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May 26, 2022

What is Groupware and How do Teams Use it to Collaborate?

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What is Groupware?

Groupware is any type of software that helps a group of people work together to reach a common goal. 

If you work in an office setting, you probably use groupware every day, because even a common tool like email fits into the groupware category. However, it also includes a wide variety of software beyond just email, from video conferencing apps like Zoom to diagramming tools like Gliffy, and many different tools with different functions in between.

Read on to learn about how teams use groupware to collaborate, or jump ahead to read any of the following sections:

How do Teams Use Groupware to Collaborate?

To describe how teams use groupware in their day-to-day work, it can be categorized in a couple different ways. The first way is by identifying whether collaboration within the tool is synchronous or asynchronous. 

Synchronous groupware allows users to work on the same thing at the same time from any location, while asynchronous tools enable team members to work on the same thing from different locations at different times—especially important for teams with members who are working from different time zones. Many tools can also be used either synchronously or asynchronously.

Another way to categorize groupware is by the work function for which it’s used, and there are three categories here: communication, conferencing, and collaboration.

Communication

Groupware for communication includes anything meant for messages and emails, file sharing, and web publishing. These tools help people on a team or across different teams share information with teammates and other stakeholders. 

The most common examples of groupware for communication are Outlook and the Office Suite, and Gmail and Google Workspace. However, this category also includes other file sharing apps like Dropbox. 

Conferencing 

Groupware for conferencing allows people to communicate with each other in real time even if they are not in the same physical space. This includes chat tools like Slack, video call apps like Zoom and Webex, or apps like Microsoft Teams that do both. 

Collaboration 

Groupware for collaboration helps teams work on projects together more efficiently by assisting workflow, information, and project management. This sub-category includes a wide range of different tools with different functions. 

For example, sometimes it means documentation—that includes information bases like Confluence and tools to help you diagram alongside your documentation, like Gliffy. It also includes apps that are built to help teams manage tasks and projects, like Jira, Trello, Asana, and monday.com.

🔎 Interested in adding Gliffy to your team’s collaboration tools? Start your free trial today >>

Why do Teams Use Groupware? 

Teams use groupware because it helps them work more efficiently in several ways: 

  • It enables communication and collaboration on important projects regardless of where people are located 
  • It provides ease of access to information and effective information management
  • It minimizes misunderstanding and errors in the workplace 
  • It helps with managing processes and workflows 

Although groupware is especially necessary for remote teams, most in-person teams also use groupware because of these important benefits.

What’s the Future of Groupware? 

We will likely see groupware become even more important to the work structure of many organizations because of the increasingly hybrid and remote nature of modern office work. 

Employees value workplaces that promote collaboration, but they also want to have the flexibility to work from anywhere. It’s no surprise that the number of permanently remote workers has been increasing every year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

In order to balance these employee needs, organizations must find a way to create a culture where collaboration is encouraged and enabled even when teams aren’t located in the same physical space. 

Groupware has been and will continue to be a major part of that. Most teams already use multiple groupware tools on a daily basis, and that need will certainly not diminish anytime soon.

🔎 Want to become a pro at effective collaboration for remote teams? Check out our guide to increasing team productivity >>

How to Choose the Right Groupware for Your Team

When evaluating whether a certain software is a worthwhile investment for your team, there are a few different questions you should consider. 

Which features are most important to you? 

For whatever need you’re seeking to meet with groupware, there are probably multiple options you can consider. Make a list or concept map of the features, integrations, or functionality that would help your team. Choose tools that excel in the specific ways that matter most to you, and choose ones that work smoothly with the way your team works. If possible, find software that integrates well with other tools that you already use. 

For example, if your team works in Confluence, Gliffy is the perfect diagramming app for you because of its deep Atlassian integrations. You can diagram directly in Confluence pages as if your diagram is an extension of the page, with no connector required.

What is your budget? 

If you don’t have budget constraints, you are free to select whichever tool best fits your needs with the features that you want. However, if budget is a bigger concern, you may have to sacrifice some of the functionality you want for a tool that fits your budget. 

In that case, make sure to prioritize the most important functionality that you aren’t willing to sacrifice when making this decision. 

How much of an adjustment will it be for your team to learn? 

If implementing a new tool will be a major change that affects a large portion of your team’s day-to-day work, do you have the time and capability to adjust for that learning curve? Will there be proper training to onboard your team to the new tool? You should always have a plan to address the need for training when implementing a new tool.

Will it be helpful or distracting?

You want to use tools in a way that will improve productivity, not hinder it by adding clutter and distractions. You might like the way a tool works and what it does, but make sure it’s actually necessary and a good fit to your team’s workflow.

Groupware: Next Steps

Groupware is a key element of the current and future state of collaboration, and there are many ways you can use it to your advantage. For example, if you use Confluence, make sure you’re following the Confluence best practices that help you increase teamwork and productivity. 

There are a lot of ways Gliffy can help you reach a higher level of collaboration, too. Check out some of our other blog posts to learn about just a few of those ways. And if a powerful, intuitive diagramming tool is a need for your team, make sure to try Gliffy for free to see firsthand how it can work for you.

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