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September 24, 1999
Groupware: Putting the Web to workPriya Ganapati at Pragati Maidan
Though the technology has not taken off in a big way yet, the growth of Internet and intranets has companies wanting to maximise the use of groupware.
Sanjay Jain, chief technology officer, NetAcross Limited explains: "I would be amazed if in any organisation groupware technologies are not being used at all. Most organisations deploy them in some form or the other."
Jain delivered a 45-minute presentation that explored how groupware can be implemented across Intranets.
Jain elaborates: "Companies need to identify and prioritise their user needs. But before that it is important to identify and prioritise their infrastructure and operational needs. You have to evaluate your products based on parameters like the platform you are using and the standards that you would like to deploy."
Groupware technologies also need to be chosen for whether they are for specialised or general use and whether they are user-friendly.
Jain cautions: "Evaluate whether you are looking for a shrink wrapped product or component based one so that you can add modules later on. You need to also decide the deployment costs depending on whether you want to implement it yourself or have someone deploy it for you. But the key issues of stability and support remain."
The advantages that Intranet groupware presents is that it has extremely low costs that comes from open standards and because the groupware itself is browser based. As a result, the cost of training and support goes down too.
Access to groupware is available through a variety of platforms and services mobile phone users. But the challenges towards implementing groupware are many.
Jain points out: "The way we have been taught is that my schedule is private and for me only. Individual schedules no longer remain private with the introduction of groupware. They become public information. These tools are based on sharing information and they take away power centres. And most people do not like that."
However, groupware tools make geographical boundaries and time zones irrelevant. They help to work together across distances.
Jain adds: "They change the work culture in an organisation. The organisation becomes more open and honest. These tools help to create a flexible organisation with timely access to employees when they need any information."
He warns delegates: "Don't use these tools to rearrange your work process. Use them to complement your process. Introduce a reward system based on an individual's efforts. Don't start by just choosing technology. The answer depends on how you want to work together. Technology has to be a tool that will fit into your process."
Though most groupware tools today are used only for publishing data like schedules, Jain is optimistic that in future transactions, mission critical applications can be conducted using groupware technologies.
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