Definition - What does Groupware mean?

Groupware is a class of computer programs that enables individuals to collaborate on projects with a common goal from geographically dispersed locations through shared Internet interfaces as a means to communicate within the group.

Groupware may also include remote access storage systems to archive frequently used data files. These can be altered, accessed and retrieved by workgroup members.

Groupware is also known as collaborative software.

Techopedia explains Groupware

The first commercial groupware products emerged in early 1990s when international giants such as IBM and Boeing began using electronic meeting systems for their internal projects. Further, Lotus Notes appeared as a major product of this category, further enhancing remote group collaborations.

Groupware systems are classified based on functions, specifically:

  • Computer mediated communication supporting direct participant communication
  • Meeting and decision support systems capturing the common understanding of participants
  • Shared applications
  • Artifacts supporting the interaction of participants through shared work objects

Groupware is either synchronous or asynchronous in nature. Synchronous groupware is a class of applications that allows a group of individuals who are physically separated to interact with each other using shared computational objects in real time. The fundamental requirement of synchronous groupware is real-time coordination among clients. The user interfaces advocate a feeling of togetherness. They require shared audio channels for communication.

Asynchronous groupware uses email, structured messages, agents, workflow, computer conferencing agents, file sharing systems and collaborative writing systems, among others. Asynchronous collaborations between users are well maintained only if they are allowed to perform their contributions without any restrictions. This can be accomplished through replicated data management systems with read any or write any data access. Users can execute concurrent updates.

The extensive use of groupware on the Internet helped contribute to the development of Web 2.0, which uses instant messaging, Web conferencing, group calendars, document sharing, etc.

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