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Research : Digitization, Changing How We Work and Coordinate Projects

Published on
07 November 2014

Digitization has integrated all economic sectors and most jobs. All of us use digital tools and objects that can now be shared and combined in a variety of ways. This change has profoundly influenced the organization of work with projects being divided according to specialization and geographical location. Understanding this new style of work and collaboration is the key to overcoming the future challenges of project management.

This article by Charles-Clemens Rüling and Raffi Duymedjian is the subject of the 9th GEM LAB Executive Summaries.

This study examined the visual effects industry as a showcase for future work spaces and habits.

The analysis of numerous interviews with industry experts demonstrated that managers use a combination of coordination methods :

  • an extremely formal control system for budgets and deadlines that follows a precise « pipeline » implemented through advanced technical infrastructures, and
  • a fuzzy coordination method based on « boundary objects » (story boards, movie scripts, sketches, demo-tapes,...) and accepted relevant professional standard.

In more precise terms, the visual effects industry uses two guiding principles :

  • First, narrative alignment, or the role of the scene in the overall storyline, for vertical coordination (across hierarchical lines)
  • Second, verisimilitude, or a scene's ability to impart a sense of perceptual realism, for horizontal coordination (across multiple teams).

The study demonstrated that using a small number of shared professional norms after budget and timelines had been established, allowed for excellent coordination while still fostering individual initiatives.

This research also examined work habits and practices in a completely digital environment.

The interconnectivity of digital tools and assets as well as the extensive use of layers in the creative process has facilitated a new approach called « digital bricolage ». Unlike an engineer's approach, which first designs the optimal result and then defines the necessary steps and resources to reach it, this new concept combines and builds on resources as they become available. The process continues to mix and match resources until a satisfactory result is achieved.

Key points

  • « Digital bricolage » is a new collaborative design process that combines available resources and gradually builds towards a final solution by making adjustments along the way.
  • The efficient use of « digital bricolage » for fragmented or outsourced projects requires a shared vision of the desired end result. This ensures smooth project coordination while giving creative workers space to express their ideas.
  • To coordinate global projects involving digital objects, managers have to balance two opposing mechanisms: a strategy to control and follow-up on all tasks versus a strategy for flexibility within this administrative framework (made possible by a well-developed professional culture).

From the article

Digital Bricolage : Resources and coordination in the production of digital visual effects Charles-Clemens Rüling & Raffi Duymedjian
Technological Forecasting & Social Change 83 (2014) 98 – 110

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