Collaborative task management in distributed design processes

For small and mid-sized organizations, IT solutions for routine task coordination in and across design and development teams are in short supply. The SAGE platform will provide efficient web-based functionality for self-organized cooperative task management.

Interdisciplinary design or development processes are characterized by high technical and organizational complexity and by mounting time pressure. For a project as a whole, a workflow system or a process management system may be a helpful tool. For individual teams in a project, where coordination is most important and most cumbersome, there is very little useful support. Workflow systems are of limited use; emails and telephone calls are typically just bilateral and give rise to additional costly, error prone coordination processes.

While it may be easy to set a completion date and define expected results of a distributed design and development project, it is impossible to correctly specify individual tasks of designers or team coordinators well ahead of time. As a consequence, coordination must be ad-hoc and tailored to the situation at hand.

In SAGE, a task is the basic element in coordinating design and development processes. A task provides a rich context that includes working materials, communications functions and collaboration functions. Team members may create task objects, add necessary descriptions and related information, set up a discussion or poll the team members. Tasks may be combined in flexible networks and defined as elements of a higher-level process.

Coordination is assisted by the traffic light model, flexible time management and automatic detection of work progress. In addition to personal task lists, services at the team level keep the teams up-to-date on current and past activities, help to keep an eye on critical tasks and let the team react immediately to the requirements of their work processes. Team membership - and thus access rights to the information of the task objects - can be re-assigned dynamically, should the need arise.

A prototype of the SAGE platform, based on FIT‘s BSCW shared workspace system, is being tested by our partners in the SAGE project. The results of this evaluation will be used to enhance the prototype, in a first cycle of test – evaluation – incremental improvement. Three more cycles are planned until the end of the SAGE project in 2008.


  • Aixonix Solutions AG
  • Daimler AG
  • Neuland + Herzer GmbH
  • Orbiteam Software GmbH & Co. KG