Groupware

The processes by which organizations determine the kinds of information they need to achieve their business results are extremely complex. Technologies often predetermine the quality and efficiency of organizational decisions. Contrary to previous beliefs, organizational decisions concerning technologies and groupware are not always rational.

As a result, IT professionals must be aware of the contexts and environmental complexities affecting organizations and their decisions. How to choose and evaluate the best groupware is one of the most challenging tasks organizations must face. Simultaneously, the most important decisions about groupware are not about technology.

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Rather, these are people and work processes that predetermine the quality and productivity of groupware systems in organizations. Organizations must be able to address people issues that create confusion and prevent groupware systems from being effectively implemented in the workplace.

Technologies are indispensable ingredients of sustained profitability in organizations. Businesses adopt sophisticated technologies to meet their strategic objectives. The use of groupware has become a distinctive feature of the corporate reality: according to Miller (2004), “groupware is similar to other systems that enable document management, often using a centralized system to work through business collaboration processes to create budgets, etc”.

Groupware benefits organizations and facilitates collaboration in business environments (Miller, 2004). Businesses use groupware to track and manage documents (Miller, 2004). Groupware can become an excellent instrument of fast and productive search among thousands of documents, which organizations create on a daily basis.

How to choose and identify the best groupware systems is the most challenging task for organizations. The latter must define groupware requirements, and this process is very difficult and complex (Boehm, Grunbacher & Briggs, 2001). Defects in this process may lead to costly project failures (Boehm et al, 2001).

In the meantime, groupware systems that are properly installed and successfully embedded in organizational contexts cut down turnaround time for meetings and decisions, making organizations more responsive to customer needs (Strom, n.d.).

“Embedded” is the key word, since the success and efficiency of any groupware depends upon the degree, to which it fits the criteria and demands of the underlying business (Strom, n.d.). One and the same groupware project can demonstrate different results, depending on the organizational culture, in which it operates (Strom, n.d.).

This picture, however, is too rational to be real. Surprisingly or not, the implementation of groupware projects in organizations is far from being rational. Organizational contexts and climates do play a role in how groupware systems work, but people present a serious challenge to the quality and efficiency of groupware solutions.

Hills (2005) is correct: whenever organizations decide to develop and implement groupware, people issues can become a serious impediment to technical progress in business.

People are the most problematic aspect of groupware. IT people can successfully deal with technical issues, but it is always harder to deal with the issues involving people (Hills, 2005). People issues in groupware are not uncommon. Some organizations use groupware to downsize and replace their employees: as a result, the survivors may feel insecure about their employment prospects and fail to accept groupware as part of their daily workplace functions (Hills, 2005).

Groupware cannot serve an instrument of downsizing. Groupware is effective only when it supports people and helps them to improve productivity (Hills, 2005). Groupware is effective only when employees pursue collaboration and sharedness of knowledge in the workplace (Hills, 2005). Groupware cannot be effective, if employees resist and sabotage its implementation and use (Hills, 2005).

Part of this problem is that employees perceive groupware as a serious threat to employment and career growth or feel that technological changes will be extremely hard for them (Hills, 2005). Therefore, groupware efficiency is essentially about organizations’ capability to deal with people issues. Here, a few recommendations could be useful.

First, no groupware can be efficient, unless organizations promote and sustain a culture of collaboration and support. Only collaboration can guarantee that organizations are able to utilize the technical and strategic potential of groupware to the fullest. Second, according to Hills (2005), groupware can be effective only when employees feel secure.

Organizations must ensure that groupware supports and does not replace employees. “The role of IT is to support and coordinate and not to dictate and control” (Hills, 2005). Third, organizations must provide relevant support to anyone, who finds it difficult to cope with change (Hills, 2005).

Training, education, mentorship, peer support, and leadership training could become viable solutions to resistance problems in organizations. Finally, prior to developing and deploying groupware, IT professionals must acknowledge the irrationality of groupware-related decisions. A multitude of factors affects the relevance and efficiency of groupware systems, but people issues present the biggest challenge. IT specialists must adopt a new, people-oriented view, to be able to address the emerging people complexities in timely fashion.

Conclusion

The processes by which organizations determine the kinds of information they need to achieve their business objectives are extremely complex. Businesses adopt complex groupware solutions to achieve better results. How to choose and identify the best groupware is a difficult question. People often present the most serious challenge to the quality and efficiency of groupware systems. IT specialists must adopt a new, people-oriented view that enables them to address people complexities in timely fashion.

References

Boehm, B., Grunbacher, P. & Briggs, R.O. (2001). Developing groupware for requirements negotiation: Lessons learned. IEEE Software, 18(3), 46-55.

Hills, M. (2005). What’s so hard about groupware? Intranet Journal. Retrieved from
http://www.intranetjournal.com/features/groupware-1.shtml

Miller, J. (2004). Groupware: What works the way businesses do? Online Software Guide. Retrieved from http://www.onlinesoftwareguide.com/0705groupware.html

Strom, D. (n.d.). Groupware: Ready or not. Strom. Retrieved from
http://www.strom.com/pubwork/jf95.html

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