International Association of Facilitators
1999 Annual Meeting
Williamsburg, Virginia, USA

January 14-17, 1999

Thread #4: Problem-solving and Decision-making
 

Using Technology to Assist Facilitation

Mark MacDonald
Central Intelligence Agency
6E23 OHB
Washington, DC 20505
(703) 482-8790
FAX (703) 482-3705
markmz@ucia.gov

 

Abstract

Can’t get everyone in your meetings to participate? Tired of transcribing people’s thoughts onto flipcharts, then retyping them later? Never enough time to accomplish your group’s objectives? If you have experienced these problems, then the addition of technology to your toolkit can help to overcome them.

The addition of information technology as an aid for facilitators can take many forms. Using a PC and a computer projector instead of a flipchart is one simple way many facilitators make use of technology. But introducing technology in group settings can be much more. Giving each participant a means of providing input in a group setting will add a major, powerful new dimension to any group session.

This paper will explore the advantages, disadvantages, costs and options for four technologies facilitators can use to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of group activities—group decision support systems or electronic meeting systems (GDSS/ EMS), interactive response keypad systems, decision support software, and web collaboration tools or teamware.
 

Contents  

Introduction

Section VII Considerations in procuring and operating a system

Section I Group decision support systems

Section VIII Where to find products

Section II Interactive response keypads

Conclusion

Section III Decision support tools

References

Section IV Teamware

Software Reviews

Section V Summary of advantages and drawbacks

About the Presenter

Section VI When and where should you use which technology

 

 

 

  Introduction

It seems like every couple of years there is a new category of software introduced and marketed to the business and government communities. Every new edition of these software categories introduces a new term into our lexicon—groupware, middleware, teamware, roomware, meetingware, vaporware, etc. Each term begins its life defining a very broad category of software, then, over time, it becomes more and more associated with one or two products. Or it never catches on. Take groupware for example. When the term was first introduced in the late 1980s, it defined every group-enabled software product—from Lotus Notes to e-mail to any database program. Now most people think of just two products in the category of groupware—Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange. Group decision support system is another term sometimes applied to Lotus Notes, sometimes to spreadsheet add-in modules. I prefer to use the following definition—an interactive computer-based system that facilitates the solution of unstructured problems by a set of decision makers working together as a group. [DeSantis, 1987] Electronic Meeting System (EMS) is yet another term introduced to distinguish software programs within the larger category of groupware. This term—introduced by Jay Nunamaker, a professor at the University of Arizona—is simply a network of PCs used to improve the communication and decision making that takes place in a traditional same-time/same-place or synchronous meeting. [Weatherall, 1996] It is these systems that will be discussed in the first section of this paper.
 
 

Sometimes referred to as electronic meeting systems, interactive response keypad systems do make use of a PC, but only one machine to run the system—the participants interact via a small TV remote-like keypad. The keypads may be directly wired to the computer or make use of wireless radio frequency transmissions. These systems are examined in Section II. Section III explores non-group enabled decision support software. This software would be operated by a facilitator based on input from the group they are working with.Section IV attempts to tackle one of the newest categories of ____-ware—teamware. Also referred to as web collaboration tools, these software solutions are the common person’s version 

of the powerful, but expensive, groupware packages. Making use of the internet or a companies intranet, these tools provide a group shared access to documents, discussions, and some real-time features such as chat, voting, and brainstorming. Sometimes this category is called meetingware, although GDSS/EMS packages could also fit that broad definition. In fact, interactive response keypad systems also fit nicely into the description of meetingware. So I will adopt this generic term throughout this paper when referring to any of the group-enabled technologies.

To understand how to differentiate among the group-enabled technologies, the following grid in Table 1 differentiates products based on where and when the group convenes. Tools for the traditional meeting fall into the same-time/same-place quadrant. While those tools for different-place environments aim to support dispersed team members wherever they may be geographically—down the hall, across town, or in another country.

Table 1

 

Same-Time

Different-Time

Same Place

GDSS/EMS

Keypad systems

Kiosks

GDSS/EMS*

Different Place

Teamware

Chat

Videoconferencing

Desktop video

GDSS/EMS*

Keypad systems*

E-mail

Lotus Notes

Internet newgroups

GDSS/EMS*
 
 

* Some capability in this area


 
 

My goal for this paper and presentation is that the reader can sift through these technologies—then be able to determine which tools could best complement your work.

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I Group decision support systems/electronic meeting systems

While most everyone has a networked or Internet-capable desktop PC these days, very few people have come across them in the traditional meeting room. Some people may bring their notebook PC to a meeting to take notes, give a presentation, reference documents, etc., but the chances of these PCs being networked together is very slim—especially if the meeting participants are from different organizations. An additional dimension becomes available to participants when they sit down in front of communication media (i.e., a networked notebook PC). Using their notebook PC connected together in a group decision support system (GDSS) or electronic meeting system (EMS) gives each participant complete anonymity, allows them to do their work in parallel, and fully documents all participants contributions. GDSS/EMS are computer applications specifically designed to help groups work more efficiently and effectively. Based on proven technology designed for decision support and analysis, groups come together in an electronic meeting environment supported by one or more facilitators specifically trained in the use of the technology. Participants are provided a forum in which to examine divergent issues, collaborate and share ideas on various facets of an issue, and develop consensus.

Since these systems are usually utilized in same-time/same-place meetings, they are typically based on a simple local area network of personal computers, usually one for each participant. Participants use the technology to support face-to-face work and possibly even distributed work. Distributed work occurs when participants are not meeting at the same time or in the same place. Face-to-face work often takes place in a specially equipped facility or an existing conference room augmented with a portable system. GDSS/EMS facilities often have one or more large public display screens (systems for geographically distributed participants often have software that substitutes for the public screen) [Nunamaker, 1998]

A GDSS/EMS could be traditional desktop units housed in specially built desks that recess the monitor down out of the line-of-sight of the participants (like in Figure 1). This would require the dedication of a conference room to the system. While this is the most economical way of acquiring a system (see Table 5 below), some organizations can not afford to devote conference space for a system—unless they are very committed to the use of the technology. Therefore, in the author’s opinion the ideal system to start with is one using notebook PCs. This type of system is compact and can be moved from room to room, transported to another location, and stored securely when not in use (notebook PCs have a tendency to walk away if not locked up!). This type of system is also ideal for an independent facilitator—since it can be easily transported to a client site or conference facility, set up/packed up quickly, and used non-intrusively with a group (Figure 2). An ideal portable system would use very lightweight notebook PCs with large active-matrix screens, radio frequency network cards, and one of the new lightweight computer projectors (See Table 5 for details and costs on some typical systems).

