a distributed team. Wayne is concerned that there are too many people involved to be able to make good progress. There is an e-meeting scheduled with the people in the States for the following Monday, and Wayne would like the strategy worked out in advance. Stan has e-mailed Lucy (the team leader in America) to inform her that he, Wayne, and Bea would be meeting today. Bea expresses concern that she was not aware of this, and Stan apologises that she may not have been copied in on all the e-mails. Lucy had expressed a desire for all the people listed to be at the e-meeting. The concern for Wayne, Stan, and Bea is that there are too many people for one meeting and that no progress will be made. Their preference is to break it up. Bea expresses annoyance that Lucy had found out that they were wanting a smaller meeting before today's discussion. They continue to talk around the problem of numbers, but are basically in agreement that they feel the proposed e-meeting is too large and will not achieve anything. Discussion turns to the format of the proposed internal web pages. The aim is to have multiple web pages that have a consistent look and feel. They discuss the style and the technology. The basic format of the home page has been designed, and they still feel that adding more people to the group will slow the project down. The talk moves to what it is they will be trying to produce, and Wayne expresses a concern about the design. He feels that Lucy, as an information scientist, will not produce a suitable design, as evidenced by the fact that when he visits the home page at the American site he cannot find the USIT page. Stan suggests that a preferable meeting format would be to have a maximum of five people for the design and then bring in other, technical people. The time is up and Bea has to leave so the meeting finishes. Wayne returns to his cubicle and checks his e-mail. E-mail is one of the four main media he uses—e-mail, telephone/voice-mail, video conferencing and NetMeeting. He also has formal meetings with his team and with other people, but most of the communication with people on site is ad hoc and informal. For distant communication, his preferred medium is the telephone but this brings problems of time distance—it is most likely that his communication partner will not be there, and he will have to use the voice mail. He likes e-mail when he has the time to put together an accurate message, but he doesn't really bother with video conferencing as it takes a lot of setting up and doesn't add much extra over the phone. He would prefer to use NetMeeting in conjunction with the telephone—he feels it adds an extra level of communication. The phone rings and Wayne answers. It is a personal call. Having completed the call he checks his voice mail and finds three messages. One is from the person who has just called. He dials the number of the second person, who answers the phone with "Hi, Wayne" as the phones have caller display. There is a financial problem left from the last time the American colleagues visited. Wayne says his department will absorb the cost and solves the problem. Wayne makes his second call, which is to an external consultant and concerns some problems the company is having with building contractors. They discuss the problems, and the consultant agrees to keep pressure on the contractors. After the problems have been discussed, there is some informal chat during which the consultant gives Wayne a piece of useful information—off the record—regarding another consultant who has moved to another company. Wayne now has to arrange a meeting with two other people. One of them is not available, so he chooses one of two suggested options and pencils it in for them, voice mails them both, and suggests that they only respond if there is a problem. He has one final task to do before he leaves. He has to call the overall head of WWIT, Dan, in the States to discuss the forthcoming e-meeting. He has had to wait until now to make the call as it is now 08.30 in America. Unfortunately, Dan is in meetings all day, and Wayne only gets to speak with the secretary. As Wayne cannot get to speak with Dan, he leaves the secretary with a list of agenda items, and she agrees to e-mail the list to all the participants. Wayne rings off and goes through his e-mails deciding which he can delete from the system. Mike arrives with a quick question that Wayne can answer. They then chat a little and Wayne passes on the information he received from the external consultant. This raises a problem with training, and they discuss this a little. Mike leaves. Wayne finishes managing his e-mails. He sees one that has just arrived that he feels he ought to forward to Stan. One of the members of Stan's Informatics Team, Gary, has been working on a resource booking system with which they are highly delighted. The aim is to be able to use it between the UK and America, for example, if Wayne was going to California, he could book the room and resources he needed there from his desk in the UK. The new e-mail has come from someone in another part of the company indicating that a corporate solution for room-booking systems has been selected! The time is now 17.40 and Wayne leaves for home.

