CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work

Paper Report

Title: Designing Group Enabled Applications: A Spreadsheet Application
Authors: I. Grief
Citation: In D. Coleman (Ed.), Groupware '92, pp.515-525 Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
Reprinted in: Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, pp.621-631, Edited by R.M. Baecker


Report

This article describes the extension of the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet and a separate "new" product, Chronicle, to support sharing of spreadsheet information. The general problem addressed is the annual budgeting planning process which takes place in most organizations. This process generally involves one central budget staff working with all of the departments throughout the organization. The information between typically exchanged via a budget template which is developed by the central budget department and requires information to be completed by the various departments.

The exchange of this information takes various forms, e.g. paper, shared network files, floppy disks, etc. but typically requires a great deal of coordination to keep the proper versions throughout this iterative process. This notion of versions exists at both the departmental and the organizational level. The department may be working with several different sets of assumptions covering items such as income and expense.

The design project resulted in a multi-stage plan for workgroup enabling spreadsheets which integrate the spreadsheet with communications software. The work was completed in two phases. First the notion of an alternative scenario is implemented as part of the standard worksheet. This allows the use of cell ranges which can be saved as alternatives or scenarios without duplicating the entire worksheet. Second the file sharing is upgraded suing database technology to support concurrency and access control.

The authors state that they believe that the requirements for structure, versions, and user identity which were incorporated into the spreadsheet can be generalized to other applications and project the wide appearance of such features in the future as group-enabled products appear on desktops of individuals.

Report prepared by: Gary Baker Email: sadiki@tamu.edu
Discussion date: 3/19/97            Report date: 3/2597