Many working groups within Xerox are physically distributed across more than one site, some of which are separated by thousands of miles. The use of video codec technology within the organization has begun to proliferate within North America in the past year, there being at least 10 codecs in constant use at PARC, and others in places like Henrietta and XRCC, Toronto. Sites in Europe have, for the most part, not yet begun to take advantage of this technology (with some notable exceptions, such as RXTC).
Our project is a research effort aimed at understanding and evaluating the impact of video technology on collaborative work for physically distributed work groups within Xerox. There are two levels at which we are assessing this impact: at the level of work practice within the organisation, and at the level of individuals' behaviour during video meetings.
Preliminary work began by studying the use of a video link for a collaborative project between RXTC in England, and Henrietta in New York. This consisted of: observation of the use of standard codec equipment for regular weekly management meetings, adding "off-the-shelf" additional pieces of equipment such as a document camera and feedback monitor, and interviews with users of the technology.
The second phase consists of helping to negotiate the installation of a video link between designers of photocopiers at Xerox Ltd's site in Welwyn Garden City, U.K., and the manufacturers of these machines in Venray, Holland. Our role is to help in the installation and configuration of the system. More importantly, we plan to:
This project allows us to carry out iterative design of video technology in a real work site, as opposed to experimental settings. We are providing effective technological support for facilitating work at a distance.
This project is part of an ongoing effort within Xerox aimed at understanding the nature of work practice in organizational life, and using that understanding to build and design better technology to support work practice.
An added advantage to this project is that in doing so, we can directly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of collaborative work processes within Xerox. By better supporting work at a distance through video, we can help work groups increase the speed of problem solution, enhance sharing of knowledge, and improve communication. There are a wide range of ways in which video technology could be used, including: training, planning analysis, coordination between production and design engineers, supplier quality control, and customer support services, to name a few. All these processes can significantly improve the time-to-market and quality of Xerox products.