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J1. Integral Communication Pathways Computer mediated communication can become integral to knowledge work practices, even in cases where collaborating workers and stakeholders are in close proximity. Product teams can envision functionality concepts that could provide workers with clear, relevant, direct, and contextually appropriate options for actively communicating about important application content. Examples from three knowledge work domains: A scientist users the integral communication options in her lab’s information management application to communicate with laboratory staff, outside vendors, and distant collaborators. This integration saves some work when starting communication tasks, and it also ties communication acts and information with related laboratory data in the system (see illustration).


Why might targeted knowledge workers want to communicate about the various types of information that your team has envisioned as being part of your application concepts? With whom might they want to actively communicate? How could specific communication tasks be usefully supported through direct and integral functionality?

Our lab’s communicaon is oen about our data, so it’s great that our informaon management tool has some of our exisng ways of communicang built right into it...

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications for knowledge work: What trajectories of work practice that your team is striving to mediate involve intentional communication as part of their initiation or completion?

Clinical Scientist

How do targeted individuals currently communicate while cooperating or collaborating around information artifacts?

A financial trader just completed a complex transaction with many parts. To ensure that the back office workers who will process the trade have the information that they need, he uses his trading application to add some special instructions to the completed trade form.

What communication channels do workers use as part of targeted operations, tasks, and larger activities?

An architect closes her building modeling application. As the tool shuts down, she opts to use a function that will send a status report to selected recipients on her team. This report will contain a summary of changes that she has made to the building model during her work session.

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team’s ideas about supporting integral communication within your product?

Which active communication practices do workers currently find to be problematic or tedious? Why?

How might your sketched functionality concepts conveniently tie into workers’ existing communication channels in goal oriented ways?

The ability to communicate effectively, in a variety of forms, is often a key part of knowledge workers’ skill sets. Even though product teams may treat communication acts as separate tasks in their rationalizations of workers’ practices (A), end users may not make these types of distinctions in their own mental models of their own activities. People can value applications that anticipate their communication needs and present related, contextual options (E3, E4) within the pathways of their onscreen actions.

What new functionality concepts might your team envision to make communication easier and more meaningful within targeted work practices? How might communication be different when recipients are not users of your computing tool? How could these “external” conversations remain clearly tied to your product?

Product teams can look for opportunities in their sketched computing tools to provide clear, relevant, direct, and integrated communication choices (C4, G1). Since not all communication tasks are the same, models of message frequency, timing, formality, importance (D3), and other dimensions can help teams envision distinct functional responses (A). These responses may involve interoperability (K8, K9) or full integration (K10) with workers’ existing communication technologies. Alternately, some scenarios of communication may be better supported via new channels and options within the envisioned application itself (J5, C7, G4), rather than via existing, separate, loosely linked pathways. When product teams do not actively consider how intentional communication could be integrated into their application concepts, resulting tools may drive users to take extra, often outside, steps in order to accomplish their goals (D2). The collective toll of these additional communication efforts on workers’ productivity and satisfaction can be substantial (D3). In cases where individuals place a high value on the communicative portions of their day to day work experiences, failure to integrally support some types of communication acts may convey a lack of product quality and larger utility (K3). See also: B, C6, D4, D6, F, J

How might your team’s approaches for supporting integral communication relate to your other functionality concepts for supporting cooperation, collaboration, and workspace awareness? Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design concepting could valuably inform your team’s application envisioning efforts?


Instant Messenger



Working through Screens (Tabloid Size)  

Working through Screens: 100 Ideas for Envisioning Powerful, Engaging, and Productive User Experiences in Knowledge Work This heavily illus...

Working through Screens (Tabloid Size)  

Working through Screens: 100 Ideas for Envisioning Powerful, Engaging, and Productive User Experiences in Knowledge Work This heavily illus...