 

Figure 1 www.ventana.com

 

 

Figure 2 [Nunamaker, 1998]

 

Advantages

To understand the potential benefits of a system such as this, remember the last meeting you facilitated where a dozen or so people came together to work on a critical but politically sensitive problem. At this meeting you had a number of very vocal, extroverted individuals who, by golly, were going to say their piece. Now remember that even despite your excellent facilitating skills, everyone started talking at once. In the resulting chaos did everybody hear, understand, and remember everything that was said by all the other participants? Were all ideas considered strictly on their merits, regardless of who offered them, and did everybody give honest and open opinions, did nobody's feelings get hurt and did nobody feel pressured or threatened by either peers or their boss? Of course not! Clearly, this meeting would have been considered a failure, but had you used a GDSS/EMS you could have provided the communication support necessary to make it successful.

Anonymity Not knowing who said what helps to separate ideas from the politics behind them. Ideas can be weighted on their merits rather than on their source. This non-attribution allows participants to express their thoughts anonymously. Each member of a group tends to view problems from his or her own perspective, often to the detriment of the overall goal of the organization. GDSS/EMS groups often achieve a unified, shared vision of problems and solutions—something that's difficult with traditional meeting methods. Less skilled or introverted team members contribute and learn more. Issues are evaluated more objectively and more errors are caught. But anonymity is a dual-edged sword! Once given anonymity, any attempt to find out who said what in an anonymous session undermines the leader’s credibility and defeats the purpose of anonymous input, which is to solicit risky, unpopular, or opposing viewpoints. People often try to guess who said what in an anonymous session. Indeed, they are sometimes quite sure. Researchers at University of Arizona have shown, however, that such guesses are most often incorrect. [Nunamaker, 1998]

Who has the floor? We all do As the number of people in a conventional meeting increases, people spend more and more time waiting for a turn to speak. With little or no hope of getting the floor, some people withdraw, letting a few personalities dominate the discussion while good ideas go unspoken. In an electronic meeting the opportunity to express an idea is never lost—everyone can "talk at once" by typing into his or her computer. The networked system makes all contributions available to the other participants almost immediately. This means that people do not lose track of their own ideas while listening to someone else, nor do they lose track of what others are saying while trying to remember what they want to say when they get the floor. All contributions become part of an electronic transcript. Strong (or loud) personalities find it difficult to dominate a meeting or sidetrack it into unproductive or irrelevant issues. All participants have an equal opportunity to contribute.

Larger groups GDSS/EMS can dramatically increase the number of people that can participate in a meeting. A great many studies have shown that when a traditional meeting includes more than five or six people, the productivity drops. Each subsequent addition to the group further reduces productivity. GDSS/EMS permit dozens of people to work together effectively. Studies of groups using these systems have measured increases in productivity for groups as small as three, with increasing productivity for groups as large as sixty. Although an GDSS/EMS-supported meeting typically has somewhere between 10 and 40 people, practitioners in the field report having run successful electronically supported meetings for groups of more than 200. [Nunamaker, 1998]

Large groups working electronically also experience more instances of idea triggering. One person may say something that sparks an entirely new thought in someone else, a thought that might otherwise never have occurred. Furthermore, studies have shown that the quality of ideas generated is directly related to the number of ideas generated. Large groups supported by these systems have been shown to generate more ideas of higher quality than groups of any size that do not use electronic meeting support. [Nunamaker, 1998]

Instant record keeping Information generated in a GDSS/EMS session is recorded instantly on the computer equipment and it can be printed out on the spot or e-mailed immediately to others. The information is not someone else’s interpretation of the participants’ ideas, but rather their own words exactly as they typed them—typos and all. With instant record keeping, participants pay better attention to the topics, remember more, and have more complete information at their disposal. Having everything recorded is an asset when the meeting is interrupted or is held over a series of days or weeks. And the facilitator does not have to manually type up all those hand-scrawled notes from dozens of flipcharts!

Where it is used

So what group activities can be more effective and efficient when using one of these systems? Such activities include:
 
 

• Business process reengineering

• Negotiation

• Budgeting or resource allocation

• Organizational structuring

• Collective bargaining

• Performance reviews

• Conflict analysis

• Policy formulation

• Crisis management

• Problem solving

• Data and process modeling

• Product design

• Decision making

• Project planning

• Defining functional requirements

• Requirements analysis

• Downsizing or growth planning

• Strategic planning

• Personnel evaluations

• Systems analysis and design

• Leadership development

• Team building

[Bidgoli, 1996; Kettelhut, 1994; LaPlante, 1993; Marsh; Mattson, 1996; Nunamaker, 1998; Weatherall, 1996]

These systems employ not a single tool, but a collection of computer-based tools, each of which can structure and focus the thinking of team members in some unique way. The most common tool, electronic voting, can uncover patterns of consensus, and focus group discussion on patterns of disagreement. An idea organizer tool encourages a group to converge quickly on key issues and explore them in depth. Survey tools provide standardized questions to a group. Other more specialized tools include alternatives analysis, group writing, and shared whiteboards. For example, an electronic brainstorming tool encourages a group to diverge from standard patterns of thinking to generate as many unique ideas as possible. All users type their ideas into the system simultaneously, then the system randomly passes ideas from one person to the next. The participants can argue with or expand on the ideas they see, or can be inspired to a completely different line of thinking.

Moving a group towards their objective requires information gathering, idea generation, idea organization, and idea evaluation. These activities are often accompanied by idea exploration and exposition.[Nunamaker, 1998] These systems focus participant efforts on the activities appropriate to the task at hand. A facilitator can use any of several tools to support a given activity, depending on how they wish to structure the group dynamics. Moreover, each GDSS/EMS tool can be used in multiple ways to achieve different group dynamics effects. For example, an idea organizer tool can be used to generate a list of ideas that will later be evaluated with an electronic voting tool. But the same idea organizer tool can also be used to cull key concepts from a previous electronic brainstorming session and support parallel discussion of any key concepts.

Drawbacks

Procurement expense The experience of GDSS/EMS use is so different from traditional experience that people often can not visualize its usefulness even after thorough demonstrations. This is a case of where you really must experience it before you understand it. Some will use the cost to acquire a system to reject the possibility that the technology can be useful. Once they've used the tools, the benefits become readily apparent, but how does one go about convincing a skeptic to try? Cite the benefits listed above, rent a system, explore observations from others using the technology, but try to avoid the cost issue until the skeptics understand the technology enough to balance the merits against the cost.

Because, the costs to procure the hardware and software is so steep, it may be the main reason these systems have not become more widely adopted. But there are ways to keep the costs down. You can use your firm’s existing desktop PCs to establish a non-portable system. For a portable system, a notebook PC can be obtained today for at or near $1000. That’s brand new—a used or refurbished system from a leading vendor can be gotten for half that. The cost of the software then becomes the main factor. Most practitioners in this field will recommend that you rent before you buy. The GDSS/EMS software vendors usually rent hardware and experienced facilitators to let you try this technology on before you buy. There are also a number of independent facilitators with their own systems that you can use. Table 5 below details the costs associated with typical systems.

