Hasso-Plattner-Institut
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Raja Carola Gumienny

Understanding the adoption of digital whiteboard systems for collaborative design work

User-centered design processes are the first choice when new interactive systems or services are developed to address real customer needs and provide a good user experience. Common tools for collecting user research data, conducting brainstormings, or sketching ideas are whiteboards and sticky notes. They are ubiquitously available, and no technical or domain knowledge is necessary to use them. However, traditional pen and-paper tools fall short when saving the content and sharing it with others unable to be in the same location. They are also missing further digital advantages such as searching or sorting content. Although research on digital whiteboard and sticky note applications has been conducted for over 20 years, these tools are not widely adopted in company contexts. While many research prototypes exist, they have not been used for an extended period of time in a real-world context.

The goal of this thesis is to investigate what the enablers and obstacles for the adoption of digital whiteboard systems are. As an instrument for different studies, we developed the Tele-Board software system for collaborative creative work. Based on interviews, observations, and findings from former research, we tried to transfer the analog way of working to the digital world. Being a software system, Tele-Board can be used with a variety of hardware and does not depend on special devices. This feature became one of the main factors for adoption on a larger scale.

In this thesis, I will present three studies on the use of Tele-Board with different user groups and foci. I will use a combination o f research methods (laboratory case studies and data from field research) with the overall goal of finding out when a digital whiteboard system is used and in which cases not. Not surprisingly, the system is used and accepted if a user sees a main benefit that neither analog tools nor other applications can offer. However, I found that these perceived benefits are very different for each user and usage context. If a tool provides possibilities to use in different ways and with different equipment, the chances of its adoption by a larger group increase. Tele-Board has now been in use for over 1.5 years in a global IT company in at least five countries with a constantly growing user base. Its use, advantages, and disadvantages will be described based on 42 interviews and usage statistics from server logs. Through these insights and findings from laboratory case studies, I will present a detailed analysis of digital whiteboard.