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Group collaboration is something that has been used in both educational learning and of course businesses. Effective collaboration allows for different thinking to take place between members, giving a project or an assignment different views from the backgrounds of its members. With technology also becoming a boom, many times groups aren't necessarily in the same room, the same city, or even the same country; this means that there needs to be ways so that the group can continue to work together.
But what exactly are the benefits of groupware, the software that helps to keep groups together? What is it?
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What is Groupware?
What exactly is groupware? Groupware is just another name for collaborative software, that is, software whose purpose is to bring employees together who are located in different locations globally. This type of software has two points, that of data storage and management and communication.
Groupware allows for the storage and management of data that will be used for either a meeting or group project, allowing for members to view and edit items that are a part of the groupware, whereas the communication aspect allows for members to leave comments, messages, review notes, and other items for their group members.
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Benefits of Groupware
There are many benefits of groupware, from giving groups a focused structure to helping to build communication between members as follows:
Provides Structure - one of the big problems that project groups have is that their goals and purpose for the project either isn't explained at the onset or members don't understand the purpose. This can lead to a project's failure because the group doesn't understand why they are working on it. With groupware products, members are able to view goals and purpose, as well having schedules set up so that members can keep on task.
Keeps Groups on Task - the whole point of groupware is allowing all group members with the necessary information that they need in order to get their project done. A project can easily fail when someone is not able to receive the information they need in order to finish their portion, which can considerably push back the deadline. With groupware, members are able to have access to that information and in most cases, make changes, review notes from the others, or leave notes that can help further the project along.
Fosters Creativity - collaboration allows for members to bring different ideas to the table, stemming from either experience or previous backgrounds, helping to incite new ideas that might branch off from one or many other ideas. Groupware allows this to continue, especially in the aspect that some members may not be able to meet face to face or at the same time. For some people, using groupware means they might seem more comfortable expressing their ideas, which then prevents groupthink.
Fosters Communication - above all, groupware helps to facilitate communication between group members. Many of the programs considered to be a part of groupware (such as Microsoft's Sharepoint) includes the use of an instant message client, which allows for members to talk to each other or even create a chatroom to discuss aspects of a project. There is also the ability to makes notes or comments to a section, allowing members to discuss certain points before coming to an agreed conclusion.
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The harmonizing benefits of groupware are of course to help group members stay connected even if they are able to meet with each other. Despite having these benefits, there can be some drawbacks in using groupware, so the choices should always be looked at to determine how groups will communicate with each other before a group is formed and of course what software to use and how members will be able to access it.
"Advantages of groupware applications & benefits of groupware tools." Web Conferencing Services, Collaboration Software & Web Meetings Guide. http://www.web-conferencing-zone.com/advantages-of-groupware-applications.htm (accessed March 14, 2011).
Image content @ Microsoft Sharepoint