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					Dominators
           Google Docs and Components in Collaboration




                             Prepared for
                        Professor Debra Geist
                        BISM 2100 Professor
                      Kennesaw State University




                             Prepared by
Samantha Walker, Katy Pittman, Lauren Lallande, and Ally Ward, Students
                          BISM 2100 Student
                     Kennesaw State University




                          November 16, 2010
Letter of Authorization
October 10, 2010

BISM 2100 Students, Fall 2010
Coles College of Business
Kennesaw State University

BISM2100 Student Teams:

Your team has been authorized to engage in a comprehensive project for the specific purpose of:
1. evaluating a software collaboration tool to determine how well it supports virtual team collaboration
   needs &
2. providing a recommendation as to whether the tool is feasible for use in a small-midsize business
   environment.

The goals of this project are multifaceted:
     to provide students the experience of working within the team environment
     to introduce students to the primary elements of collaboration
     to expose students to emerging technologies used in collaboration
     to provide students working experience with collaboration tools
     to expand students research capabilities
     to create an opportunity for students to utilize professional written & oral business communication
       skills
     to allow students the opportunity to develop their oral presentation skills, and
     to provide students with a basic familiarity of website design and construction.

To successfully complete this project, your team will produce the following deliverables:
     a team operating agreement
     a formal, analytical report covering:
           o teamwork/virtual teams
           o the elements of collaboration
           o an evaluation of a collaboration tool (software collaboration application)
           o a recommendation on the collaboration tool’s use in the small-midsize business
                environment
     an oral presentation of the team’s findings
     a team website providing information about the project

The entire team is responsible for:
    providing feedback & comments on any work produced by the team (collaborating)
    producing a high quality report; fully researched, documented, reviewed, proofread, & edited
    carefully reviewing final deliverables to insure all components are included
    guaranteeing each deliverable has been properly submitted via the specified channels

Respectfully,

Debra B Geist, Support Faculty
School of Accountancy, Coles College of Business
Kennesaw State University
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL

November 17, 2010

Debra B Geist, Support Faculty
School of Accountancy, Coles College of Business
Kennesaw State University

Professor Debra B Geist:

Our goal is to use Google Docs, a collaboration tool, to effectively communicate in a
virtual team and complete a project consisting of a report, a webpage and a
presentation. Then Dominators were to evaluate and the tool and recommend or not
recommend Google Docs as a virtual collaboration tool for a midsize business.

For the writing portion of the project each team member was assigned a topic as well as
a portion of the paper. (Below is a list of the team members and the portion they were
responsible for.)

   1. Lauren Lallande (Project Manager): Introduction and Synchronous
       Communication
   2. Samantha Walker (Formal Report Coordinator): Asynchronous Communication,
       Evaluation, Conclusion
   3. Ally Ward (Presentation Coordinator): Content Management and Version Control
   4. Katy Pittman (Website Coordinator): Components of Collaboration and Workflow
       Control
   * All members contributed to the evaluation and references. Samantha Walker
   compiled the individual evaluations and the individual reference lists.


After the completion of the individual sections, each member posted the information on
Google Docs. This collaboration tool was used to share and edit each other’s
information. The evaluation of the collaboration tool was based upon our own usage
experience.

The report is now turned over to you. The Dominators thank you for giving the task of
evaluating a collaboration tool and we offer assistance in any future projects.

Sincerely,

Dominators, Project Group
Coles College of Business
Kennesaw State University
                                                         Contents

Table of Contents
Executive Summary ........................................................................................................ 6
Introduction ..................................................................................................................... 7
Components of Collaboration .......................................................................................... 7
   Communication............................................................................................................ 8
      Asynchronous Communication ................................................................................ 8
      Synchronous Communication ................................................................................ 10
   Content Management ................................................................................................ 11
   Version Control .......................................................................................................... 12
   Workflow Control ....................................................................................................... 13
Evaluation ..................................................................................................................... 13
Google Docs Grade ...................................................................................................... 15
Conclusion .................................................................................................................... 15
References .................................................................................................................... 17
   Academic ................................................................................................................... 17
   Other.......................................................................................................................... 18




                                                  List of Illustrations


Table
     1. Google Docs’…………………………………………………………………………..15
Executive Summary


The goal of the project was to use Google Docs, a collaboration tool, to complete a
report, website, and presentation in a virtual group. The Dominators were then to
evaluate Google Docs and determine whether a midsize business would benefit from
the collaboration tool. Overall the group found Google Docs to be efficient and effective
in a virtual group setting.


