According to Chen & Kyaw-Phyo (2012), a group decision support system can be defined as a form of electronic meeting system that can be used to facilitate meetings and group work. It has been postulated that a group decision system can be classified on the basis of time-place paradigm. The system may be modified to respond to the various needs of the clients including synchronous and asynchronous communication, as well as local and distant communication.
According to Heninger, Dennis & Hilmer (2006), there are so many advantages that can be cited for using the group support system. Firstly, it is said that it facilitates more precision and clarity when communicating. This makes it very effective as a means of communication. Additionally, it is adduced that the group support system can be used to enhance synergy in the group. Another very critical aspect that is provided by the system is the enhancement in the assessment of the ideas forwarded by the group members. Group members are able to contribute their ideas comfortably without any fear. Moreover, the system motivates the group members to generate the required responses that are related to the objectives of the meeting. In addition, the system provides an environment that promotes the learning of new concepts (Huber, 1984).
However, as it is common with other systems, there are some drawbacks that are associated with the group support system. One of the apparent drawbacks is that it may result in information overload. Similarly, the system can lead to a situation in which there is incomplete use of the ideas that are forwarded by the members. It has also been adduced that the system does not provide for a means of giving cues that may be used to motivate the group members to generate ideas, as may be required. As compared to the traditional methods that are used in group discussions, the method does not enhance faster responses.
According to Lam & Schaubroeck (2000), there are other costs that can be minimised by the use of the group support systems. In this regard, the system is instrumental in reducing the factors that hinder the group members from being attentive. At the same time, the system helps the members not to be pressured into conforming to the others members’ points of view. The system is also not very conducive for those members who may wish to socialise with others, as it is known that socialising is one of the greatest drawbacks of the traditional method. This is because it leads to time wastage. Another way in which this system reduces the costs that are associated with the traditional method is that it does not encourage the domination of one member over the others.
Shi, Qi Ping & Xiaochun (2010) contend that the use of group support systems can be instrumental in enhancing the position of the organization in the market. This is probably due to the fact that it can be used to enhance the interactions between members during group discussions as well as improve the decision making process. This goal is consistent with the objectives of the business which include reducing costs, compete globally, and enhancing the quality of goods and services that are provided to the customers. To understand the role of the group support system, it is important to appreciate the role of group discussions in the formulation of policies and budget plans. In addition, it is also critical to note that group discussions facilitate the learning process in the organization. For this reason, the group discussion system brings down the geographical barriers that could impede or even prevent the group discussions from taking place. Consequently, group support system can be defined as a computer aided technology that facilitates the exchange of ideas between people that are in different geographical areas. In this regard, group support system provides applications that can be used to enhance brainstorming, categorizing, and analysing the alternatives that may be available for the organization. Consequently, the system is very efficient in helping the members of the organization to share information, and evaluate the merits of that information that can then be used to make decisions. These decisions are very critical since they help the company to chart the way forward. In addition, the organizations use these systems in order to reduce the costs that come with the group discussions. This has the effect of improving the company’s bottom line, which is profitability (Shichao, Qiping & Kelly, 2008).
A study was undertaken in a bid to establish the usefulness of the group support system. The results of the study showed that the system is very effective and it leads to massive time savings for the entities that make use of it. However, there is a concern in that the system does away with the face to face communication that we are so much accustomed to. The challenge is to overcome the challenges that come with the elimination of the face to face communication.
It has been suggested that group discussions are very important since they facilitate the formulation of the right policies for the company, which can help in giving it a competitive edge over the other companies that are involved in the provision of the same goods and services. In circumstances where the group support systems (GSS) are used or the purpose of decision making, they are aptly referred to as the group decision support systems (GDSS). In this regard, the system will provide for the right platforms to facilitate formulation of alternative decisions as well as providing the means of ranking the relative benefits of each decision. In this way, the organization is better placed to make the right decisions that will help it to achieve its organizational goals and objectives. All these are facilitated by this system that enables the group members to exchange their views in form of written messages rather than having to meet in one place and exchange their views verbally. In this way, the interaction between the members of the organization is enhanced, since they cannot be hold back from communicating by geographical barriers. It can, therefore, be seen that a GSS is a software tool that can be used to facilitate and direct the deliberations by the members of an organization, while at the same time helping the organisation to bring down the costs that are associated with the setting up a physical meeting. Additionally, the software is also very effective in reducing the distraction that could impede the effective exchange of ideas between the members.
