Development of IT-supported Inter-organisational Collaboration : A Case Study in the Swedish Public Sector

Sammanfattning: Collaboration across the organisational boundaries takes place for different reasons. One of them is to solve complex problems that cannot be dealt with by a single organisation. The area of vocational rehabilitation constitutes an example of inter-organisational collaboration motivated by a need for joint problem solving. Individuals are admitted to vocational rehabilitation with the aim of entering or re-entering the labour market. These individuals constitute a heterogeneous group with different kinds of problems, based on e.g. their social situation, long-term diseases and/or substance abuse. As a result, they are handled at more than one welfare state agency at the time, and the practitioners working at these agencies need to collaborate to find individual solutions for their clients. The expected positive effects of such collaboration are long-term planning, increased quality of the casee management, and reductions of invested time and money.In this thesis, an interpretive case study of inter-organisational teamwork within the vocational rehabilitation is presented. The aim of the study was to investigate how the collaboration could be supported by information technology.During a time period of two years, practitioners from three welfare state agencies took part in the research project, The activities included observations of the teamwork, individual interviews with the practitioners and design of information technology that should support the teamwork. An essential part of the design activities was the user representatives' direct participation in the design group, composed by practitioners and researchers. To stimulate the participation, methods with its origin in the participatory design approach were used.The design requirements that were defined included support for the team's communication and joint documentation of cases, and also information sharing about previous, present and future rehabilitation activities. The teamwork was characterised by an open, positive atmosphere where the practitioners were trying to find solutions for the clients within the frames of the current rules and regulations, limited by the resources allocated for vocational rehabilitation activities. However, the environment was also found to be dynamic with changing, and in some cases conflicting, enterprise objectives, Furthermore, the enterprise objectives were not broken down into tangible objectives on the operational level.The physical team meetings and the meetings with the clients constituted essential parts of the work practices and it is concluded that these meetings should not be substituted by technology. The case management could, however, be supported by a flexible tool that meets the users' needs of freedom of action.