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Groupware Systems and Organizational Activities They Support

In: Computers and Technology

Submitted By ilia
Words 3122
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Topic: Examine groupware systems including their various types and examples of organisational activities they support, and discuss how they would evolve in the future. Student number: 21819254
Introduction
Nowadays, usage of IT systems in enterprise environment is growing at an incredible pace. The main purpose of it is to help groups of cooperating individuals to overcome time and spatial barriers. Enterprise systems implementation has led to the problem of cooperation between companies to reach their goals and successfully operate in the current market environment. The rising demand for collaboration software has led to the groupware market expansion. Collaborative software has influenced the expansion of enterprises by improving the effectiveness of a range of tools such as the ability to communicate over long distances. This software had a significant impact on expansion of enterprises and increased efficiency of its work, for example, the communication over long distances. Along with development of technologies, the way workers operate in organisations has completely changed. Monotonous and time consuming tasks can be easily solved using the computer. Consequently, this change led to increase in the number of “knowledge workers”, workers, whose main capital is knowledge (Davenport, Thomas, 2005). Organisations more often require employees, who have the skill and experience of working within a team. Obviously, teamwork has a significantly greater efficiency, especially in solving complex and comprehensive tasks. Workers can pool their knowledge and skills, leveraging the strengths of each employee. Moreover, team members can independently assess work of each other and find errors faster.
Collaboration software, or groupware, is a generic term for the information systems that give a group of people an ability to pursue joint activities, for example, to create new products, make reports on implementation of a project, develop software, make decisions etc. This software is used to “support groups of people engaged in a common task that provides an interface to a shared environment.” (Borko, Furht, 2008) Recent groupware systems are associated with support of communication, collaboration and cooperative work. A good example is Learning Management Systems in the variety of universities all over the world, to organize students collaboration and remote communication with academic teaching personnel.
Returning to the enterprise environment it is important to pay attention to a survey by Elance, which found, that 73% of 1500 business owners planned to hire online contractors in 2011. (Orsini, 2012) Moreover, according to the survey, there will be a lot more people working remotely in the next five years — 54 percent of business owners said they expect the majority of their workforce to be working online by 2017. These numbers are showing that there is widespread adoption of hiring people online, and supports our prediction that one out of every three people hired in 2020 will be hired online,” said Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance. This survey emphasizes the importance of collaborative software in businesses.
Regarding the revenues of groupware systems usage, “the telecommunication Industry (TIA)(Tiaonline.org) indicates that global revenues from collaboration will show a 66.5 percent compound annual growth reaching $11.4 billion in 2007” (Turban, Leindner, Mclean, Wetherbe,2008).
This paper has been organized in the following way. The first section is devoted to classifications of groupware systems, and is divided in to 4 subsections. Each of them describes the separate classification method. The second section provides information about types and examples of organisational activities, supported by groupware systems. Third part of the essay explores possible directions of groupware systems development in the future. The final section will provide summary and concluding remarks. 1. Classification of groupware systems
Definition of groupware aggregates the variety of different tools, including spheres of communication, collaboration and cooperative work. Because of the omnitude of this term, there is some uncertainty of what exactly is included in groupware. Consequently, a lot of classification approaches were introduced. This section will be focused on some classification techniques to differentiate types of groupware. 1.1 Johansen’s Time-Space Matrix
According to this method, tools are differentiated by time and place. Any collaboration process can be held can be held in the same place, for instance, meeting room. If this is not the case, interaction between humans can be organized distantly. The example of this is video conferencing.
Analogously, regarding temporal dimensions, the process can be held synchronously (simultaneously), e.g. VoIP technology, and asynchronously, for example, email, agendas, etc.

