What is Groupware and Collaboration? How to determine the best fit for your purpose?

Whether in hard times or the casual times, there are possibilities that you run work on group or team effort and you have no options other than collaboration. Whatever may the case be, we all need and use some kind of groupware and collaborative tools these days. Let’s explore what is groupware and collaboration in this article with the precise points to consider.
The Internet provides access to resources and information, but it can also provide a platform for working in collaboration with other people and organizations.
The applications for collaboration and communication on the web (social media) have evolved from simple email person to person transactions, to advanced tools for working in distributed groups using multimedia and complex databases for advanced project management techniques.
The term Groupware refers broadly to social media software applications that facilitate the interactions of working groups. The idea behind groupware is to foster collaboration in the group and make processes more efficient and productive.
With groupware you can provide group members with more options for obtaining, changing and sharing knowledge within the group, especially if you need to work with groups that are geographically distributed and cannot meet frequently in person.

Groupware and Collaboration Tools

There is a wide variety of groupware tools available on the Internet. Some of the most advanced tools require expert technical customization and support, while others are simple enough for beginners and are available for free or for a small fee.

Group Productivity and Collaboration Illustration
Group Productivity and Collaboration Illustration
Groupware applications can support interaction at three basic levels:

  1. Communication
    Allowing group members to stay in touch with each other. For example:
    Email, Email lists;
    Voice mail;
    Phone and Voice Over IP (communication via Internet);
    Text Chat;
    Video chat and Videoconferencing;
    Group blogs; and
    Web forums.
  2. Conferencing
    Allowing members to “meet” at the same time (synchronously) for active discussion. For example:
    Online chat and instant messaging;
    Video conference;
    Conference call; and
    Web meeting.
  3. Collaboration
    Allowing group members to add, modify and re-shape each other’s work. For example:
    Shared calendars;
    Wikis and other shared writing/editing tools;
    Project management tools; and
    Online documents.

How to opt for a proper groupware tool is lot of hard work and selecting the best fit groupware tool should be considered carefully. So, when looking for a groupware tool, think about:

  • your communication, conferencing and collaboration needs;
  • scale and complexity of the group project;
  • level of expertise of the group members on using Internet based tools and services;
  • technical and budget requirements to support different groupware tools;
  • different languages and time zones or the places where your group is located; and
  • different roles and leadership of the group and their relation with the collaboration tools.

Some part of this resource is taken from Web 2.0 and Social media for development, produced by imark for FAO.

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