Information Management: The Organizational Dimension

By Michael J. Earl | Go to book overview

2 Groupware in Decision Support

PAUL ANAND


Introduction

The scope, rules, and technologies of organizational decision-making are changing rapidly--issues such as business reengineering, globalization, teamworking, networking, subcontracting, and privatization are just a few examples of the way in which organizations are now forced fundamentally to revise the way they design the nexus of internal and external relations that govern corporate life. The old idea of individuals relating through hierarchical direction and coming together on set occasions continues to wane under the rise of persuasion and negotiation as norms of social interaction. Finally, the exploitation of information technologies can transform the opportunities for such interactions to occur.

It is perhaps decision-making in groups that best allows us to explore some of these changes. In this chapter I shall review some of the ideas behind the growth1 of what has variously come to be known, inter alia, as collaborative working, group decision support, and groupware. Figure 2.1 shows the growth of interest in groupware and compared with other decision support technologies. The aim of the paper is to sketch an understanding of what group decision support is, and why we might need it and what we know about its effects. To understand the potential scope and impact of groupware, we do need to examine both theories of decision-making and the diffusion and adoption of new technologies.


The Decision-Making Task

Although good managers do much more than make good decisions, a broad view of the decision-making process provides a useful starting-point from which to understand what groups must do. The following list is a generalization of a taxonomy due to Herbert Simon ( Sprague 1980):

____________________
1
I am very grateful to Michael Earl for comments on earlier draft. Fig. 2.1 shows the growth of interest in Groupware compared with other decision support technologies. Human interface systems are those which rely on the use of human intermediaries--e.g, telephone banking.

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