Figure 1. Johansen time-space matrix (Johansen,1988)
Figure 1. Johansen time-space matrix (Johansen,1988)

As it is shown on fig. 1, tools are divided in 4 types: face to face interaction, synchronous distributed interaction, asynchronous interaction and asynchronous distributed interaction. For example, e-mail is an asynchronous tool, provided for people allocated remotely.
Along with rising complexity of systems, matrix is used to consider the system as a set of tools for solving each separate problem. As a result, it is not useful to analyze a complex system with opportunity to use several collaboration types. 1.2 Grudin’s and Andriessen’s classification’s
Classification provided by Grudin (Grudin, 1997) plays a role similar to time-space matrix. Similarly, types of activities are differentiated by spatial and temporal dimensions. The main difference is based on user’s knowledge, especially awareness of place and time. With reference to the place, groupware tools can support collaboration process at the same place. Likewise, applications can take place in ‘different but known places’ or ‘different but unknown places’. In case of temporal dimensions situation is identic.
Eric Andriessen expanded Johansen’s classification to a greater extent, providing 5 types of collaboration processes (Andriessen, 2003): * Person interchange processes: communication. * Task oriented processes: cooperation, coordination and information sharing. * Group oriented processes: social interactions. 1.3 3C model of Groupware
3C model was originally presented by Ellis et al. (1991). Collaboration is considered as three processes: communication, coordination and cooperation. Communication refers to information interchange among people (negotiation, making desicions); coordination relates to the management of users, their resources and activities (dealing with conflicts etc.); cooperation, which is joint operation of the group on a shared place (manipulating and generating cooperation objects). As it can be seen on figure 2, the cycle of collaboration is iterative.

Figure 2. 3C Collaboration model
According to functions of groupware, tools were presented in triangle scheme (see Fig.3) (Sauter et al, 1994).

