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Using service design tools to facilitate communities of practice in software development organizations

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Using service design tools to facilitate communities of practice in software development organizations

Agile processes have increasingly been adopted in different organizations, replacing traditional water-fall processes. However, agile adoption is not a smooth process, because it involves changing a range of activities from sales to personal incentives. To fully adopt agile processes means to change an organization’s mindset from centralized to decentralized control. One problem of decentralizing activities is the dilution of knowledge and expertise inside an organization across many individuals and teams. A proposed solution to this problem is the creation of communities of practice (CoPs, a loosely affiliated group of individuals who share a common interest. These communities should foster knowledge dissemination and creation, cover the key activities inside an organization, and promote organizational development. However, while attractive at many organizational levels, communities of practice (CoPs) are difficult to create for many reasons, including the lack of good tools for community organizers to structure and identify key community features. This thesis investigates the problem of supporting the creation of CoPs inside an R&D organization using the tools of service design. The fundamental research concern is: how can service design approaches to communities of practice help organizers create successful communities? The goal is to provide a set of tools that organizers can use by themselves to build their communities. The research consists of qualitative investigation into a software organization’s communities of practice to understand the challenges in creating a community, the creation of a theoretical framework related to the findings, followed by the selection of various service design tools appropriate to address the challenges. The findings of this research are that the organization struggled with community engagement, community alignment to individual/organizational goals, and a successful community working model. The theoretical framework created combined community of practice theory, knowledge management theory, and service dominant logic to create a perspective of a community as a knowledge management service for members and organizations. The concrete result of this research is a set of service design tools that can be used in the early phases of community of practice development to help community organizers within the case organization. These are based on the user story, idea portfolio, Value Proposition Canvas, community pitches, Business Model Canvas and Service Blueprint tools. A weak market validation showed that these tools could be used by a community organizer with little external guidance.

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