Anonymous input will become "flaming" sessions Some people worry that if participants are truly anonymous their comments can be inflammatory, prejudicial or crude. But people hesitate to type very serious inflammatory words when they know the results are being recorded. Also the screen can act as a buffer to the negative emotions that may accompany any criticism. Because nobody know where a particular idea came from people criticize the idea rather than the person who presented it. However, participant egos can get bruised and some people do have difficulty dealing with honest feedback. [Nunamaker, 1998]

Support of the leader Despite the safe haven it provides for most participants, these systems aren’t always so comfortable for the session leader or manager. Sometimes it takes courage for a manager to deal with the issues that surface in an anonymous meeting. It’s hard to learn to deal with unpleasant input, but if problems lie buried for too long, they may become intractable. A dysfunctional group or a group lead by a tyrannical manager will surely fail even if they use these systems. Make sure your management understands that these systems allow them to make more informed decisions and empower employees by including them in the decision-making process. Since shorter meetings are not guaranteed, promise better information and decisions that will eliminate the need for future meetings on the same subject. [DISA/OPIO, 1998]

Data Loss With these systems the attention to protect data from loss must be carried to a near religious passion. GDSS/EMS by its very nature is more prone to failure than stand-alone software. Hundreds or thousands of events occur simultaneously and randomly in the system, and the system is made up of dozens of computers all acting in concert. Computers fail, networks fail, and people using them fail. A meeting room full of busy senior executives will not tolerate systems that "hiccup". They will not be understanding when a morning’s work disappears in a puff of virtual smoke. In a large group, many person-days can be invested in a few hours of electronic collaboration. When the system goes down the data must be safe. This means that all contributions should be written to disk almost as soon as they are contributed. Nothing should be maintained solely in volatile memory. Furthermore, data should be stored in more than one location, and the system should be backed up frequently. [Nunamaker, 1998]

Role of the facilitator

The facilitator in a GDSS/EMS session provides four functions. First, this person provides technical support by initiating and terminating specific software tools and functions, and guiding the group through the technical aspects necessary to work on the task. This reduces the amount of training required of group members by removing one level of system complexity. For larger groups or groups with senior executives, technical support is usually provided by an additional technical facilitator or technographer. Second, the facilitator guides the meeting, maintains the agenda, and assesses the need for agenda changes. Third, the facilitator assists in agenda planning by working with the group and/or group leader to highlight the principal meeting objectives and develop an agenda to accomplish them. Specific GDSS/EMS tools are then mapped to each activity. The roles of the meeting leader/ facilitator may also change over time. As a group gains experience using the system, the need for technical support and agenda planning advice may decrease. Finally, the facilitator needs to set standards for use of the technology, develop training materials, train others, maintain the system, and act as champion for the technology.

Lessons learned from experienced GDSS/EMS facilitators:

Change locations and alternate between large and small groups to minimize burnout. [Nunamaker, 1998]

Myths

GDSS/EMS tools alone will not guarantee a group will reach its goals without skilled facilitators, strong preplanning, and the right participants. There are many myths about these systems. Here are some examples and observations.[DISA/OPIO, 1998]

These tools can solve problems for you GDSS/EMS tools do nothing by themselves. Subject matter experts solve problems by discussing issues and alternatives. The tools can be used to make the process more efficient and the results more effective.

Every technology-assisted session will be enjoyable or easy While facilitators make solving problems or analyzing issues easier for participants by providing a structured process, participants still have to do a lot of hard work to get results. In non-technology-assisted meetings, participants typically spend the majority of their time talking about what they think they are going to do, and minimal time actually achieving it. Participants in a facilitated technology-enabled session, on the other hand, spend almost all of their meeting time carrying out objectives.

Use these tools for every group session Some projects or tasks do not require collaborative work, in which case they probably do not require the use of these tools. Project status meetings, staff meetings, and other sessions where information is flowing primarily one-way are not candidates for this technology. If your leader or a higher authority has already decided upon the course of action, why have groups meet to propose this or another course of action? Why spend money and time on sessions where participants are not given the power or opportunity to influence the issue? Remember the key to using these systems is in the "GD" of GDSS—Group Decision.

Participants use computers 100% of the time Most people, upon entering a room full of computers, will expect to use the system for most, if not all, of the session. It is important to remember that these technologies are just another tool used to achieve meeting objectives. If a whiteboard or flipchart suits your purposes better, use them! Verbal discussion is still very important in GDSS/EMS sessions. A good mix of verbal discussion and heads-down work is ideal.

A facilitator who understands groups can use these tools without prior experience While understanding group dynamics is an important facilitation skill, the benefits and weaknesses of specific technology tools must also be understood to effectively plan and facilitate a session. Each tool has unique attributes applicable to different situations, which, when used effectively can help a group. However, using the wrong tool may provide no benefit and may even hinder the group’s progress. Therefore, knowledge and experience with these tools is important for any facilitator wishing to utilize them effectively.

Skipping pre-planning saves time and money Pre-planning is the most important part of any session. While this is true with any group decision making session, it is doubly important when using these technology tools. Pre-planning provides a session with initial structure, outlines session goals, identifies which tool(s) to use when, and ensures the logistical details are pinned down. Eliminating pre-planning would be like building a house without a foundation. Some experienced facilitators estimate spending two hours preplanning for every hour spent in an electronic meeting facility, while others estimate even longer.

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II Interactive response keypads

 

Even in very large groups, every participant wants to feel they can make a contribution. After all, they are devoting a scarce resource to the activity—their time. Asking for a show of hands, multivoting, and "thumbs up/thumbs down" are all techniques facilitators have used to get everyone’s input. But there are two major drawbacks for these simple techniques—participants can not remain anonymous and it doesn’t work very effectively for large groups. Now if every participant had a interactive response keypad in their hands, their "vote" could be anonymous and even a very large group of people could let their voices be heard. With a notebook PC, a radio frequency receiver (for wireless keypads), and a bunch of keypads, a facilitator could poll their group on any topic, have them rate alternatives, prioritize items, or categorize ideas. 

Organizations across the country are using interactive keypad systems extensively. By giving participants a chance to voice opinions anonymously, they're uncovering hidden areas of agreement and disagreement. And not least importantly, they're finding that interactivity can make sessions more engaging and more fun.

Advantages

Drawbacks

Wired or wireless

Wired systems are usually installed in a permanent facility for polling, but some vendors will come and set up a wired system for just one session. Wireless systems use radio frequencies to communicate with a receiver and are battery powered. A wired system is usually less expensive to acquire, especially where permanent installations are desired. For the portability and convenience of wireless models, you’ll pay somewhat more. Many suppliers offer wireless keypad systems in addition to their own hard-wired models.

Wired or wireless, most audience-response keypads resemble hand-held calculators or a large TV remote. They typically have numbered keys from 1 to 10, and some have additional keys for yes/no, true/false or multiple-choice questions. Some also have blank keys that can be programmed to perform special functions. Most have an LED or LCD indicator, so participants can see which response they just entered.

