Ken Thompson has written about Virtual Teams needing social software in his blog BioTeams.
My previous post spoke about the need to distinguish between distributed communities of practice and virtual teams. I followed the link on Ken’s blog to the article in Darwin Mag that spoke about groupware Vs social software. Stowe Boyd argues that “Social software is based on supporting the desire of individuals to affiliate, their desire to be pulled into groups to achieve their personal goals. Contrast that with the groupware approach to things where people are placed into groups defined organizationally or functionally. ” I have a problem here. I dont think there is a “groupware approach” per se but how we end up using groupware. I have seen communities of practice and virtual teams thrive with groupware. Anyone could join or leave these groups voluntarily. I think the problem here is more generic its more of a “team” vs “community” question rather than a “groupware” vs.”social software” question. See Community Vs Project Team differences here. Fundamentally different processess.
The fact that any individual in a virtual enterprise would be a part of virtual teams and distributed communites at the same time requires us to build a socio-technical ecosystem that lets the individual use relevant features as the situation demands.I agree with Ken when he says that future collaborative systems would have “social software” as well..The fact is, irrespective of whether we speak of teams or communities there is a social dimension to work and learning.
So as a team member I could be using collaborative workspaces to work on a project document and when I need some clarification, I could ask My Community Buddy List on IM(I may broadcast my question to the entire community-Check IBM Community Toolkit for some idea) and get it sorted.The multi membership in teams and communities would make it difficult for us to really seperate work from learning,socializing etc.,More so as organizations are becoming increasingly global.