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Towards a design theory of computer-supported organizational participation

Thomas Wagenknecht (FZI Research Center for Information Technology, Außenstelle Berlin Friedrichstraße, Berlin, Germany)
René Filpe (FZI Research Center for Information Technology, Außenstelle Berlin Friedrichstraße, Berlin, Germany)
Christof Weinhardt (Institut fur Informationswirtschaft und Marketing, Karlsruher Institut fur Technologie, Karlsruhe, Germany)

Journal of Enterprise Information Management

ISSN: 1741-0398

Article publication date: 13 February 2017




Employees demand high responsibility and empowerment, while keeping their work communal and flexible. Initiatives that foster organizational participation (OP) can contribute to the fulfillment of such work conditions. Research in sociology and psychology demonstrated positive effects on job satisfaction as well as on productivity. However, adoption of social software is widely spread in firms, research on the determinants of computer-supported OP is scarce. The purpose of this paper is to describe the elements to consider when designing OP processes that aim to be beneficial for both the employer as well as the employees.


The authors conducted 20 guided expert interviews to propose a nascent design theory, following a socio-technical approach that promotes democratic and humanistic principles.


Building on the expert interview, the process model includes a topic horizon and a collaboration phase, which creates proposals that have to be decided in order to produce results. The authors show how employee competence and leadership commitment are as important as the workload and support as well as an option for anonymous communication. The authors propose a set of features and explain principles of implementation.

Research limitations/implications

Despite the authors’ best efforts to diversify the authors’ set of experts, the findings have a limited generalizability as the authors only interviewed a few selected German experts that were either members of the board, HR or IT managers, often concerned with organizing rather than only participating in computer-supported organizational participation (CSOP) processes. Besides testing the model in practise, future research should also consider surveying a broader (and more international) set of employers and employees.

Practical implications

The authors propose a step-by-step procedure to introduce CSOP. Despite identifying many pitfalls, the research demonstrates that CSOP promises a wide variety of benefits to both employers as well as the employees of an organization, including increased satisfaction as well as productivity.


This is one of the first studies to propose a nascent design theory for CSOP. The authors derive a number of requirements to consider when implementing an information management system that seeks to improve both the efficiency and equality of employers and employees and lead to a win-win situation for both. The authors describe valid constructs for firms with spatially and timely dispersed teams and more than 50 employees. The research is based on 20 expert interviews, conducted with senior managers of medium and large German enterprises.



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 8th IFIP WG 8.5 International Conference on e-Government and e-Participation 2016. This study was part of the joint research project “Participation as a Service” (PaaS), funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The authors thank the interviewees as well as the research partners at Liquid Democracy e.V., partou eG, and HRpepper Management Consultants.


Wagenknecht, T., Filpe, R. and Weinhardt, C. (2017), "Towards a design theory of computer-supported organizational participation", Journal of Enterprise Information Management, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 188-202.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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