Nunamaker, Applegate & Konsynski (1987) contend that there are other benefits that can be realized because of the use of the group support systems which include: parallel communication, recording of the proceedings of the meeting and also the possibility of anonymous contribution to the group. The latter is particularly advantageous to those who might be afraid of expressing their views publicly. Consequently, the organization can benefit greatly by tapping into the potential of every member of the group. For this reason, it can be seen that anonymity can have the effect of enhancing the participation of all the members of the organization. It has also been postulated that brainstorming, on the electronic platform provided by the group support system, is more superior in terms of generating better ideas than verbal brainstorming or even what is referred to as nominal group. The advantages of the electronic brainstroming stem from the fact that they capitalise on the benefits of working alone.
The various types of group decision support systems
Tung & Jarke (1986) adduce that the various types of group support system can be classified into decision room, legislative session, computer facilitated conference, and local area decision network. A decision room can be described as a setting where a small group of people are involved in a face to face meeting. On the other hand, a local area decision network is used in situations where the people cannot meet in a face to face meeting because they are in different geographical areas. A legislative session takes place when the number of people who should participate in a meeting are too many such that they cannot fit into a single room. Additionally, a computer facilitated conference is used to connect a large group of people that may be dispersed over a wide geographical area. For this reason, this type of group support system makes use of aspects such as audio and video conferencing. Using this method of meeting electronically, all the members of the group are able to send their ideas to a central database. At the same time, the other members of the group can respond to the issues raised. At the end of the day, the decision that will be arrived at will be after thorough consultations have taken place.
The various types of GSS, on the other hand, can be categorized in terms of time/space framework. Time denotes when the members of the group get an opportunity to interact. However, space describes the place where the interactions take place. One type of GSS is the web based GSS, whose platform for communication is the web or the internet. At the same time, the GSS can be categorized as e-collaboration since it makes use of computer aided systems.
Merits and demerits of Group support system
Post (1992) postulates that the group support system is instrumental in increasing productivity, and the level of interaction in organization. At the same time, GSS is a very effective method of meeting since it cuts down on the time and the resources that would have been used using the traditional approach. Other advantages include the fact that GSS provides anonymity which is very instrumental in helping every member of the group to open up and give their ideas. Therefore, it can be seen that the anonymity aspect that is provided by the system enhances the interaction of the members during the meeting.
Additionally, GSS allows parallel communication to take place. This is whereby the participants are able to give their opinions as long as the meeting is still in progress. This implies that they do not have to pause and wait for the others to give their points of view. This is particularly helpful in that if someone happens to stumble upon an idea, they have an opportunity to air it out before they forget. Additionally, the system enables the participants to air out their view without having to be compelled to conform to a particular opinion. It has also been adduced that in traditional meetings every member is only given a few minutes to express their views. On the other hand, in the GSS the members are allowed to give their ideas throughout the time that the meeting is in session.
Another benefit that comes with the use of the GSS is that it enhances the group synergy since the various members in the group have different levels of knowledge and skills. In this way, an idea by one member can be used in a way that he never even anticipated because the other members can contribute in improving it. The other advantage that is associated with the GSS is that it provides for a means of recording the proceedings of the meetings as well as the votes ranking on the ideas. It has also been said that the system provides for a structure that enables the meeting not to deviate from the set goals. This enhances the possibility that the organization will be able to get the most appropriate decision.
One of the major drawbacks is that the system slows down communication. Other disadvantages include inflexibility, escalation in conflict, failure to use the technology appropriately, as well as lack of media richness. The slowing down of the communication arises out of the fact that people keyboarding skills are different. As a result, some people are more likely to communicate faster than those who are challenged in terms of keyboarding skills (Dennis, Tyran, Vogel & Nunamaker, 1997).
In addition, it must be noted that the system is more efficient when a large number of people are involved. It is not efficient in situation in which the number of participants is not large. Another disadvantage that is associated with GSS is the fact that people are usually resistant to change. They might not be comfortable with the shift into computer based meetings, and they might even be skeptical about its efficiency and reliability. For this reason, the implementation of the GSS may not take off as would be expected. Moreover, those top level managers, who might not be conversant with the new technology, might not support it fully.