Built-in microphones are another feature found on some wired and wireless keypads. These are typically used to provide a voice link between the presenter and individual participants in large-venue, satellite conferencing or distance-learning environments.

A specialty feature found on some keypads is a continuous sampling dial or slider. This feature makes it possible to collect moment-to-moment group reactions to speeches, debates, movies, commercials, courtroom deliberations and other presentations. The participants’ feedback is sampled every second or so, and the averages are plotted on a scrolling line graph. Synchronous overlay software allows the graph to be replayed over the source material to illustrate the audience's reaction to any part of the presentation. [Hanke, 1998]

Cost

A basic wired-keypad system, complete with 16 to 25 keypads, a keypad interface box and the necessary software, can be purchased for as little as $5,000, although you'll pay more for certain hardware and software capabilities. Typically, you'll also need to supply a computer to run the system software and a projector or some other display device so you can share the results with your participants. For wireless keypad systems, the street price for a starter system with 20 keypads ranges from about $9,200 to $16,000 or more, depending on which software capabilities and keypad options you need. [Hanke, 1998]

You may decide that renting is more economical than buying. When you rent a system the vendor will provide the interactive response keypad system for your session, set up the keypads and interfaces, run the system using their software during the session, and provide you will reports after the session. Renting also allows a facilitator to try different systems before making a purchase.

Software is the difference

Software is what separates the vendors offering interactive response keypad systems. The system software, which resides on a host computer (usually your own notebook or desktop machine), determines the types of questions you can ask and controls how the questions and response graphs will appear on your display screen. Most vendors write their own system software, which means a wide range of options exist in terms of functionality, appearance and user-friendliness.

The system software's basic job is to display the questions, sort and tabulate the responses based on the information it receives from the interface box, and display the results in graphic form (usually a bar graph or pie chart). Audience polling is the most basic function of interactive response keypad systems and is used for presentation support, training, balloting and forum or town-hall events. [Hanke, 1998] Most audience-polling software includes data-manipulation features, making it possible to conduct demographic analyses based on previous audience responses and export the data to a spreadsheet.

Some advanced functions, such as strategic planning and group decision-making, are supported by some software packages. Another example is the pre- and post-session polling, in which questions are asked at the beginning of a session then are repeated at the end. Both results are displayed side-by-side to illustrate how the participant’s perceptions changed during the course of the session. Gaming applications that enable participants to play as individuals or as members of a team are also offered by a number of vendors.

The software for certain systems is built to support videoconferencing, distance learning, corporate training and other specialized functions, usually in conjunction with special interfaces and other auxiliary hardware. Some suppliers have systems that can mix the keypad software input with inputs from analog or digital video for group role-playing sessions and other mixed-media applications. [Hanke, 1998]

Issues to consider

Before buying a response keypad system, find out how much training you will need to operate it—and make sure you and your organization is willing to invest the necessary time and resources to make it usable. Some vendors include training courses in the price of their system.
 
 

Check with the vendor about hardware warranties, software upgrades and the availability of online or on-site support. Most of all, don’t expect an interactive response keypad system to cure all your organization’s or your client’s institutional ills. To get results, keypad systems require users who are willing to learn interactive meeting strategies and to spend extra time preparing for the sessions in which they're used. Successful implementation will require dedicated facilitators for whom the benefits of interactivity will win out over the burdens of yet another new technology. [Hanke, 1998]

 

Six tips for writing keypad questions

Keep it simple Avoid questions with multiple correct answers (such as "A and B, but not C") and questions that contain double negatives. Limiting the responses to two or three relevant answers will help ensure clean, easy-to-read results.

Take off the kid gloves Questions with legitimate and controversial response choices will engage your audience more effectively than questions with obvious answers. And if audience members perceive your questions to be superficial or unimportant, you risk offending them, losing their attention and giving them license to play games with their responses rather than having them tell you what they really think. 

Focus on gray areas Some of your best questions won't have a right or wrong answer; instead, they'll illustrate the diversity of opinions on the topic you're about to cover.

Don't overdo it Thoroughly discussing a handful of key questions is better than glossing over a lot of questions. If you are new to interactive-keypad systems, start with just a few questions. 

Acknowledge the results It's better not to ask a question at all than to risk offending your audience by not paying attention to their responses.

Be prepared Good planning for an interactive-keypad presentation should include anticipating the possible answers you might get to each of your questions. Think about what you'll do to keep the interactivity game in play should your audience throw you a curve ball.

These tips were compiled by Dr. Hilliard Jason, co-director of the Center for Instructional Support at the University of Colorado, and published in "Enhancing Your Presentations With the OptionFinder Audience Polling System," a white paper by Option Technologies Inc.

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III Decision support tools

Of all people, Marilyn Monroe may have gotten it right when she said, "Ever notice that ‘what the hell’ is always the right decision?" We constantly need to question our intuitions and hunches, and to not solely rely on our experience when confronting the challenges of an ever changing world. We sure would like data supporting and confirming our decisions. That’s why large corporations and government agencies rely on two types of decision support software: expensive simulation packages—also known as business intelligence systems—that turn their collective experience and intuitions into working models and decision support tools that help to clarify and sharpen priorities. Although the first of these tools are beyond the scope of this paper, every facilitator can afford to take advantage of some decision support software.

Decision support programs provide tools for clarifying, analyzing, and communicating to others the factors involved in choosing between complex alternatives. These alternatives must satisfy a host of different criteria (cost, convenience, reliability, flexibility, risk, and so on). [Gliedman, 1998] Most decision support packages are capable of far more than simply calculating the numerical scores of alternatives and ranking them based upon how well they stack up against the user's criteria. Most programs provide tools for letting the user tinker with the original decision model. The programs then adjust the results to confront users with the expected consequences of their choices. And because most of us are inconsistent in our judgments, some of these packages measure the degree of inconsistency in our assessments. (For example, we may rate Frank as more reliable than Jack and Jack more reliable than Bill, but still believe that Frank is less reliable than Bill.) Some packages also let you perform sensitivity analyses that show how the alternatives stack up when you change the weights assigned to different criteria. [Gliedman, 1998] In addition, some packages let you incorporate risk and uncertainty into your models by performing Monte Carlo simulations—a term that dates back to the Manhattan Project, when it was used as a code name for the laborious calculations required in the design of the first atomic bomb. In a Monte Carlo simulation, you specify the number of times that your model runs, along with the range and statistical distribution of the possible values that each variable in the model can take. Then, on each simulation run, your model draws at random a new set of values from the statistical distributions that you have defined for each of your variables. For example, on run 1 it might draw $10.15 from the pool of possible widget prices; on the next run it might draw $9.85, and so on. Eventually, when the simulation ends, you can see how your business model stacks up against the range of real-world conditions that it has encountered (cheap widgets, expensive widgets). In comparison, with a standard spreadsheet model, you must manually enter a new set of values each time you want to examine your model’s performance under a different set of conditions. [Gliedman, 1998]

A number of these software packages use as their underlying methodology the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP). This process—developed by Dr. Thomas Saaty—is a powerful and flexible decision making tool for complex, multi-criteria problems where both qualitative and quantitative aspects of a problem need to be incorporated. The AHP helps decision makers structure the important components of a problem into a hierarchical structure similar to a family tree. Then, by reducing complex decisions to a series of simple comparisons and rankings, then synthesizing the results, the AHP not only helps you arrive at the best decision, but also provides a clear rationale for the choice you made. Designed to reflect the way people actually think, the AHP was developed more than 20 years ago and continues to be one of the most widely used decision making theories.

