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Book Contents

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

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Group Decision Support Situations

Group Decision Support Situations can be analyzed in a 2 by 2 matrix with the time dimension running on the Y-axis and the place dimension running along the X-axis. Table 8.1 categorizes GDSS and Groupware by time and place of use. The four situations include: same time/same place, same time/different place, different time/same place, and different time/different place.

In same time or real time meetings, communication occurs at the same time for all participants. In different time or asynchronous time meetings, communication occurs at different times. In same place meetings, people meet in the same room. In different place meetings, a meeting occurs where the participants are in geographically distributed locations. In real time meetings, we try to establish a WYSIWIS "What You See Is What I See" interaction. This concept is analogous to having two people at their own homes watching the same television show at the same time. Computer technology, especially Interactive Video, Chat and tools like Microsoft NetMeeting extend this concept and allow people to interact and communicate in a WYSIWIS environment.

Same Place

Different Place


Same Time

Decision Rooms

Computers with projector displays

Voting tools

Two-way video

Audio conferencing

White boards

Screen sharing



Different Time


Workstation software for shift work

Document sharing






Bulletin Boards




Voice mail

Table 8.1 Four Combinations of Group Decision Support

Same Time and Same Place

In this situation, support at the low end of the technology spectrum includes tools like computer projection systems that display computer images on a traditional white screen. On the high end are meeting rooms where each person has her own computer with appropriate software to assist during a meeting.

Same Time and Different Place

Studying same time and different place situations is an important research area. We need to understand how technology can support the growing business need for remote meetings. Shared workspaces are one support technology. It is based on the concept of "what you see is what I see". The idea is to allow people in geographically distributed locations to work together at the same time and see what other participants are doing. Video teleconferences allow participants to see and hear each other across great distances and give users more of a feeling of being in the same meeting room as the other participants. In a video conference participants can observe the facial expressions and body language that accompanies what participants hear. Video conferences are a richer communication channel than audio or text based interactions. A multi-participant video conference can provide support of a meeting where some participants are located at a distance from others. Microsoft NetMeeting supports both video conferencing and it has groupware capabilities.

Flagstar Bank, FSB won the 1997 Computerworld Smithsonian Award for its use of information technology in the Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate category. Flagstar Banks Lenders' Interactive Video Exchange (LIVE) project used Intel ProShare conferencing systems with automated underwriting DSS technologies. With LIVE a homebuyer at a branch bank and a loan underwriter at the central bank location can meet face-to-face using interactive video and get loans approved within an hour. Usually the loan approval process takes weeks and the prospective homeowner has no contact with the person who makes the decision.

Different Time and Same Place

Managers sometimes need to share information with a manager who worked on a prior shift. We need to investigate how computer software can support existing administrative, sequential decision-making and information filtering needs. Some groupware systems attempt to help managers make smooth transitions in shift work situations at places like hospitals and factories by facilitating group memory and charting progress so that there is a quick and smooth transition from one shift to the next.

Different Time and Different Place

Some managers need to collaborate over large distances and across time zones. The need for research in this group situation is increasing because of an on-going need for more coordination between geographically dispersed team members. Group voice mail, email, fax, conferencing software, internets/intranets and hypermedia allow users to communicate at different times even though they are in geographically distributed locations.

Buckman Laboratories, an industrial chemical company based in Memphis, Tennessee, has over 1200 employees around the world. The concept of sharing knowledge and best practices has been a concern at Buckman for many years. Buckman has a knowledge transfer system called K’Netix, the Buckman Knowledge Network. When employees need information or help, they just ask via forums, which are Buckman-only on-line forums. Conversations are the basis for transferring knowledge around the company. So the important conversations are captured. Volunteer experts identify the conversations that contain valuable information and, more importantly, valuable streams of reasoning. These are then edited to remove extraneous material, given key words, and stored in the forum library.

A business team may need Decision Support in all four of the above situations -- Same Time and Same Place, Same Time and Different Place, Different Time and Same Place, and Different Time and Different Place.

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