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Social networking tools for rural BPO? . Jacki O’Neill and Antonietta Grasso Xerox Research Centre Europe, Grenoble, France Aarti Kawlra, RTBI, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

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Social networking tools for rural BPO?

  • Jacki O’Neill and Antonietta Grasso
  • Xerox Research Centre Europe, Grenoble, France
  • Aarti Kawlra, RTBI, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras

Social Networking Tools (SNT), offer a set of functionality for connecting with other people and holding on-going conversations. Additionally, they offer a dynamic notification service, which provides updates on the activities of friends.

Ethnographic study of distributed company providing BPO work to rural India.

Suggests SNT could enhance quality of their work interactions, enabled by adoption of CMC tools (IM & email) and GoogleDocs to coordinate and track the work of distributed teams.


BPOCo Field study

BPOCo is a young Indian company (~2 years old), operating under tight margins.

Operate a distributed, rural working model: where work is divided and allocated across various rural centres according to staff skills, availability, etc.

Workflows vary on a job-by-job basis. E.g. HQ coordinates and assembles work done across different centres, or, projects locally coordinated from a rural base with direct client communication


Potential benefits related to integrated Social Networking Tools

  • Lightweight coordination and tracking of work
  • At the moment the coordination and tracking sits outside of the work itself, using Excel sheets which reside on GoogleDocs. Since much work is web-based, could create lighter weight coordination and tracking tools by linking the coordination to the doing of the work.
  • Research topic: is it possible to quickly and easily program tools to collect information from the websites on which the employees are working and use this to feed into the SNT as a way of monitoring ongoing work?
  • Staying in touch with one another to get the work done
  • Existing tools provide good functionality e.g. for seeing who is online and contacting them. This is at least equaled by SNT tools and linking in with the work tasks might additionally inform workgroup communication.
  • Promoting identity
  • The employees of the BPOCo are new entrants to white collar work. Their work and progress demands a skilful navigation through various barriers of language, professional work culture and new (and rapidly changing) media and technologies of communication. Using SNTs home and Work Group and pages could be created. Employees could create a home page – with a photo and status options, plus opportunities for self representation which would allow sharing of backgrounds and interests. This could help people in distributed teams get to know one another more and allow for more meaningful interactions, since occasions to meet face-to-face are very limited, yet they often have to work closely.
  • Promoting the organisation
  • BPOCo, as a young, reflective and rapidly changing company is in the process of establishing patterns of management. Change can be unsettling and communication with employees not always optimal. Organisation-employee communication includes local meetings (which one wouldn’t want to change) but also memos, printed out and struck to the wall. These memos tend to be discursive and conversational. Discussion boards on the SNT could enable multi-way conversations to promote relationships and lines of communication across the organisation.