Printer Friendly

Some notes on groupware for LANs.

Soon there will be just two kinds of companies: the quick and the dead. So says Andrew Grove, president and CEO of Intel Corp. He believes the winners will be organizations with fewer management layers which can operate more flexibly and efficiently--and, most of all, faster.

The successful organization will encourage employees to work together to solve problems with minimal manager intervention, he says. These groups will be organized informally on an as-needed basis, drawing on talents from many different areas, and will be largely self-managed. Speeding information around this organization so that it's available to whoever needs it, when it is needed, will be critical, Grove believes, so that decisions can be made promptly.

Electronic mail has already emerged as a key tool for helping people work together to solve problems with minimal manager intervention. Desktop video-conferencing promises to build on the success. However, the greatest potential may lie in with the new team-oriented software packages known as groupware.

Designed to work on decentralized LANs, groupware ties together loosely organized groups of people, allowing them to work together more effectively. It is used for sharing information, helping people to track their work and collaborate on team projects.

Proponents of workgroup computing believe that it will bring greater rewards in the 1990s than other touted disciplines such as open systems. For one thing, workgroup computing is not reliant on a particular operating system, hardware platform or international standard. In addition, it supports what companies do best--run their businesses and keep their customers satisfied.

In fact, one of the benefits of workgroup computing is that it forces organizations to rethink their business processes and the appropriate roles for computers and networks. It also encourages cooperation between line-to-business managers and the corporate MIS people, which is widely viewed as essential if organizations are to successfully apply the latest technology to specific business problems in the years ahead. If this teamwork does not already exist, workgroup computing will make it happen.

Change in emphasis

The current interest in workgroup computing is a marked shift in emphasis from the first decade of personal computing, when enhanced personal productivity was the primary focus. Now there's a growing realization that improving personnel productivity does not necessarily lead to increased group or enterprise productivity or effectiveness.

In contrast to traditional PC software, groupware products are specifically designed to enhance workgroup effectiveness by supporting collaborative work and sharing of information in the pursuit of workgroup goals and objectives. For groupware to be successful, everyone has to use it, so it must be intuitive and easy to use. It cannot be limited to one desktop device or operating environment. Also, because workgroups are increasingly spread across remote locations, it must support several LAN operating systems.

In addition, groupware should be customizable by at least two groups: end users and applications programmers. Developers will typically build baseline applications for multiple users to then leverage and customize to their specific needs.

Lotus Notes

The early leader in groupware is Lotus Development's Notes, which combines the characteristics of distributed data bases, E-mail, application development tools and electronic bulletin boards to let groups of users share pools of information.

Users are "ecstatic" about Notes, according to a study by Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. The report says the key benefits of the software are improved communications among groups and enhanced applications by users. In addition, Notes' shared data bases constitute a "group memory" that enables better and faster decisions, the report states.

Notes also wins high praise for its adaptability and scalability. Users can develop and change applications quickly to fit their needs at different times. In addition, Notes can accommodate a small workgroup or an enterprise of thousands of users, unlike many LAN-based systems that hit a wall as their use is expanded.

Notes uses a client/server architecture, supporting Windows and OS/2 clients with OS/2 servers. Lotus is also adding Mac and Unix clients and a Unix server. It supports token-ring and Ethernet networks with the popular LAN operating systems, including NetWare, Vines and LAN Manager. Security is an important feature of groupware, and Notes provides it at many different levels, through user ID and certification, encryption and data base and information access.

Despite user acceptance of Notes, few companies have yet begun to implement customized groupware applications. Most are still deploying general-purpose office applications such as E-mail and group scheduling. However, this situation is expected to change dramatically once organizations become more comfortable with distributed, cooperative processing, and when groupware benefits become more widely reported. Those who seize the opportunities early will be the ones with a competitive edge.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Network Management
Author:Edwards, Morris
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Column
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:Vendors reply to frame relay 20 questions.
Next Article:Some telecomm salaries increase, others drop.

Related Articles
Here come second-generation E-mail systems.
Users offered many options for groupware.
Race to set the standard: IBM's Lotus purchase is first volley in groupware war.
A high-tech spin on organizational learning.
Weaving a web at the office: intranets are all the rage in networking technology.
Publications and reports.
Advantages of networking.
Knowledge Management. (Technology Tools).

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters