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As groupware or groups software (also collaborative software ) refers to a software to support collaboration in a group over temporal and / or spatial distance.

A groupware implements the theoretical principles of computer-supported group work ( Computer Supported Cooperative Work , abbreviation CSCW) in a concrete application.

Definition / characterization

A central definition for the term “groupware” comes from Ellis, Gibbs and Rein. Accordingly, groupware is a "computer-based system that supports a group of people in their area of ​​responsibility or goal and offers an interface for a shared work environment" (Ellis et al. 1991, translated).

The main difference between groupware and other multi-user support software such as B. Multi-user database systems, is the explicit attempt by groupware to reduce the isolation of users from one another. Groupware thus creates awareness about colleagues and their activities (see also Awareness). In this context, Lynch et al. (1990, p. 160, translated) states: “Groupware differs from normal software in one basic premise: Groupware makes the user aware that he is part of a group, while the majority of other software tries to put the user in front of others to hide and protect. "

A second important property that has been identified for groupware is adaptability. Since every group is different and groupware not only has to cater to the requirements of the group as a whole, but also to the individual requirements of all group members in order to activate a critical mass of users, there is usually not one solution for everything. Groupware needs to be very generic and / or customizable so that users and groups can use it in different ways. Asynchronous e-mail with a considerable time lag between autonomous writing and random reading is the best example of this media aspect of groupware. The adaptation should ideally be feasible for the end user himself. Work on this can be found under the title End-User-Development or End-User Development (e.g. Lieberman et al. 2006).

In the computer trade press and the software industry, groupware is often equated with Microsoft Outlook / Exchange or IBM Lotus Notes / Domino or client / server products belonging to this class that are based on the MAPI protocol - that is, as a combination of E -Mail, (shared) appointments, (shared) address books and (shared) ToDo lists. A current definition of this restricted view comes from Böttger and von Raison (2008): “A groupware is an e-mail and communication system that provides the following basic content: addresses and contacts, tasks, e-mail, shared folders, calendar and Notes."

In fact, the CSCW research area views the term somewhat broader. Groupware includes all solutions that support groups in working together. When supporting asynchronous collaboration, for example, in addition to the above-mentioned functionalities, these are tools for managing shared databases (information spaces) with awareness functionality. When it comes to supporting synchronous (i.e. simultaneous) collaboration, groupware also considers various conference systems, instant messaging applications, (synchronous) group editors and so-called social software .

System properties

The aim of groupware is always the supportive control of a group process , i.e. the cooperative leadership of the team when working out a result or the transformation of information from an initial to an end state.

Groupware can be classified according to various factors:

  • 3K model
  • Location : Does the collaboration take place in one place ( locally , e.g. office ) or over a spatial distance ( distributed , e.g. between Berlin and Hamburg )?
  • Time : Does the collaboration take place at the same time ( synchronous , e.g. video conference ) or time-shifted ( asynchronous , e.g. e-mail )?
  • Control of communication : Is the communication consciously controlled by the participant ( explicitly , for example, writing a letter), or are no specific actions necessary ( implicitly , for example, accepting a phone call)?
  • Structure : Does the groupware provide a schedule ( structured , for example an agenda ) or not ( unstructured , for example brainstorming )?
  • Size : Does the collaboration take place in a large (e.g. lecture ) or small group (e.g. seminar )?

Central aspects of groupware are:

  • Awareness : Many systems implement one or more forms of awareness (group knowledge), i. H. the software monitors and informs about the composition of the group, their participation and cooperation.
  • What You See Is What I See (WYSIWIS): The editing dialogs of the groupware should provide the user with the presentation of the content in a preview option if possible, so that little or no training is necessary.
  • Information architecture: The content structure of the information and the user access.
  • Synchronization andpreservation of consistency : The maintenance of a uniform data status ( consistency ) despite simultaneous access to the data material or the visualization of conflicts where this is not possible.
  • Floor control , the management of system resources: which participant is allowed to use which resource?
  • Session control , the administration of the participants themselves: who is allowed to join the group, what role does they assume?
  • Flow control , reducing waiting times through knowledge of the respective autonomous order status, the exogenous status of information and the endogenous work progress of the team: These aspects have always been underdeveloped , although they give the workflow management LP its name .

There is a content-related relationship between the terms groupware and workflow management system : Groupware aims to support project-oriented, case-by-case and only slightly structured teamwork. During the implementation, ad hoc influences can occur that force a change in the processing sequence. Workflow management systems, on the other hand, support process-oriented, well-structured or structurable business transactions. The deterministic sequence of the individual work steps is reminiscent of an assembly line structure. In this approach, the system plays the active role, controls the processes and triggers actions. The user is passive and only reacts to system suggestions.