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IV Teamware

Despite all the robust tools presented above, dispersed teams are on the increase and are crying out for support. According to the 3M Meeting Network (www.mmm.com/special/meetingnetwork), the amount of work done in teams has doubled in the past 10 years—about 40 percent of today’s workers are involved in teams. Not only is more being done in teams, but more teams include remote participants from various parts of their organizations—up fivefold to 25 percent. To support this rapid growth, software and hardware products tailored to the needs of dispersed teams are appearing almost everyday.

Everyone—whether you work for a Fortune 500 company, a four-person firm or you are an independent consultant—tends to do a lot of their work in ad hoc teams. And with outsourcing, telecommuting, and business partnerships, the demand for software solutions that facilitate work flow in small and fluid workgroups is growing. And don’t think we all won’t be working virtually one day—Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps in their book, Virtual Teams: Reaching Across Space, Time, and Organizations with Technology stated "In the coming decades, most people will work in virtual teams for at least some part of their jobs." In addition, these authors have added the penultimate version of our ____-ware terms—"Virtual teams are peopleware for the 21st century"

Working virtually is different

Dispersed teams do their work quite differently from co-located teams. While they may on certain occasions actually get together in the same room, where the team meets—whether in a meeting room or virtually—is where the work happens. [Creighton, 1998] Since they may work together for days, weeks, even months, they need a virtual meeting space where they can have a sense of continuity, progress, and group identity. They need the means to tap expertise outside the team, even if that person is across the world. Teams need a convenient way to distribute their work to others and to receive and act on their comments. Lastly, they need access to shared information resources and archives of what dispersed teams learned before them.

Dispersal brings together a host of special problems, especially for teams. For one thing, general U.S. business culture rewards competitive behavior more than teamwork. This is exacerbated in the dispersed model. Facilitating dispersed teams is also a new experience, one in which the old rules and standards of facilitation may not apply.

In a traditional organization, team members worked for the same employer, worked in the same building and worked together on a number of projects. Today, ad hoc teams are likely to be completely reformed for each project from the most qualified personnel—no matter where they are located or even who they work for. Physical separation and the transitory nature of this type of team weakens or breaks the glue that binds traditional project teams. As facilitators, how do we overcome this issue?

One way is to use software specifically designed to handle the needs of dispersed teams—software called teamware. Software makers are rushing these new tools to market. These tools are designed for groups using same-time/different place or different-time/different-place meetings. With teamware, you use Web access to build the team, gather and share ideas and documents, brainstorm, vote, keep schedules, and archive the results so you can keep institutional memory alive long after everyone on the project is gone.

What is teamware

Teamware—often called virtual-office products or web-enabled collaboration packages—offer many of the features of traditional groupware—minus the investment and need for IS support. Most provide a central meeting place on the Internet—or a company’s intranet—where all of a group’s communications and documents can reside. When you type in an internet location from a browser, you’re presented with a Web page that serves as your team’s common workspace. From there, you can perform a number of tasks, depending on the product you're using. You can review the team’s mission statement, check deadlines and instructions posted by the team leader, leave e-mail for other members, initiate or join a discussion or real-time conference, vote on an issue, comment on an existing document or post your own documents.

The benefits of teamware abound in terms of ease of use, cost, and performance. Most products require little time to set up—ranging from a few minutes to an hour. The prices of "hosted" versions, in which the vendor handles the server-side applications, range from a one-time $50 charge to a $5 to $25 monthly fee per user. The products require no IS support—one team member can perform the administrative duties, or the members can share these tasks. And the current software is fast enough to be usable across regular telephone lines. [Alwang, 1998]

No software tool can ever erase the challenges of working with dispersed groups. For now, however, Internet/intranet-based teamware can soften the blow. A good teamware package should meet several objectives: [Angus, 1998]

Current products take different approaches to the same goal. Some are available only as a rental. You rent it from your Internet service provider and pay per team member per month. Others are available only for an organization’s intranet. Other vendors offer both options.

Teamware vs. groupware

What’s the difference between groupware and teamware? Generally, groupware applications provide messaging and discussion tools for users in a large networked enterprise. Teamware applications focus on small, short-term working groups collaborating on a specific project. Teamware applications feature a more self-service environment in which the users minister to their own needs—groupware applications typically are centrally managed.

Virtual activities

So where and when is working virtually effective? Table 2 provides some guidelines:
 

Table 2

Activities

Together

Virtual

Celebrating

 

Collecting facts

 

Conveying the right direction

 

Course corrections

 

Diverse perspectives

 

Exploring new issues

 

Already familiar with each other

 

New team members

 

Familiar with task & process

 

Hand-offs, reassignments

 

Interpreting results

 

Large groups

 

Ongoing information sharing

 

Problem/goal definition

 

Registering opinions

 

Representing others

 

Reshaping information

 

Sharing information, reporting

 

Task & information interdependent

 

Ventana Corp., Leading a Distributed Meeting, http://www.ventana.com/html/lead_distr.html

 

It’s a matter of trust

Through personal interactions, people develop trusting relationships—important for any group working together. As important as positive relationships and high trust are in all teams, they are even more important in dispersed ones. Some face-to-face contact is necessary to establish trust and the higher the level of trust for a team, the greater the cohesiveness, satisfaction, and perceived effectiveness. (Jarvenpaa, 1996) One rule-of-thumb is to come together to build or repair trust. The lack of daily face-to-face time—which offers the opportunity to quickly clear things up—can heighten misunderstandings. For many distributed teams, trust has to substitute for hierarchical and bureaucratic controls. Trust can be established virtually, however, it is a fragile trust that must be reinforced by performance or else it will quickly erode. Dispersed teams will only succeed if they develop a high level of trust and work hard to maintain it.

