The question of the “right” organizational form and the appropriate information systems support remains of paramount importance and still constitutes a challenge for virtually all organizations, regardless of industrial background. Organizations distribute their required work activities among groups of people (teams), with teams constituting the main building block for implementing the work (tasks). In most cases, team members are organized as “virtual (project) teams.” These teams are under heavy pressure to reduce time to market of their products and services and lower their coordination costs. Some characteristics of distributed virtual teams are that team (member) configurations change quite frequently and that team members report to different managers, maybe even in different organizations. From an information systems’ point of view, distributed virtual teams often are self-configuring networks of mobile and “fixed” people, devices, as well as applications. A newly emerging requirement is to facilitate not just mobility of content (i.e., to support a multitude of devices and connectivity modes) to team members, but also to provide contextual information on work activities to all distributed virtual team members (Dustdar, 2002a, 2002b, 2002c). By context, we mean traceable and continuous views of associations (relationships) between artifacts (e.g., documents, database records), resources (e.g., people, roles, skills), and business processes. Context is composed of information on the “who, when, how, and why.” The remainder of this chapter is organized as follows: The next section provides an overview of related work on classification systems of collaborative systems and provides an overview on evaluation aspects of current collaborative systems for virtual teamwork. Section 3 discusses some issues and problems related to the integration of artifacts, resources, and processes. Section 4 presents one proposed solution. Finally, Section 5 discusses some future trends and concludes the chapter.
Functional Classification Of Collaborative Systems
There has been a lot of work on classification models for collaborative systems. However, there is no one-and-agreed-upon taxonomy of analyzing and understanding collaborative systems. Academia and industry suggest various classification schemes. In industry, for example, people frequently use the term e-mail and groupware interchangeably. More generally, there is the tendency to classify categories of collaborative systems by naming a product (e.g., many use the terms Lotus Notes and groupware interchangeably). Academic research has suggested many different classification models. For a recent survey of collaborative application taxonomies, see Bafoutsou and Mentzas (2002). DeSanctis and Gallupe (1987), Ellis, Gibbs and Rein (1991), and Johansen (1988) suggest a two dimensional matrix based on time and place, where they differentiate between systems’ usage at same place/same time (e.g., electronic meeting rooms), same place/different time (e.g., newsgroups), different place/different time (e.g., workflow, e-mail), different place/same time (e.g., audio/video conferencing, shared editors). This classification model helps one to easily analyze many tools on the market today; however, it fails to provide detailed insights on collaborative work activities themselves, as well as their relationship to business processes. Ellis (2000) provides a functionally oriented taxonomy of collaborative systems that helps one to understand the integration issues of workflow and groupware systems. The classification system of Ellis (2000) provides a framework in which to understand the characteristics of collaborative systems and their technical implementations.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Role: In order to perform tasks, skills are required. A role is a collection of complementary skills.
Process-Awareness: (See knowledge trail)
Workflow: Comprises cases, resources, and triggers that relate to a particular process.
Task: An atomic process that is not divided further and is a logical unit of work.
Process: Indicates what tasks must be performed and in what order to complete a case.