Figure 3. Functional classification schema for groupware (Sauter et al, 1994)
Furthermore, they were divided in 4 system classes (Sauter et al, 1994): * Communication Systems. Tools supporting communication are message handling systems, for instance, e-mail, faxing, voice mail, Wikis, Web publishing, revision control * Shared Information Spaces. Groupware, that allows communication between groups, taking into consideration all three spheres of support. For example, data management system (in case of a shared project) and shared calendars. * Workflow Management. Groupware applications, which are focused on coordination support, which in turn is based on organizational rules. The main characteristics of group tasks are repetitiveness and clear structure, for example, processing of customer orders, online proofing, knowledge management systems etc. * Workgroup Computing. In comparison to Workflow Management, group tasks are more complex, focused on the field of goal-oriented collaboration. The main examples are electronic meeting systems, application sharing, data conferencing, group decision support systems etc. 1. Examples of organisational activities, supported by groupware systems
In contemporary world, a lot of companies use the computing power of their systems for analysing and sharing collected information. The main criterion of effectiveness in this environment is successful allocation of data in relation to organizational resources, for example, different departments or levels of employees. Groupware enables organizations to increase efficiency of work with currently possessed volumes of data, supporting the variety of processes in organization. 2.1 Information sharing tools
Often, companies distribute some of their functions between external organizations. In this case, priority is given to information exchange between internal and external stakeholders. The suitable example of this situation is retail industry. The British supermarket chain Asda uses web-based EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) technology for communication with suppliers. Web EDI allows real- time receiving orders and sending invoices. Furthermore, partial automation of work with suppliers lead to reduction of human factor and time expenditure.
Another example of coordination of mutual activity between suppliers and distributors is the point-of-sale (POS) system, which is used by one of the biggest clothing retailer “Zara”.
“The point-of-sale (POS) system records the information for each sale, and the information is transmitted to headquarters at the end of business day. Using a handheld device the Zara shop managers also report back daily to the designers a headquarters to let them know what has sold and what the customers wanted but couldn’t find. The information is used to determine which product lines and colours should be kept and which should be altered and dropped. The designers communicate directly with the production staff to plan for the incredible number of designs…”
“Case study – Zara: a dedicated follower of fashion” (Pearlson & Saunders, 2013, p.44-45)
This extract outlines main benefits of collaboration tool, more specifically, a cohesive collaboration among stakeholders and IT-enabled Just-in-time strategy. In aggregation, this benefits lead to enormous speed of demand analysis, which is highly valued in this business sphere. 2.2 Knowledge creation tools
Another aspect of collaboration in organization is knowledge creation. In that context, groupware applications support sharing existing knowledge and learning new. Knowledge can be divided into tacit (knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing) and explicit (knowledge that has been articulated, codified, and stored in certain media). Tools, including discussion groups, conferencing support, white boards etc., can support both types of knowledge. A good example from business environment is Cisco WebEx Social implementation in Virgin Media company (Cisco, 2012). As a result, employees have an opportunity to work with more than 130 WebEx Social communities to share and comment on documents, posts and recorded meetings. According to Virgin Media internal observations, “Employees prefer sharing and commenting on documents and posts in WebEx Social compared to email, because it preserves all related files and conversations in one place, saving 15 minutes daily” (Cisco, 2012). Obviously, social network greatly facilitates the joint work of the personnel in terms of creating new knowledge. Enterprise social media helps employees find co-workers who have a particular type of expertise anywhere in the organization, and then just click to send an instant message or call. “The best way to transform a company is to create connections between people who previously did not interact,” says Miles IT Technical Services Director, Virgin Media. (Cisco, 2012). 2.3 Knowledge management and Collaborative project management tools
In addition to the previously considered activities, it is important to pay attention to knowledge management, which is closely related to knowledge creation. This aspect refers to сo-ordination of the various ways information can be created or processed. Knowledge management (KM) is the process of capturing, developing, sharing, and effectively using organisational knowledge (Davenport, Thomas, 1994). KM efforts overlap with organisational learning, and may be distinguished from that by a greater focus on the management of knowledge as a strategic asset and a focus on encouraging the sharing of knowledge. (Maier, 2007) Considering the specificity of applications, tools are widely represented in the variety of spheres. For instance, educational sphere is provided with Learning Management Systems. According to my own experience, it is appropriate to highlight Blackboard Learn system, which is rated with 50,6% market share in educational sphere in 2011 (Flook, 2013). Blackboard provides users with collaboration functions, such as group discussion boards with opportunity of file exchange and real-time communication; scheduling to keep track of group tasks; group journal about current activity, which can be reviewed by teacher. With above mentioned functions, the management of knowledge sharing, scheduling of tasks and reporting to teacher is clearly allocated.
Collaborative project management tools (CPMT) are closely related to knowledge management, but in comparison to the latter it covers an overall process, management of all collaboration activities and related knowledge areas. 2. Groupware systems in the future
I strongly believe, that groupware will develop along with other spheres of information technology. In connection with the global expansion of the set of enterprises, groupware tools are highly dependent on connection to the Internet. According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Forecast (2012-2017), the average fixed broadband speed will increase 3.5-fold from 2012 – 2017, from 11.3 Mbps to 39 Mbps. Moreover, the average fixed broadband speed grew 30% from 2011 – 2012, from 8.7 Mbps to 11.3 Mbps . (2013) The similar trends are reviewed in the number of internet users, devices and connections. Incredible popularity and development of mobile devices sphere along with relatively new trends of IT culture can give rise to revolutionary approaches to collaboration software. In this part of essay, it is essential to review two trends, such as growing importance of mobile devices and Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. With the growing demand on mobile devices and use of cloud computing and desktop virtualization, there is a radical change in communications. (Table 1) Mobile collaboration provides employees with ability to effectively communicate remotely. In contradistinction to video conferencing, mobile collaboration supports broadband, wireless and cellular technologies. Furthermore, collaboration process can be supported by audio, video, telestration etc. Groupware systems that are supported by mobile platforms must be useful for employees with regular travelling. This trend inevitably leads to usage of privileged company information and network.
Table 1. Enterprise Communications are in the Midst of Great Sweeping Change (Cisco, 2012) 2012 | 2013 | 2015 | 2016 | 78% Of U.S white-collar workers use a mobile communications device | 90% of enterprises will support BYOD | 500M Tablets will be sold annually | 1.5B Mobile video users |

BYOD is the policy of allowing or encouraging employees to use personally owned mobile devices - and, increasingly laptops - to their workplace, and to use those devices to access enterprise data and systems.. Employees feel more comfortable, working with personal device and not being forced to use corporate one. That means an increase in productivity. Furthermore, users make an update of their devices with significant frequency, which means that their devices are more cutting-edge in comparison to corporate technology. Finally, BYOD reduces employer’s costs, shifting costs connected with mobile devices and data services.
Otherwise, there are some challenges connected with BYOD policy, Firstly, all tools must be cross-platform. The company must be ready to meet demands of the variety of operating systems, including mobile. Secondly, there is no control under data stored on the employee’s device. This aspect seriously hampers the maintenance of a high level of security. Finally, there is a variety of challenges about security. For example, if a user loses smartphone, untrusted parties can use an unsecured information on the phone. Another security problem occurs if an employee decides to leave the company, they do not have to return their device.
From my point of view, it is important to find a balance between building a reliable and centralized mobility policy, and giving freedom to employees. Furthermore, this solution have to be combined with the right planning and support degree. Only in this case, both parties can benefit.

