Geographically distributed sensemaking: developing understanding in forum-based software development teams

Abstract—Global software development is becoming increasingly popular. Working in geographically distributed teams affords advantages to both employer and employee alike. Despite this, distributed working remains a point of contention for many organisations, with some claiming it unsuitable for complex collaborative work. Many argue that the complex act of team sensemaking (the process by which a team develops an understanding of a situation or problem) can only effectively be performed in co-located environments. To investigate this assumption, we examine the communications of a geographically distributed game development team. This global team communicates entirely via forums, yet still manages complex sensemaking tasks asynchronously. We use thematic analysis to investigate how themes develop during online conversations, and use speech act sequences to explore how understanding is developed during these asynchronous conversations. Our findings demonstrate how collective sensemaking occurs within a real-world, geographically distributed team.