A Managerial Perspective on Group Decision Support
Using alternative communications media raises very different sets of questions for managers. The important task for a manager who is implementing Communications-Driven DSS is to ask relevant questions related to how a proposed technology can support a decision group or work team. Let’s examine some group support technologies and various questions that should concern managers.
Audio conferencing. In a meeting that uses audio conferencing, how can you help participants have a sense of who is "present?" How can you sense when people have something to say so you can make sure that everyone has a chance to be heard? How many people can effectively participate in an audio conference?
Bulletin Boards and Web-Conferencing. Will managers use the technology? If so, how can you support an interesting and engaging conversation among people who don't access comments at the same time? How do you know when it's time to make a decision and how do you know when there is closure about a choice? How do you deal with conflict when everyone is participating at different times? What's the virtual equivalent of eye contact? How can participants build a culture that will support the distributed decision-making process?
Document sharing. How can you balance the need to access and process large amounts of information with the goal of developing relationships and trust among team members? Does document sharing help or hurt team building? Is document sharing different for internal and external users?
Electronic mail. Are managers currently using Email? What norms need to be established for things like response time and whether Email can be forwarded to others? What norms are important about who gets copied on Email messages and whether or not there are blind copies? How does the style of Email messages influence how people feel about the team? How can managers discourage "flaming", the sending of harsh and inflammatory messages?
GDSS and Computer-supported face-to-face meetings. If we hold such a meeting supported by a Group Decision Support System, how does the ability to contribute anonymous input affect the team? How can you test whether "consensus" in the group is meaningful or an artifact of the computer-supported session? How much training is needed? How much will the software be used?
Interactive Video. In a decision conference with video conferencing, how can you help participants feel comfortable with being on TV and being recorded? How can you manage a meeting with multiple remote participants at different locations to make sure that everyone has a chance to be heard?
The overriding question facing managers is "What group communication and collaboration support tools are appropriate or ‘best’ in a given situation?" In some ways, even this question is becoming less important because all of the above tools are converging in an integrated group support product. Having an integrated group support tool set will let participants choose different tools during a meeting without needing to change the software meeting environment.
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