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Distributed team design in small and medium sized enterprises - how to get it right

Thomson, A.I. and Stone, A.L. and Ion, W.J. (2007) Distributed team design in small and medium sized enterprises - how to get it right. AI EDAM - Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacture, 21 (3). pp. 203-218.

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Abstract

Readily available and affordable technologies such as the Internet, groupware, and Web conferencing mean that sharing information and data within teams is simple and affordable. However, many small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) struggle to implement or perform distributed collaborative design effectively or even at all. As part of the extended design team of large multinational companies it is not uncommon for SMEs to have collaborative working tools and practice imposed on them to meet the requirements of the multinational. However, many SMEs need to develop their own working practices to support effective, collaborative team design within their own organization or their extended design team. Through a series of case studies, this paper describes how a typical SME achieved successful distributed team design within their organization. A "strategy for effective distributed team design" encompassing the processes, methods, and tools developed and implemented within the company to achieve this success, is presented. In total, four live case studies, spanning a 2-year period, are described; two initial studies focus on current distributed design team practice clearly highlighting issues and areas for improvement, leading to the development of processes, methods, and tools to support distributed collaborative team design. A strategy for effective distributed team design encapsulating these processes methods and tools is presented together with its evaluation through two further live industrial case studies. The case studies themselves, together with the processes, methods, and tools developed by this company, could be adopted by other SMEs directly to achieve the same success. Generic and transferable findings drawn from this study aimed at helping others achieve this success form the conclusion of the paper.