Another aspect that should be noted is that it relies more on written form of communication and ignores other forms of communication like the body language and the facial expression, which may help in clarification of the message relayed. It can also be argued that people prefer a face to face meeting as opposed to the meeting that is facilitated by the GSS, where people interact on an electronic platform.
According to Hayne, Pollard & Rice (2003), the issue of anonymity may also breed contention because some people might abuse that aspect, and they can be very critical in their comments. This may slow down the ability of the company to come up with the most appropriate ideas. Again, some people may use this aspect to put up a front that a lot of people support a particular comment even if that might not be the correct position. It must also be noted that people who like to dominate in face to face meetings may not find the GSS interesting, as a result of the fact that they may not be able to convey their ideas. Another drawback is that the system is very expensive to acquire and to install. This may discourage some organization who may wish to install this system. Therefore, this cost should be justifiable in terms of the benefits that the organization is likely to realize by making use of it consistently.
It can be seen that there are advantages and disadvantages that are associated with the use of the GSS. However, the disadvantages should not be deterrents for those organizations that may wish to implement the system. The disadvantages are only meant to be informative, and to help the organization to look for ways of overcoming them, prior to implementation. However, it must also be pointed out that the benefits that are likely to be accrued.
Group support system technologies
Dennis, George, Jessup, Nunamaker & Vogel (1988) contend there are some softwares that can be used to facilitate GSS. They include WebDemo, Sametime, eRoom, Microsoft NetMeeting, Interwise, Groove, PlaceWare, WebEx and GroupSystems. Each of this software has special features, which are useful for the needs of a particular organization. Additionally, the internet users have a range of opportunities to make use of the e-collaboration feature of GSS.
Looking at the group system software, it allows for brainstorming as well as enhancing the aspects of anonymity, ranking and voting. It is also very instrumental in helping the organization to put up meetings that are not face to face in nature. In addition, it allows for a large number of people to be engaged in the problem solving process. It also provides for structured meetings that are very essential in the decision making and the problem solving processes. It must also be pointed out that, when required, the system can include the feature of anonymity. A major advantage of this system is that it leads to massive savings in costs that are associated with the traditional face to face meetings.
It has also been said that the Group Systems software provides so many features that puts it head over shoulder over the other software used for GSS. Software such as the Microsoft’s Net Meeting provides for the video conferencing facility, desktop sharing as well as the fact that it enhances the security of the software used for GSS. In order to enhance the security that is provided by this software, it makes use of data encryption, user authentication, and password protection. That notwithstanding, the software has audio and visual enhancements that allows people to communicate over the electronic platform. At the same time, the white board allows the members to interact with the others using graphic information. In addition, the remote desktop sharing allows for the users to use the remote computer to access the applications that have been installed therein.
Therefore, it is apparent that the organization will need to carry out a study on the existing software that can support GSS. This will help them to determine whether the software that has been selected can be applied. Most of these systems are designed in such a way that they can only fit into a particular type of business. In this way, the organization will be able to select the most appropriate software that is responsive to their needs.
Title searches, Articles, Research Documents, and Journal Researched
The research was done using academic journals to gather the required information. The materials were chosen on the basis of how appropriate they were to the topic under study. The materials were supposed to provide information on the applicability of the GSS, as well as on how the system is able to cut the cost associated with the traditional meetings that have been in use. This information can help in the determination of the appropriateness of the system for the organizations. Most of the research was done using the term Group Support System as the title search. From this, one can narrow down to the specific area that needs to be researched on.
The major thrust of the paper is to investigate the group support systems, and how it influences the productivity of the group and that of the individuals. Secondly, there is a need to understand whether by applying the GSS, the negative effects of the traditional face to face meetings will be reduced. Again, the paper will help in understanding how the GSS helps in enhancing job satisfaction, motivation and effective communication among the members of the organization. To help in the understanding of these objectives, the following questions will be addressed.
- How should the GSS be implemented in order to be effective at improving the prospects of the organization as well as improve the outcomes of the meetings?
- What is the role of the GSS in improving the job satisfaction and productivity in an organization?