To build trust among dispersed team members you must first create a shared sense of purpose—why the team exists, what it must do, when it will be done, and how the results will be used (the initial team kickoff should be done face-to-face if at all possible). The sharing of information can contribute greatly to the building of trust. The simple act of sharing information can demonstrate to other team members that you understand what is relevant, that you have summarized the information and advised others of its relevance, and that you had enough commitment to the team and its individual members to do so. You must also develop shared decision making. Everyone needs to experience that his or her thoughts and actions are important to the team’s success. Their contributions must be valued—even though this is difficult when their contributions appear as just a line of text on your screen. And you need to build expected norms for behavior—just what can team members expect in terms of communication, support, and respect. What will be tolerated? What new ground rules will apply to a dispersed team? When these are clear, people can work together successfully and solve issues rapidly because they have come to trust one another. To quote Charles Handy, "Virtuality requires trust to make it work—technology on its own is not enough." [Handy, 1995]

Recommendations for use of teamware

Many organizations can benefit significantly from teamware, but the sociological factors of how companies provide incentives to contributors and treat remote team members may outweigh any effect the software can have. Can your organization or your clients take advantage of teamware? Probably. Every company has nodes of people who are team-oriented. These groups would be a logical first choice to test a teamware concept. Especially if they are dispersed geographically or temporally.

If your projects are volatile and of short duration, try an ISP-hosted product—that way you off-load the administrative IS work to the ISP. Longer projects in which institutional knowledge needs to be captured for reuse, or in which customization is useful, will benefit from an application you own and run internally. Either way, though, the cost of entry is very low.

In fact, low entry cost may be the most important factor in the acceptance of teamware. As detailed in Section I, most GDSS/EMS products are expensive. While they have a much more robust toolset than any current teamware product, the cost of entry has been a big barrier to most folks. With teamware two barriers can be broken—the dispersed team and cost issues. Teamware software needs to evolve to include good idea generation, categorization, voting, decision trees, alternatives analysis, and conceptualization tools of current GDSS/EMS packages. Like Lotus Notes came to define groupware, the software maker that gets a robust teamware package to market may just define the teamware software category for themselves.

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V Summary of advantages and drawbacks

The advantages and disadvantages of these technologies are summarized in Table 3. The major advantages center around three themes:

Anonymity is perhaps the most powerful dimension these technologies provide. The entire dynamics of a group session will change once all participants realize what they are contributing is not attributable to them.

Parallelism is how tremendous time is saved during a session. By giving the participants the opportunity to work at their own pace and on topics where they have something to contribute, over half the time of traditional facilitated meetings can be eliminated. Researchers at the University of Arizona have shown that along with increasing meeting productivity by as much as 75%, parallel processing helps maintain concentration and reduces opportunities for any one participant to dominate a session. [Dennis, 1991] The parallel nature of the interaction increases participation. Participants sense they are part of the plan, that they are moving towards consensus and resolution and contribute wholeheartedly.

Documentation for the session is captured by the system and immediately available to all participants either as they leave the session (paper or computer disk) or it can be e-mailed to them immediately following the meeting.
 

Table 3

Advantages of using technology versus traditional group activities:

Some disadvantages of using technology:

Anonymity Since participants are anonymous, ideas rather than personalities or rank dominate a meeting. Risky or offbeat ideas can be generated. Less assertive participants can be more involved in decision-making (which increases morale and "buy-in"). And issues are discussed more candidly. Anonymity can enhance cultural diversity and minimize gender bias and can allow a "face saving" way for enemies to agree.

Parallel communication Since more than one person can "speak" during the meeting, a broader and more diverse discussion can occur. From this parallel input, tremendous amounts of meeting time can be saved while generating more creative solutions (a function of anonymity and synergy).

Other advantages include:

  • Complete documentation is available immediately at the end of a meeting (no transcribing)  
  • Groups go through their "forming" and "storming" developmental stages more quickly  
  • Through detailed pre-meeting planning, technology-assisted meetings are better focused, flow more smoothly and produce higher quality results 

People who enjoy debate may feel they were denied an opportunity to argue People who often dominate meetings feel unempowered by the level playing field of anonymity Articulate people who do not type may feel they had less opportunity for input than in a traditional meeting  A person may feel that they were coerced into a decision by the group More planning time is required and logistical requirements are increased. One or more trained facilitators are required.  Difficult to reward someone for quality input.
 
 
 
 
 
 

[Bidgoli, 1996; DISA/OPIO, 1998; DeSanctis, 1987; Gessner, 1994; Kettelhut, 1994; LaPlante, 1993; Marsh; Mattson, 1996; Nunamaker, 1998; Rousseau, 1998; Vogel, 1990; Weatherall, 1996]

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VI When and where should you use which technology

Use technology to enhance group activities if any of the following apply:

Do not use technology for these types of group activities:

In Table 4, I have summarized the methodology I use to determine which technology (GDSS/EMS or keypads or both) to use with a group.

Table 4

Group Size
 
 

Technology

SMALL

(8-20 participants)

MEDIUM

(20-50 participants)

LARGE

(50 participants)


 
 

Notebook PC LAN 
 
 
 
 

One PC/participant
 
 

Activities:

Collecting data

Group writing

Voting and surveying

Recording rationale for votes

Determining evaluation criteria

Evaluating alternatives

A

One PC/table of 8-10 participants or kiosks or system setup in breakout room*

Activities:

Collecting data
 
 

Voting and surveying

Recording rationale for votes 

Determining evaluation criteria 

Evaluating alternatives

B

One PC/table of 8-10 participants or kiosks or system setup in breakout room*

Activities:

Collecting data
 
 

Voting and surveying

Recording rationale for votes 
 
 
 
 

Evaluating alternatives

C

Notebook PC LAN and keypads 
 
 
 
 

One PC & keypad/participant
 
 

Activities:

Voting***

Collecting numerical data (surveying)***

Recording rationale for votes

Determining evaluation criteria

Weighting evaluation criteria

Evaluating alternatives

D

One PC & keypad**/table of 8-10 participants or kiosks or breakout room*

Activities:

Voting***

Collecting numerical data (surveying)***

Recording rationale for votes

Determining evaluation criteria
 
 

Evaluating alternatives

E

One PC & keypad**/table of 8-10 participants or kiosks or breakout room*

Activities:

Voting***

Collecting numerical data (surveying)***

Recording rationale for votes

Determining evaluation criteria
 
 

Evaluating alternatives

F

Keypads

One keypad/participant

Activities:

Voting and surveying***

Weighting evaluation criteria

Evaluating alternatives

G

One keypad**/table of 8-10 participants

Activities:

Voting and surveying***

Weighting evaluation criteria

Evaluating alternatives

H

One keypad**/table of 8-10 participants

Activities:

Voting and surveying***

Weighting evaluation criteria

Evaluating alternatives

I

* Three options for PC usage: one per table, a few (<20) PCs setup in back of room for participants to use during breaks (kiosks), or set up to 20 PCs in a breakout room and run subsets of the participants through the room.

** As another option, could use one keypad/participant to give every participant a "vote".

*** For these activities, basic polling software could be used. For other activities with keypads, a more robust group-enabled decision support package is necessary.

