Title: Groupware and Cooperative Work: Problems and Prospects
Authors: Jonathan Grudin
Citation: The Art of Human Computer Interface Design, 1990
Reprinted in: Baecker, R.M., Readings in Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work 1993, pp. 97-105
Computer Applications that support groups are commonly known as groupware.
This paper looks at the various problems and the future prospects of
groupware and cooperative work. In the first half of this paper, the
author discusses problems that have led to expensive repeated failures
of groupware development projects. In the second half he discusses a
groupware success story that demonstrates the importance of focusing our
analysis on the work setting and provides a basis for speculating about
The author starts by discussing why groupware applications are more difficult to design and evaluate than single user applications. First of all it has the usual interface design problems. Also, all the members have varied backgrounds, preferences which makes a common solution difficult to determine. Another complication is that within a group individuals take on different roles. An important obstacle however is that once we enter the realms of group dynamics various social, motivational, political and economic factors come into the picture. The author then lists five factors which contribute to groupware failure.
An important issue brought up is that fact that most groupware applications are designed to benefit the managers. This also means additional work for the other workers, which is one of the main reason why a number of features are asked for by the marketplace but are never really used. Also, it is difficult to make conventions, knowledge and personal agendas that guide our actions available to the computer. This means that the computer performs at a great disadvantage.
The author then talks about a successful groupware application - email. According to the author, electronic mail avoids most of the problems that hinder most other groupware. He then discusses why it has been so successful.