Conclusion
All things considered, collaborative software can be regarded as a well-developed discipline with a wide variety of tools, which has a very promising vector of development in the foreseeable future. It is difficult to represent this topic within the essay in case of its diversity. In this paper I have identified some of classification approaches of groupware, including Johansen time-space matrix, Grudin’s and Andriessen’s classification and 3C model. Furthermore, on the basis of really implemented examples of collaborative tools there were considered some types of groupware, such as Information sharing tools. Knowledge creation tools, Knowledge management tools and Collaborative project management tools. The majority of groupware can be differentiated using these four types. In my opinion, having the set of collaborative tools is highly important for any organization. It can be evidenced in the example of Blackboard Learn, that along with individual methods of learning, there are tasks to be done in group and this kind of work requires a completely different kind of IT support.
As it was mentioned below, groupware has essential prerequisites for the development, such as 3-fold increase of indicators, which depict Internet activity. Moreover, another perspective of groupware is a significant growth of mobile applications market in this sphere, significantly caused by BYOD trend. This growth can be affected by difficulties connected with security. Important to mention, that the extent of these complications depends on the company itself.

List of References

1. Andriessen, J. H. E. (2003). “Working with Groupware. Understanding and Evaluating Collaboration Technology”. Springer. 2. Borko, F. (2008). Encyclopedia of Multimedia. (2nd ed.). Springer. 3. Cisco, (2012). Top Considerations for Collaboration from the Desk. Cisco IBSG Horizons Study. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from http://www.cisco.com/en/US/prod/collateral/voicesw/ps6788/phones/ps7193/white_paper_c11-721648.pdf 4. Cisco. (2012, November).Customer case study. Telecommunications and Digital Entertainment Provider Fosters Innovation Through Collaboration. Retrieved November 16, 2013, from http://www.static-cisco.com/assets/prod/webex/cases/virgin_mediav8cs.pdf 5. Consumer News and Business Channel. (2012, 14 june). The Great Shrinking Office? More Companies Hire Remote Workers: Survey. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://www.cnbc.com/id/47815587 6. Davenport, Thomas H. (2005). Thinking For A Living: How to get getter performance and results from knowledge workers. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. 7. Davenport, Thomas H. (1994). Saving IT's Soul: Human Centered Information Management. Harvard Business Review, 72 (2). 119–131. 8. Ellis, C. A., Gibbs, S. J. & Rein, G. L. (1991). Groupware - Some Issues and Experiences. Communications of the ACM, 34(1), 38-58. 9. Flook, B. (2013 May 3). Big changes are underway at Blackboard. Here's Jay Bhatt's plan. Washington Business Journal 10. Grudin, J. (1994). CSCW: History and Focus. IEEE Computer, 27, 19–26. 11. Johansen, R. (1988). “Groupware: Computer support for business teams.” New York: The Free Press. 12. Maier, R. (2007). Knowledge Management Systems: Information And Communication Technologies for knowledge Management, (3rd ed.), Berlin: Springer.. 13. Pearlson, K. & Saunders, C. (2013). Case study – Zara: a dedicated follower of fashion. In: Pearlson, K. & Saunders, C. (2013) . Managing Information Systems: Ten Essential Topics, 44-45. 14. Sauter, C., Mühlherr, T., Teufel, S. (1994): Socio-cultural impact of groupware. In:
Rauch, W., Strohmeier, F., Hiller, H., Schlögl, C. Information Science. p. 517-526. University of Konstanz. 15. Turban, E., Leindner, D., McLean, E., & Wetherbe, J. (2008). Information Technology for management: Transforming business in the digital ecomony. (6th ed.), New York: John Wiley & Sons.…...

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