Group activities and where the technologies fit:

  • Traditional strategic planning - see A, B, D, E, G, or H  
  • Personnel evaluation (career service boards) - see A, D, or G  
  • Customer focus groups - see A, B, C, G, H, or I  
  • Business process redesign/process improvement - see A, D, or G 
  • Participative strategic planning - see C, F, or I  
  • Whole organizational change - see C, F, or I  
  • RFP preparation and proposal evaluation - see A, B, D, E, G, or H  
  • Resource allocation - see D, E, G, or H 

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VII Considerations in procuring and operating a system

When groups work face-to-face the design/layout of the physical space in which they work can contribute substantially to the success of the group. Permanent facilities range from the basic to the sublimely sophisticated, from the inexpensiveto the massively costly. An electronic meeting room need not be expensive to be successful, but there are some fundamentaldesign considerations that can make sure of successful use of the technology.

Public screens

The room to be used must have at least one public screen. You need a public screen(s) to focus the group’s attention away from their computers for open discussion, to share public information, and to view information not available on their individual computer screens. When more than one screen is available, facilitators can use the second screen to show overheads, provide a group view of a participant’s screen, display information from two EMS tools or present a public view of an external document. (Nunamaker, 1998]

Lighting

Lighting is an extremely important. Florescent lighting washes out the images on a projected public screen even with the new, very bright computer projectors. If you are designing or choosing a room, use incandescent lights and ensure they are focused on the areas that need light (walls and table) while not shining on the public screen. But too little light makes it difficult to see each other, the keyboards, or reference material. It is also important to ensure the room lights and windows do not cause glare on computer screens. Indirect lighting helps to reduce glare. [Martz, 1991]

Space Requirements

The key ingredient to your choice of rooms is the number of participants you plan to accommodate. Just because you can fit 20 notebook PCs on an existing conference table, does not mean you can hold an effective session with that many people crammed around the table. The rule of thumb for room space is [DISA/OPIO, 1998]:

Number of Participants

Room Size (feet)

12

24 x 22 feet

15

30 x 25

18

30 x 28

Once you arrange the tables ensure there is at least 6 feet open in the front of the room and 3 feet around the rest of the tables. Obviously the more space you have outside the tables the better.

Room arrangement

First and foremost, the participants must be able to see their computer’s screen clearly, but they must also be able to see one another clearly and have a clear line-of-sight to the public screen(s). Most facilities that are specifically built for electronic collaboration arrange the participants in a horseshoe shaped or "U" configuration. The other recommended configuration is the "C" (see Figure 3—U.S. Air Force Innovation Center at the Pentagon). This lessens the receive-information-only perception and allows participants to see each other easily as well see the
 
 

public screen at the open end of the horseshoe or "C". [DISA/OPIO, 1998] It also allows the facilitator to step into the middle of the horseshoe to gain the attention of the group. This is also the preferred configuration for temporary setups. The only drawback is the rats nest of wires that clutter the middle of the "U". Several other configuration have been tried in other EMS facilities with varying results. A standard meeting room with a conference table arrangement with the public display at one end of the table can serve satisfactorily. This focuses group attention quite well, but does not allow for very large groups. For large groups you can use table groupings, just eliminate the seats with their backs to the public screen.

Figure 3

 

In summary, use the following considerations in designing or using a room for an GDSS/EMS:

Table 5 lists the typical costs to procure a GDSS/EMS and wireless keypad systems.
 

Table 5

System

Components

Cost

Non-portable system for 15 participants

 

Equipment needed: 16 PCs (14 participants, 1 facilitator, 1 server), network cards, network hub ($300), computer projector ($4K), and cabling. For this lowest cost option, gather up just-replaced desktop PCs (no cost), purchase custom computer desks (with recessed monitor) @ $200 each, then purchase group collaboration software ($10K) [systems run from $1-15K] and server software ($2K).

HW: $7K

SW: $12K

TOTAL: $19K

Portable system using 15 notebook PCs

Equipment needed: 15 notebook PCs, 1 file server, network PCMCIA cards, network hub ($300), computer projector ($4K), and cabling. Purchase just-discontinued notebook PCs from a reputable vendor with a large (10.5" or greater) active matrix screen. Do not get a passive matrix screen. Speed of processor and hard drive size is not critical. You can currently get these for under $1500 each. Get a small portable file server ($1K). Purchase group collaboration software and server software.

HW: $27K

SW: $12K

TOTAL: $39K

Keypad System for 15 participants

Equipment needed: one notebook PC ($1500), one RF receiver ($2K), projector ($4K) and keypads ($300 each). Purchase keypad software (systems run from $4-16K).

HW: $12K

SW: $10K

TOTAL: $22K

 

The ideal participant notebook PC would combine a large active matrix screen with a comfortable keyboard, be extremely lightweight with a 6-8 hour battery life, and have a removable hard drive. Currently, you can purchase three-pound notebooks with a 10.5" TFT screen. Combine 15 of these machines with an additional battery and RF LAN cards and one small portable file server—then you would have the ideal portable system.

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VIII Where to find products

Susan Nurre from The Facilitator has prepared a good listing of products to support facilitation. [http://www.thefacilitator.com/htdocs/ems1.html] Other lists you can use to locate product include the following:

Decision Analysis Tools — http://pwp.starnetinc.com/larryg/decision.html

Decision Analysis Society pages

Yahoo, under Business and Economic Software

Software for Creativity & Idea Generation — www.ozemail.com.au/~caveman/Creative/Software/swindex.htm

Presentations magazine—Audience response systems: Where to get it — www.presentations.com/deliver/audience/1998/02/15_f3_inter_03.html

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Conclusion

Technologies that this paper explores exist today and permit team members to work any time, any place, and nearly anyway they want. Electronically supported groups can work as individuals linked by electronic media in a virtual meeting; they can be located in several different meeting rooms—or at their desks—that are connected electronically, they can work at the same time, or can work at different times. They can work in small groups of four or five, or they can work in very large groups of hundreds. And our culture is changing too—to one that demands participatory decision making. Leaders of tomorrow don’t want to make decisions solely on their gut instinct—they want the insight, ideas, and thoughts of those around them. And not just the opinions of their inner circles—large group interventions are on the increase as the preferred means of affecting organization change and responding to rapidly changing customer demands. The world of government and business is ripe for new ways of interacting.

However, today many of these technologies are developing independently of one another. In this paper, facilitation tools were divided in separate categories. Why doesn’t a GDSS/EMS incorporate one of the robust decision support tools? Why is teamware evolving like there hasn’t been work done on distributed meetings before there was a World Wide Web? Videoconferencing has advanced dramatically over the past ten years, but it is seldom integrated into distributed meeting software—you get visuals or data, but not both. I have yet to see a single package that combines individual and group support, remote and face-to-face collaboration, text, graphics, video, and voice links, and shared computer applications. Each working mode requires electronic tools specifically tailored to the situation. Each kind of collaboration requires different kinds of information. [Nunamaker, 1998] As we move into the future, all group support technologies will need to be integrated into the same working environment. That way, whether we facilitate a group in a real room or in a virtual one, we will have the electronic tools to successfully support the group in meeting their goals.

