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Book Contents

Ch. 8
Implementing Communications-Driven and Group Decision Support Systems

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Group Decision Support Systems Benefits

One of the best-known Group DSS is a product called GroupSystems. It was developed at the University of Arizona; and it is currently marketed by GroupSystems.com (http://www.groupsystems.com). GroupSystems is used at a number of corporations and universities. A computer-supported meeting room is typically set up with a workstation computer for each participant in the meeting. A large public screen provides viewing of shared information for participants in the meeting. The computer hardware is connected by a local area network. Meeting software provides support for creating an agenda, generating ideas, organizing ideas, evaluating and rating ideas and other group decision tasks.

Each participant in a face-to-face computer supported meeting can use the software concurrently and if it is desired provide input anonymously. The capability to anonymously input oneís ideas has been shown to encourage increased input of ideas and in some cases it leads to more creative ideas. One hopes that ideas will be evaluated solely on their own merits and anonymous input makes that more likely. Also, voting and rating of ideas occurs anonymously in GDSS and one hopes the participants are more likely to express their true assessment of ideas and situations that are controversial under these conditions.

William Bulkeley (1992) cites two examples of companies that have had good experiences using group support systems. He notes that Marriott Corporation was using a program called VisionQuest from Collaborative Technologies Corporation. Managers at Mariott reported that in the first 2 months of use, 1,000 people used the new meeting room for generating ideas. He also notes that Boeing used TeamFocus group software. TeamFocus was a version of Ventana GroupSystems marketed by IBM. Managers at Boeing claimed that using a group support system reduced the total time spent in meetings by 71 percent. Team projects involving meetings were also accomplished more quickly using computer support.

GTE uses GroupSystems.comís knowledge production line to generate hundreds of valuable ideas. Agilent Technologies recently migrated from GroupSystems to GroupSystems OnLine. The result has been an increase in the sharing and capturing of knowledge as well as an increase in productivity. Agilent has customized planning and project management methodologies built on GroupSystems to meet various department needs. Doug Stover, Virtual Team Groupware Systems Consultant for Agilent, says "We want to truly be a global organization. GroupSystems OnLine helps us support that mission".

Before groupware and GDSS are implemented, it is essential that management support its use. If top management does not believe GDSS, groupware and Communications-Driven DSS will benefit the organization then it will be difficult to persuade people to use the system. However, if management is behind the implementation and use the new tools then there are several positive effects that may be noticed. First, when group support is introduced in a company it should increase the productivity of its users. This is occurs because an increased amount of work can be accomplished in shorter amounts of time and because of enhanced communication between employees. Second, group support software facilitates teamwork through open communication. Third, some groupware products help document work information in a convenient location. Finally, Communications-Driven DSS can enhance communication between upper management and the rest of a companyís employees.

According to many proponents of computerized support, the main benefit of a Group Decision Support System is that it "saves you time and money". How does it accomplish this? Here are a few of the ways:

    • Simultaneous input leverages your team's time and creates better quality ideas.
    • The computer system records ideas for distribution and future work.
    • Process support facilitates completing team tasks faster.
    • In some cases a GDSS provides access to information that lets a group use outside data while working in the system.
    • Meeting can be held with the participants in the same room or spread around the world.
    • A videoconference allows a team member to discuss alternatives with remote team members.

The anticipated benefits of Communications-Driven DSS and Group Decision Support Systems are many. Actually realizing them can be somewhat challenging and it may be disruptive. One major change that has resulted from computerized group support is the creation or enabling of virtual organizations.

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