Thursday Morning—More Meetings

08.45. Wayne arrives for the regular weekly meeting scheduled for nine o'clock. Mike also arrives at 08.45, and the two have a spontaneous informal chat about something that they feel should not be discussed in open forum. A couple of minutes later Stan arrives and they move the discussion on to the technical details of a hotline database. Mike is paged and leaves to go and solve a problem. Dave has not yet arrived so Wayne rings his desk and leaves a message on the voice mail. Wayne tells Stan about an interesting technical paper he read the previous evening, and then they chat about the VE meeting they had yesterday with the research project group. There has been a lot of interest and there is scope for testing it between America and the UK within WWIT. Mike sends a message that he has been held up with solving the problem but will return as soon as he can. Wayne and Stan chat about the planning document. Stan carried on working at home last night and has the document as up-to-date as possible for this evening's e-meeting, and he has managed to keep it fairly consistent with a previous American document. Wayne is pleased with the result and feels that it is starting to take shape, making a suggestion about the addition of a further column so it could be used as a communication tool. Stan has also added an extra section that meets with Wayne's approval. He feels that it is already better than what they did the previous year. While discussing what Stan has done, the issue of NT and UNIX print drivers arises and the discussion moves onto a technical footing. At a quarter past nine, Dave arrives—as there have been so many meetings this week, he had not realised which day it was. Stan and Wayne chat informally about the web page project meeting they had yesterday and the tension between some of the participants. After the meeting, Stan called the American team leader just to keep her informed. He preferred to call because he felt he could better smooth the situation when she could hear his voice, plus there were things he did not want recorded on paper.

At 20 past nine, the meeting finally gets under way. Wayne recaps on the document and what came out of it. Before they get too far into discussing the document, Stan raises a problem—Steve in his team will be away on holiday, so they might have problems with the Lotus Notes system. How can they support it while Steve is away? They come to the conclusion that between them, although they will not be doing any development, they will be able to work out how to support it, and if they are stuck they can call on their American colleagues for advice. As a matter of course, Steve generally keeps the American people informed. Therefore, the UK people can keep an eye on the system, and the American people can keep a distant eye on it as well. However, they will get Steve to brief them in more detail about the system before he goes on holiday.

The discussion moves on to the planning document. Wayne now feels that it will make a good communication tool, but will not yet be adequate as an internal project tool. Mike points out that the document has now lost detail of priority and who will do what. Stan replies that it has not been lost—there are sections for that, but he has just not had time to populate that area of the document. Dave asks what the significance of the asterisks is. Stan replies that they are simply mistakes in the OCR reading and he still has to correct them. They take on the most pressing issue from the document, that is, the Year 2000 (Y2K) problem preparations. They had started discussing this yesterday and now carry on discussing the preparations in detail, moving onto strategy. Dave outlines the plans he has made for tackling the problem. One of his ideas is to create a dummy infrastructure for testing. They could also collaborate with their American colleagues on this. The discussion moves onto planning and timing. Referring to the planning document, Wayne suggests a solution as to how they might tackle the planning and timing issues. They continue their discussion, bringing it back to the document, and trying a different approach with the document. They finally decide to keep the Year 2000 problem as the single immovable issue and plan everything else around it. They move on to comparing their planning document with the earlier document from America. The meeting ends, and Stan goes to adjust again the structure of the document, which will be used in the evening's e-meeting, but they will emphasise that it is in a first draft stage.