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References

Ackermann, Fran, Participants’ Perceptions on the Role of Facilitators Using Group Decision Support Systems, Group Decision and Negotiation, vol 5, 1996

Alwang, Greg, Instant Groupware, PC Magazine, February 10, 1998 www.pcmag.com

Angus, Jeff, Gallagher, Sean, Virtual Team Builders, InformationWeek, May 4, 1998 www.informationweek.com

Bidgoli, Hossein, A New Productivity Tool for the 90’s: Group Support Systems, Journal of Systems Management, July 1, 1996

Creighton, James L., Meeting Rooms of the Future, Group Computing Magazine, Sep/Oct 1998, www.groupcomputing.com

Defense Information Systems Agency, Operational Process Improvement Office (DISA/OPIO), Guide to Planning, Installing and Operating Group Decision Support Facilities, Final Report, February 1998

Dennis, Alan Robert, Parallelism, Anonymity, Structure, and Group Size in Electronic Meetings, a dissertation for PhD, University of Arizona, 1991.

DeSanctis, G., Gallupe B., A foundation for the study of group decision support systems, Management Science, Volume 33, 1987

Flexner, William, Why Should I Use Keypads?, The Facilitator, September 1995

Gessner, Steve, McNeilly, Mark, and Leskee, Bill, Using Electronic Meeting Systems for Collaborative Planning at IBM Rochester, Planning Review, January/February 1994

Gliedman, John, Deciding Factors, Computer Shopper, June 1998

Gopal, Abhijit, Pollard, Carol, Differences Between Workstations and Keypad Group Decision Support Systems: Implications for Keypad GSS Facilitators, Group Decision and Negotiation, vol 5, 1996

Handy, Charles, Trust and the Virtual Organization, Harvard Business Review, May/June 1995

Hanke, Jon, Interactive Keypads Shatter the Meeting-Room Shell, Presentations, February 1998

Jarvenpaa, S., Knoll, K., Leidner, D., Is Anybody Out There? The Development and Implications of Trust in Global Virtual Teams, Journal of Management Information Systems, Vol 14, 1998

Kettelhut, Michael, How to Avoid Misusing Electronic Meeting Support, Planning Review, July/August 1994

LaPlante, Alice, 90’s Style Brainstorming, Forbes ASAP Supplement, October 25, 1993

Lipnack, Jessica, Stamps, Jeffery, Virtual Teams: Reaching Across Space, Time, and Organizations with Technology, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997

Mankin, Don, Cohen, Susan, Bikson, Tora, Teams & Technology—Fullfilling the Promise of the New Organization, Harvard Business School Press, 1996

Martz, W., Chappell, D., Roberts, E., Nunamaker, J., Designing Integrated Information Facilities to Support Electronic Meetings, IEEE Procedings, 1991

Marsh, Brice, Computer-Assisted Collaboration in a Distributed Environment, unpublished paper, contact author at bmarsh@csc.com

Matson, Eric, Seven Sins of Deadly Meetings, Fast Company, April/May 1996

Mittleman, Daniel, Issues in Planning and Design of Technology-Supported Collaborative Meeting Environments, www.ventana.com/html/rooms.html

Nunamaker, Jay F. Jr., Briggs, Robert O., Mittleman, Daniel D., Electronic Meeting Systems: Ten Years of Lessons Learned, http://www.cmi.arizona.edu/users/_bbriggs/grid/decade.htmlhttp://www.cmi.arizona.edu/users/bbriggs/grid/decade.html. This paper also appears as Chapter 6 in David Coleman and Raman Khanna’s book, Groupware: Technologies and Applications, Prentice Hall Press, 1995.

Pollard, Carol, Electronic Meeting Systems: Specifications, Potential and Acquisition Strategies, Journal of Systems Management, May 1, 1996

Rousseau, Bryant, Better Meetings Thru Electronic Thinking, MeetingNews, April 6, 1998

Vogel, D. R., Martz, W. B., Nunamaker Jr., J. F., Grohowski, R. B., & McGoff, C., Electronic meeting system experience at IBM, Journal of Management Information Systems, 6, 3 (1990).

Weatherall, Alan, Nunamaker, Jay, Introduction to Electronic Meetings, 1996

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Software Reviews

The Right Tools for the Right Teams, PCWeek, July 15, 1998, www.pcweek.com (Involv Internet 3.0)

Virtual Team Builders, InformationWeek, May 4, 1998 & Keep Your Team in Touch, InformationWeek, May 11, 1998, www.informationweek.com (eRoom 2.0, Involv Internet, Instant Teamroom 1.5)

A Meeting of Minds, Inc., Sep 1997 (GroupSystems)

Product Review: Team Expert Choice, Group Computing Magazine, Jan/Feb 1997, www.groupcomputing.com

Web-Based Teamware Lets Users Work in Concert, Network Computing, March 15, 1998 (AltaVista Forum 98, Involv Internet, InTandem 3.5, TeamWARE Office)

Instant Groupware, PC Magazine, February 10, 1998, www.pcmag.com (eRoom, HotOffice, Involv Intranet, Netopia Virtual Office, Netscape Virtual Office, 3-2-1 Intranet!)

Create a Virtual Meeting Room, Windows Sources, July 1998, (eRoom 2.0)

Web Collaboration, PC Magazine, July 1998, www.pcmag.com, (eRoom, Involv Teamspace, Involv Intranet 3.0)

Weighing Pros and Cons, PC Magazine, September 9, 1997, www.pcmag.com, (Decision Grid 3.1, Analytica, DecideRight)

Deciding Factors, Computer Shopper, June 1998 (Decision Grid, Ergo, Expert Choice Pro, Crystal Ball Pro, Definitive Scenario, ithink Analyst)

Putting Risk Into the Picture, PCWeek, February 9, 1998, www.pcweek.com, (Crystal Ball 4.0)

Even the Best Tools Still Need Guidance, PCWeek, March 6, 1998, www.pcweek.com, (Decision Tools Pro, @Risk, Crystal Ball)

Team Up with the Web, PCComputing, October 1998, www.pccomputing.com, (eRoom 2.0)

Team-building on the fly, Byte, February 1998 (Faciliate.com, Involv Intranet, eRoom, Instant Teamroom, Teamwave Workplace)

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About the Presenter

Mark S. MacDonald is an internal consultant and facilitator with the Central Intelligence Agency, currently serving in the Agency Quality Office. He has been using a variety of technologies—GDSS/EMS, wireless keypads, and decision support software—to support process improvement teams, small and large group activities for the past four years. Prior to serving in the CIA, Mr. MacDonald was a management and technology consultant with Booz•Allen & Hamilton, where his clients included the Department of Defense, Federal Aviation Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. While an officer on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, he flew tactical fighter aircraft and served as a flight and simulator instructor. Mr. MacDonald holds Masters of Aerospace Science and Bachelors of Science in Physics degrees.

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