- What role does GSS play in the enhancement of the efficiency of the organization?
- In what way does GSS help in the cutting down of the costs of setting up physical meetings?
These questions will help in unravelling the information that is going to be useful in helping the management to adopt the right approach towards the GSS. The information will form the basis upon which the managers will determine whether to adopt the system or not. This will be after evaluating both the merits and the demerits of the system.
The method that will be used to collect this data will be by reading the relevant materials that contain information about the group support system. This will offer a glimpse on what the previous researches have been able to unravel, as well as show any gaps in research that will need to be addressed.
Historical, Current, and Gaps Overview
According to Huang & Wei (2000), one of the gaps that have been noted during the study of the GSS is that there is a considerable difference between the expectations of the conveners of the meeting and the participants. At the same time, there is some sort of confusion concerning their roles. This can be explained in that the meeting conducted over the GSS is quite different from the way it is conducted in the traditional meetings. It has also been claimed that the apparent gap between the role of the initiator and the participants in the meeting is precipitated by the expectation between the two parties, which does not conform to the actual roles that are performed by both parties. However, this gap could be as a result of the failure by the parties concerned on their roles during the meeting on the electronic platform provided by the GSS.
There is an opportunity for future research based on the weaknesses of the GSS. For this reason, there is a need to explore other ways in which the limitations can be overcome, in order to maximize the benefits that are associated with the GSS. For this reason, there is a need to study how the roles change when the participants are engaged over another platform, apart from the one that is provided by the GSS software. This will provide the relevant people with the right information that will enable them to maximize on the potential that is inherent in the GSS.
The system is able to provide synergistic effects in that all the participants will be in a position to use their various skills and competencies to solve the problem that could be facing the company. This will prove to be very critical in the problem solving process as well as in the decision making process. It has been established that those two processes have the potential to either make or break the company, as they determine the ability of the company to attract or even retain their customers.
Currently, there is an even greater need to embrace GSS if the companies are going to compete effectively in the increasingly competitive business environment. This necessitates that the company must come up with very good decisions that will give it a competitive edge. Additionally, most organizations are struggling to cut down on costs in order to enhance their profitability. One of the ways that can be employed to cut down on the costs is the use of the GSS, because it is instrumental in minimizing the costs that are associated with the traditional meetings. The organization should make an effort to ensure that they take advantage of the technological advances in order to maximise on their potential.
Conclusion and Summary
According to Jongsawat & Premchaiswadi (2011), the group support system is very instrumental in enhancing the quality of decisions that are made by the organization. This is fuelled by the fact that it helps all the members to contribute their ideas to the organization. A feature of the GSS software that facilitates this is the anonymity. This encourages even the shy and introverted members to contribute in the meeting. Another advantage is that it results in massive savings for the organization in terms of the costs that could have been incurred in setting up traditional face to face meetings (Briggs, De Vreede & Nunamaker, 2003). It must, however, be mentioned that the company should look for a GSS software that is responsive to their needs. This implies that the software is loaded with different features, some of which might not be applicable in some organizations.
An organization can benefit more by making use of the GSS instead of relying on the traditional face to face meeting. This can be illustrated by the fact that there are a lot of logistics that are involved in the setting up of face to face meetings. These costs are in terms of the venue and a host of other preparations that have to be undertaken prior to a meeting. On the other hand, the GSS sets up an electronic stage through which the members of the group can air out their views irrespective of where they may be located geographically. In this way, the cost that is associated with searching for an appropriate venue is reduced considerably (Briggs, De Vreede & Nunamaker 2003).
Like any other system, the GSS has both the advantages as well as the disadvantages. The organization must carry out a cost benefit analysis to determine the viability of the system. This can be supported by the assertion that the GSS is more efficient when it facilitates the meeting for a lot of a people and not for a small group. Another disadvantage is that it is costly to acquire and to implement. This puts it out of reach for small organizations that may not have the necessary resources.
It is apparent that there a lot of advantages that are associated with the system. However, the organization should carry out a study of the group support systems that are available in the market and the advantages and the disadvantages that are associated with each. This will enable them to acquire a system that will be responsive to their needs, as well as allow them to compete effectively with the other players in the market leading to the success of the organization.
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