Dave returns to his cubicle. He wants to do some further work on the documents he initially passed over to Stan for inclusion in the planning document (a) because some parts have not translated very well, and (b) because there is more work to do on planning the tackling of Y2K. He e-mails his opposite number, in the States, Ray, to see if they need to discuss anything in advance of the e-meeting. Normally he would have done this earlier, but he is aware that Ray has been away for a while. Dave has worked with Ray on several joint projects, and they have been encouraging members of their vertical teams to work together on projects and problem solutions. He checks his email and deletes "the rubbish." This is habit, and he does it periodically during the day. He reads the ones of interest. One is a request for help from someone on Mike's team. The message has come to Dave because the person who would normally handle it is away. Dave deals with the request by going to find who would be the most suitable person on his team to take care of it. He leaves the problem with that person and replies to the e-mail to say what he has done and who will be sorting the problem out. He is expecting Stan to e-mail him the most up-to-date version of the planning document, but it hasn't arrived yet. While waiting for the document to arrive, he fills his time by preparing for a meeting for tomorrow, when he will be meeting people from another IT department within the organisation. They meet periodically to keep up-to-date with what each other is doing. He then continues with some work on the planned schedule for checking the millennium compliance of the various servers. He prints the document. While getting the print, he happens to see Stan and asks why he hasn't mailed him the planning document. Stan has sent it; it just hasn't arrived. Further discussion reveals that there are other documents from Stan that were sent but which Dave has not received. Dave has previously suspected this, but this is the first time he has had confirmation. There is clearly a problem. Dave sends a test e-mail to Stan who will send a reply. While waiting for the e-mail, Dave takes the print-out he had just collected across to one of his team and asks for comments. He leaves the printout with his colleague and returns, just as Stan arrives. Stan thinks he has figured out the problem—they need to put a "forward" in Dave's Exchange configuration (or change Stan's address book entry). The problem is solved. Dave has received the updated planning document, and he can get on with it. He wants to add more detail to it. He also has input from his team members that he wants to include—some of this is on paper, and some is in e-mail format. When he did his original document on which his section of the planning document was based, he hadn't got all the input in from his team. Now he can finish it. Before he starts, he does what he calls a "sanity check," that is, he checks through the planning document to see that his input has all translated satisfactorily to the current version. He feels that there is currently too much that is UK-specific for using the document as a communication tool with the US. Stan has added the extra column that Dave wanted so he starts entering the Y2K items. In entering them he finds that some of the text has scanned incorrectly in the OCR program, meaning that some of the acronyms are absolutely meaningless. He corrects them. He breaks for lunch and then continues to work on adding detail to the planning document and seeing if he can reword some of it to make it less team-specific.

Thursday Evening—The E-Meeting

16.00. The e-meeting is due to start. Wayne is still setting up the equipment and chatting with the three people (Dan, Linda, and Jim) in California as he does so. Five minutes later Stan arrives and says "Hi" to everyone. He chats informally with the three in California as Wayne continues to set up NetMeeting. He gets the signal projected on to the large electronic white screen, but then the signal starts to break up. Stan helps set up NetMeeting. Dan asks if they are going to see us today. They won't, but the camera has been ordered. Mike arrives and sets up the smartboard. Dave arrives. Stan asks the people in Palo Alto if they have got the chatboard up. Mike helps set up the connections and checks with Palo Alto confirming that they can see what is on the smartboard. The equipment is almost ready, Stan is working on NetMeeting, and Mike is using a remote keyboard for use with the smartboard.

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Figure 6: Room Layout for E-Meeting

