Globalization and computing technologies have expanded product markets and changed business organizations. One change is that companies have become more geographically dispersed and this has created new challenges for managers. Also, changes in organizations and changes in the nature of the work performed by teams have increased significantly the importance of effective teams. Our concept of business relationships is also changing. Relationships between people inside an organization and people previously considered outside like customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders are increasingly interdependent.
Because of these changes, many organizations have discovered the value of collaborative work. Also, there is an increased emphasis on computer-supported tasks. Many companies want to make the knowledge of managers and experts available to those who need that knowledge.
The interaction of these various forces has resulted in an increased use of participative decision making, a greater use of temporary teams, and a greater use of technology to support geographically distributed teams. Groups and teams have become important means to increase the performance of organizations. For some groups and teams, Group Decision Support Systems, groupware and other communication and collaboration tools can improve the performance of team members.
For all of the above reasons, managers have implemented Group and Communications-Driven Decision Support Systems (CDSS). Because Group DSS (GDSS) and CDSS systems are usually purchased rather than developed in-house by companies, the focus in this chapter is on products and how they are used and implemented rather then on design and development of a proprietary group support system. This chapter emphasizes the various categories of group decision support situations, specific examples of group decision support tools, a managerial perspective on group decision support, a contingency theory of Group DSS, the benefits of Group Decision Support Systems, and the evolution of so-called "Virtual Organizations". Letís begin by examining key terms.