In recent years, both government and business have been experimenting with team-based organizations and work assignments organized around a complete service or administrative process. Since nearly every service follows an implicit order of action steps and information flow, government agencies have become increasingly interested in technologies to support group functioning and process-oriented operations.
This report presents the results of a series of prototyping experiments conducted by CTG and state agencies on custom workflow, project management, document management, and meeting support systems using groupware tools.
These general lessons emerged from the Groupware Testbed:
- Any system implementation which affects group functioning or repetitive work flow requires a careful analysis of business processes as a first step.
- In order to enhance group functioning, groupware demands changes in the way individuals work. There is a need for standardization in groupware use that does not exist in software tools designed to enhance individual productivity.
- Groupware systems are embedded in organizational processes. They often affect several organizational units and require acceptance and participation from all users beginning in the design stage and continuing through implementation.
- Groupware as a category of technology covers a broad range of tools and uses. Some groupware tools are far more sophisticated than others. Some work well within a narrow range of application (like DecisionWeb), others are designed to support organization-wide computing (like Lotus Notes). Effective use of any particular tool requires a full understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the product, the organizational needs it will address, and the degree of organizational and technical support which is required to use it effectively.
The Groupware Testbed Public Seminar was held at the University at Albany on May 25, 1994. The program included an introduction to of the Technology Testbeds, an overview of Groupware provided by the Gartner Group, and summary descriptions and demonstrations of each of the three phase I projects provided by the project teams. A hands-on review was held following the demonstrations.
Evaluations were completed at the closure of the event by fifty-three of the attendees. Of those who responded, ninety four percent indicated that they understood the objectives and structure of Technology Testbeds. All of those responding rated the briefing informative or very informative and ninety percent said the event met or exceeded their expectations. Expanding or improving their use of Groupware as a result of the information gathered during the seminar was expected by twenty percent of the respondents. Sixty-five percent said they would consider using groupware in the near future.
Written comments were provided by respondents on a range of topics. Feedback on the Gartner Group presentation was generally positive and reflected agreement that such overview presentations are necessary. Feedback on the groupware presentations were also positive and indicated that the primary goal of the event, dissemination and sharing of project experiences, had been met.
A sample of comments from the evaluations are indications that the event was successful in providing access to necessary information: "Gave me insight into this area of technology," "in a much better position to discuss it now," and "have gained knowledge as a basis for future decisions or recommendations on the uses of groupware."