There is still one small problem. Mike says to Palo Alto, "On your smartboard, you need to switch the button to send the video to me rather than your portable." Now the smartboard displays a picture of them. It is a small picture, not bad, but not wonderful. The UK staff see three people in the American meeting room. They wave, but express disappointment that they cannot see the attendees in the UK. Wayne repeats that Mike has ordered a camera. Dan in Palo Alto asks who is present on the UK side, and Wayne runs through the names of those present. The first action is to pick up from the last meeting where they had a list of actions. As there has not been enough time to complete most of the actions, they decide to leave them and move straight on to the planning document. There is a slight delay while they change the documents over in NetMeeting. The people in Palo Alto take the opportunity to get a quick drink. Wayne gives a bit of background, but Dan interrupts almost immediately as he can see the scope for joint projects. Dave starts going through the document highlighting the parts that are particularly interesting to him. Dan interrupts and asks him to put the cursor on the point he is addressing. As he goes through the items, they realise there is a problem with encryption and US export regulations. Attention is turned to discussion of the problem, with the result that Palo Alto can solve the problem. They continue working through the document and come to the virus section. This triggers a debate. They discuss the virus protection and decide to collaborate and work towards a common solution. Mike handwrites this as an action item on the smartboard. They move on to the next item, which is messaging. This is something where they are giving out different messages, but they recognise it as an area where they would really benefit from working together. Mike writes this as an action item on the smartboard. They move to the next item but something Dan says moves Palo Alto off on a tangent, and they move the discussion to the policy regarding Linux support. Dave explains the policy of the UK group. Dan suggests another issue where a tool has been launched by the organisation that might be able to help them. The UK people had not heard of this so he suggests that they go and look at some presentation slides that are on the intranet. He feels it might be an area where they could usefully collaborate. Mike notes it as an action item. Wayne is aware of the pressure of time and pushes the discussion on. They move back to the planning document and Mike starts going through his section. He reaches a section regarding a proprietary printer technology. This triggers questions from Palo Alto. Stan has already sent a document to Dan. He has not received it yet. He says that he will forward it to his colleagues and they will provide feedback on it. The people in Palo Alto complain that Mike is hard to hear. He moves nearer to the polycom. He goes through the rest of his section and then Wayne starts with the audit section. As they work through, they find other areas where they can collaborate on joint action. When Wayne has finished his section Stan takes over. He reaches a technical section on 16-bit obsolescence. This sparks a discussion that leads to Palo Alto deciding to leverage from the UK team and doing joint work. Mike again notes the action items. The UK team seems to be six months ahead, and they have the opportunity to work together to provide a WWIT strategy. The next item also sparks a debate, with several people trying to get in to say something. The Palo Alto people have several concerns, but Mike points out that they are mistaken in their understanding of how the technology under discussion actually works. Stan moves down through his section of the document to multimedia publishing tools and raises a point that has been causing a problem. Through discussion of the topic they find that they have already found a solution for the problem in Palo Alto. The discussion moves into calendaring, but Dan totally misunderstands. The UK group manages, with some difficulty, to clarify the concepts. Suddenly, the UK group erupts into laughter—on the screen they have seen someone come into the room behind the Palo Alto people and walk off with a chair. One more issue is flagged up which is causing a problem for Stan's team. Dan suggests that they have a local expert who could perhaps help. They reach the end of the list, and Dan asks if they can have a copy of the planning document so they can track the revisions. Mike tries to send it through NetMeeting—he explains the settings that Palo Alto has to change, and he transfers it into one of their directories. Dan in Palo Alto says he would prefer the document to be e-mailed to everyone. They also decide to copy Chakaka (the Japanese member of the CoP) in on the e-mail. There is a problem with the printer in the American room—it has suddenly stopped. Mike had tried to send the action list that he had written on the smartboard to their printer and had forgot that the settings were for A4 paper on the smartboard and letter size on the American printer. They cancel the print job and arrange the next meeting for three weeks later, to start at 15.00 UK time and 07.00 Pacific time. In the meantime, Dan would like to examine the document more closely in order to see if the UK and American planning documents can be integrated into one document. He and Wayne agree to get together electronically before the main meeting to discuss this further. Palo Alto signs off, and Wayne, Mike, Stan, and Dave decide to book the room for an earlier time and set the equipment up in advance of the next meeting. They lost twenty minutes of the meeting today to set-up time, which represents a high proportion when they only have a two-hour window (from 16.00 to 18.00) in which they can expect to be in contact with their American peers.

[9]Avatar: an interactive representation of a human in a virtual reality environment