A powerful requirement for businesses to effectively compete in today’s global market place is the ability for collaboration between business units, work teams and individuals. The value of collaboration is its potential to contribute toward increasing productivity, reducing costs, growing profit and improve service or product quality (Alavi, M., 1994). Technology that has been designed to support collaborative group work is referred to as groupware. This impacts on the way people communicate with each other, the way people work and even the structure of an organization.
Groupware are technology based tools that facilitate groups of geographically dispersed people to share knowledge and information using computer based resources (Dennis et al., 1996). These tools allow humans to collaborate on projects where members may contribute directly or anonymously (Nunamaker et al., 1991). Groupware includes the ability to send and receive data, emails, share personal calendars, hold video conferencing and workflow management (Kilmer, 1999). Kilmer, (1999 ) states that popular products that fit into this category include Lotus Notes, email, intranet, internet, electronic conferencing and other collaborative tools.
Groupware allows for new organizational design and practices. It provides new potential for how work groups or teams can enhance their coordination when performing activities and assigned tasks. Groupware technology addresses the need for collaboration, human to human interaction and builds on the latest advances in information technology. The rapid development of groupware technology means the term is not clearly defined (Lloyd, P. 1994), essentially the term refers to any computer based technology that helps a group work better collaboratively over digital media (Lloyd, P. 1994).
According to Ellis et al., (1991) groupware falls into many categories from simple to complex systems. Ellis et al., (1991), distinguish two main categories when viewing groupware; time space and application level categories. Time space groupware are those tools conceived to enhance communication and collaboration within a real time interaction. The scenarios which encompass this include same time/same place, same time/different place, different time/same place and different time/different place (Ellis et al., 1991).
Groupware which are classified as same time/same place consist mostly of project management tools to plan and direct team member input. Same time/different place applications help team members who are all present but may be dispersed which include shared document applications and video or telephone conferencing. Groupware classified as different time/same place facilitates members who may only be available during certain time periods, yet are in the same relative location. Applications which assist in this include document management and group calendaring applications. Finally different time/different place explains the process...