Groupware is a distributed system that enables the joint processing of a large amount of data or documents . It therefore always implements one of the following concepts:

Central architecture
All participants ( clients ) are connected to a central administration ( server ) through which the entire collaboration is handled.
Peer-to-peer architecture
Although all participants are connected to one another via a network of servers, there is no central administrative instance as in the central architecture.
Hybrid architecture
The peer-to-peer architecture is supplemented by a central server, which is only used for logging.

Examples of groupware applications

The scope of the groupware applications is different. Many include project management , email , calendar, and notebook functions. Some groupware products provide little more than these functions (PIM software), others contain considerably more than these basic functionalities.

One example of a groupware application is the so-called PIM software ( Personal Information Manager ). The research discipline that deals with the investigation of collaborations with computer assistance is called Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW). Collaboration software is also seen as an essential component of ECM ( Enterprise Content Management ).

Well-known products that are called groupware are BSCW , IBM Notes from IBM , GroupWise from Micro Focus , Sun ONE from Sun Microsystems , Atmail , Citadel , Collanos Workplace , IceWarp Server , Open-Xchange , Microsoft Exchange , Microsoft SharePoint technologies and Microsoft Lync, Zimbra from Synacor , Comindware Tracker from Comindware. Examples of cross-platform groupware servers are FirstClass Software and Kerio Connect or SOGo (formerly, all of which support Windows as well as Linux and Mac OS X. Lotus Notes co-founder Ray Ozzie began developing Groove in 1997 . The associated company was bought by Microsoft in 2005 and the software was integrated into the Ultimate and Enterprise Edition of Microsoft Office 2007. Further free software products are Atmail Open, Kolab , Horde Groupware , EGroupware , phpGroupWare , GROUP-E , PHProjekt , TeamProQ , Tine 2.0 , Tiki or Zarafa .

Newer groupware applications such as Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr from IBM or Yammer from Microsoft use so-called social software to support communication, cooperation and coordination. This is ensured in particular through wikis , blogs , social networks and indexing mechanisms . Communication within a group is also facilitated by instant messengers and community chat systems , examples of which are XMPP , Skype , Slack , HipChat and Pichat . In addition, there is also the reverse development, in which social software is expanded to include more and more groupware functionality; an example of this is Tiki - Wiki CMS Groupware .

A group of programs that has become much more established on the US market are electronic meeting systems or web conferences . Some well-known software are Koncero, Nemo² , MeetingSphere, Teamsupport and ThinkTank (software).

Groupware systems with certain functions are used as virtual project rooms , especially in construction or product development .

See also


  • Christian Böttger, Andre von Raison: Newly grouped - collaboration solutions for SMEs. In: iX magazine for professional information technology. 5, May 2008, ISSN  1612-1392 , pp. 99-105.
  • CA Ellis, SJ Gibbs, GL Rein: Groupware - Some Issues and Experiences . In: Communications of the ACM . tape 34 , no. 1 , January 1991, pp. 38–58 ( [PDF; 2.6 MB ]).
  • Michael Koch , Alexander Richter: Enterprise 2.0. Planning, introduction and successful use of social software in the company. 2nd updated and expanded edition. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-59054-8 .
  • Henry Lieberman, Fabio Paternò, Volker Wulf (eds.): End-User Development (= Human-Computer Interaction Series 9). Springer, Dordrecht 2006, ISBN 1-4020-4220-5 .
  • Kevin J. Lynch, Joel M. Snyder, Douglas R. Vogel, William K. McHenry: The Arizona Analyst Information System: Supporting Collaborative Research on International Technological Trends. In: Simon Gibbs, Alex A. Verrijn-Stuart (Eds.): Multi user interfaces and applications. Proceedings of the IFIP WG 8.4 Conference on Multi-User Interfaces and Applications, Heraklion, Crete, Greece, September 24-26, 1990. North-Holland, Amsterdam et al. 1990, ISBN 0-444-88760-1 , p. 159 -174.

Individual evidence

  1. RO Briggs, G.-J. de Vreede, G. Kolfschoten: Report of the Workshop on Collaboration Engineering. (PDF; 340 kB) January 7, 2008, p. 36 , accessed October 21, 2009 .
  2. ^ Christian Müller: The Virtual Project Room , dissertation at the University of Karlsruhe , 1999, online
  3. Martin Eigner , Ralph Stelzer : Product Lifecycle Management: A Guide for Product Development and Life Cycle Management , Springer Science + Business Media , 2009, ISBN 978-3-540-44373-5 , p. 183 online

Web links

Wiktionary: Groupware  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations