A Contingency Theory
Communications-Driven and Group Decision Support Systems address a number of problems associated with group communication and group decision making. The most basic systems address the problems of communication barriers and emphasize improving communication, idea formation, discussion, and messaging. More sophisticated systems add decision support modeling and group decision techniques to enhance the system. The most sophisticated systems provide for automated group communications, as well as capabilities for selecting and arranging rules for a meeting.
Research suggests that a meeting supported by a Group DSS can improve productivity of participants and result in more ideas. The effectiveness of a GDSS is a function of the design of the software, the composition and skills of group members, the task that is being supported, and the context of the meeting. Context refers to situational factors like the meeting room design, time pressures, and experience of and use of a facilitator.
Intuitively we know that no one set of tools or processes is best in all group decision making circumstances. DeSanctis and Gallupe present a typology with three dimensions that they argue are crucial for designing or choosing Group Support Software. The three dimensions are task type, group size, and group proximity.
The particular group task is an important factor to consider in CDSS and GDSS evaluation and selection. The attributes of the task determine the need for information and the communication practices in the group. Group goals and tasks include:
Table 8.2 A Matrix of Task Types and Media Types
Very small groups of 2 to 3 members that can meet face to face generally do not need extensive support from computerized tools. Very large groups may need much more sophisticated decision support tools than medium sized groups.
"Decision room" groups that can meet at the same time and same place probably do not need as many communication and decision aiding tools as distributed groups that are meeting at different times and in different places.
Task Type and Media Type
As mentioned in an earlier section, a wide variety of tools can support group communication and collaboration. A number of studies have examined the relationship between task type and media type. Table 8.2 summarizes current thinking about which media best fits which types of decision tasks. In general, computer mediated communication is a good fit for generating ideas and plans. Negotiating conflicts of interest should be done face-to-face and computer support is not necessarily helpful.