Software use in the workplace: A study of efficiency
Peres, S. Camille
Lane, David M.
Doctor of Philosophy
Although existing laboratory research shows that software is often used inefficiently, relatively little is known about (a) how efficiently software is used in a real work environment and (b) the factors that influence the efficiency of individual users. The present research consists of an ethnographic investigation of software use in an office setting. The study occurred over a four-week period and consisted of observations, in-depth interviews, and an online survey of employees at a large energy company in Houston, Texas. Employees frequently used their software inefficiently and when they were efficient, were not consistent with their efficient use of software. They tended to approach using and learning software programs differently depending on whether the program was associated with their area of expertise. For those programs associated with their expertise, they were more likely to seek out learning new and more efficient methods of using the software for doing their job. However, for other software they would learn as little about it as possible, even if they spent most of their working day on the latter type of software. Furthermore, employees consistently reported that, regardless of the complexity of the program, they primarily learned to use programs by exploring the interface. Through this exploration, they would learn enough about the program (or would reach a sufficient level of knowledge) to do their job. Any knowledge of alternative features or efficient methods of using these features would subsequently be learned through peers.