Associate Professor, CSU

Group Support Systems

Work style and pace are changing as society moves into the next century. More reliance on the use of teams, in conjunction with the increase in business complexity and globalization requires cross-functional and inter-organizational interactions. Groups of skilled workers with diverse backgrounds are part of multi-functional teams that assist more focused organizational units. Companies hold team meetings as their main coordination and communication activities. The number of meetings held to exchange information is growing, along with increasing pressure to be productive. Although meetings are the most critical communication channel for many organizations, meetings are frequently viewed as time-consuming and unproductive experiences.

There is a growing recognition that computer support can enhance these meetings when individual group members work simultaneously and in parallel. An area of research which endeavors to support group work is Group Support Systems (GSS) and is technology which assists groups to work in real-time and in parallel. We believe that the DeSanctis and Gallupe definition for Group Decision Support Systems (GDSS),
" interactive computer-based system that facilitates the solution of unstructured problems by a set of decision-makers working together as a group"
is a subset of GSS; not all group work results in a decision. We also believe that
"...the use of computer technology to enhance work group activity"
(Computer Supported Collaborative Work - CSCW) is another subset of GSS; not all group activities require computers. The subsets may overlap as some systems can be used for both decision-making and collaborative work, depending on the task and the group process. Group Support Systems (GSS) support a range of different group activities.

Computer mediated communication (CMC) is one of them, and has been referred to as a Level I GSS. Individuals contribute opinions, comments and responses to the group by typing them in. One difference between a GSS meeting and a face to face meeting is that a GSS can provide the option for group members to contribute comments or messages anonymously.
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