ASIS Midyear '98 Proceedings

Collaboration Across Boundaries:
Theories, Strategies, and Technology

Managing Groupware:
Hosting and Appropriation


Groupware, software for supporting organization members performing work in collaborative fashion, has been around for more than 20 years. There are success stories of implementing packages for group communication and work flow support, such as those pertaining to Lotus Notes. On the other hand, this success is counter-balanced by instances of failed implementations of groupware. What can explain this contradiction and help practicing managers stir groupware toward desired objectives?

Some recent proposals coming from the CSCW research community, that typically has maintained an optimistic attitude toward groupware in the past ten years, voice caution. Even though no theory of groupware that could inform practice has been born, some instructive insights are offered. They are formulated in rather a non-traditional management language, that call for care, patience, and more thoughtful approach to groupware. Specifically, Claudio Ciborra (Teamwork & Groupware, 1996, editor) and colleagues propose an approach of "hosting" and "appropriating" groupware as a way of managing groupware in a direction that can be beneficial to organizations. The Ciborra book is a collection of case studies conducted in the US and W.Europe, conducted by Orlikowski, Bikson, and Ciborra, among others. The main stress of the book is that we do not know what can happen with groupware once it's placed into an organization. If groupware is not taken care of constantly, users aren't trained and motivated to use it, a flexibility in terms of outcomes of use isn't in place, patience is lacking, the users will drift to some other tools and groupware can be useless. In addition, beneficial outcomes of the groupware may deviate from management expectations.

The panel will bring up the research evidence on the use of groupware. It will also demonstrate the user experience with groupware (Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange, and Novell Groupwise). The third angle of looking at groupware will be the technical perspective, potentials and capabilities of technology, and the designer as seen by a groupware industry representative. These multiple angles, with help of moderation of the discussion, will hopefully create a more complete picture of groupware that can inform management practice.


Bob Travica, Indiana University

Paul Neff, Arlington Heights Memorial Library

Daniel Bednarek, GIGA Information Group

Moderator: Geoff McKim, Indiana University

Panel presented at the 1998 midyear meeting of the Association for Information Science, May 17-20, 1998, Orlando, Florida.

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Last updated 5/14/98

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