Communication is essential to a successful group. Google Docs provides virtual groups
with the ability to use asynchronous or synchronous communication. Within the
collaboration tool if group members are viewing the document at the same time they
can see each other writing/editing information. If they like they could communicate on
the document and simulate an instant messaging program. However if group members
cannot work simultaneously due to scheduling conflicts, the group members can access
the document at their own leisure and edit/add information. Google Docs will
automatically save the information and when the other group members open the
document they will see the name of the last group member to edit the document.


The only downfall to Google Docs is the Dominators found it difficult to manage
workflow. The Dominators found using a blog site, such as GaView Vista, was faster
and easier to use. Therefore if a company chose to use Google Docs, the Dominators
they use the tool in conjunction with a blog or instant messaging site.


Therefore, we encourage midsize businesses to use Google Docs. A collaboration tool,
such as Google Docs, will allow employees to share and edit information easily.
However, Dominators recommends the midsize business teaches their employees how
to properly use Google Docs. This will make the employees more efficient and then
ultimately the business.
Introduction


Collaboration tools have become a necessity for most major companies when assigning
projects to a virtual team. In most cases, a team cannot frequently host meetings or
collaborate in person, but with collaborative technologies an entire team can participate
simultaneously and effectively perform teamwork. Teamwork is dynamic and requires
more than one individual to complete the assigned task. When one or more team
member is not present to collaborate it can yield disadvantages to the overall
performance and outcome of a team’s project. Thus, the idea of gathering a virtual team
eliminates the need for each individual member to be in the same place at the same
time, and the tools involved allow for collaborative communication and teamwork to take
place.


Components of Collaboration


Components of collaboration are described as working with others to complete or solve
a problem. The key to working effectively in a team is to have formal collaboration tools.
By having collaboration tools, people can easily communicate and work together in a
team without meeting in person frequently. There different collaboration software makes
communicating within a group much easier (Bellman 2010). By properly using
collaboration tools, it helps strengthen a team. Collaboration tools also help people
communicate and share ideas all around the world (Cross 2010). These tools make
working with a team easier especially when meetings are not possible. There are many
different kinds of collaboration tools and different components of collaboration.


The primary components of collaboration are communication, content management,
and workflow control. By using these components, teams can effectively work together
and share information (Bellman 2010). Each of these components plays a specific role
in working together as a team to complete a project. All of the components are equally
important to have a strong and focused team.
Communication


Communication is essential to a successful group dynamic. Without communication,
groups will not collaborate. In a virtual group communication can be difficult. With
asynchronous communication, groups have the ability to communicate with teams on
their own time. Tools such as emails and discussions boards enable asynchronous
communication to occur at different times and places. Synchronous communication, on
the other hand, occurs simultaneously. Phone conversations and instant messaging are
synchronous tools that allow virtual groups to communicate at the same time but
different places. Both types of communication help virtual groups share information and
ideas.


Asynchronous Communication


Virtual teams benefit greatly by using asynchronous communication tools and methods.
Asynchronous tools allow team members to share information, distribute information,
and interact with team members at their own leisure. This is the best method to use
when team members live in different time zones or have busy schedules. The
information shared using an asynchronous tool will always be accessible to all members
of the virtual team (Ashley, 2003).


Examples of asynchronous tools include discussion boards and email. There are many
more tools, but these are the ones our team will use in the project. Discussion boards
and emails are a great way to share ideas and add comments to other team member’s
ideas. A discussion board is great for projects occurring for an extend period of time.
However, each tool does have disadvantages. Without face-to-face interaction it will be
harder to resolve problems within a group. This may disrupt the group dynamic by
causing tension, or the group may not be able solve the issue in enough time to reach
their deadlines (Ashley, 2003).
First let’s explore further into asynchronous communication and how it helps virtual
teams communicate. The biggest problem for any group, especially virtual groups, is
communication (Anonymous, 2000). Asynchronous communication helps greatly with
this dilemma. Web chats and blogs can be outlets used by the virtual group (Ashley,
2003). Also some individuals are more confident with communicating online, because
they are intimidated by face-to-face interaction. Asynchronous communication would be
the best communication method for these individuals. They could also use video
conferencing (Otter, 2007), which would make the interaction between the group
members more personal. Another benefit of using asynchronous communication is its
structure. Exchanging information in the form of documents is the main channel of
communication in the group (Warkentin, 1997), which allows the group to sent firm
deadlines. Also without face-to-face interaction the group will have an easier time
staying on task and will not have sideline conversations.


Now let’s further discuss the disadvantages of asynchronous communication. Although
face-to-face interaction can lead to distractions, it does help form stronger relationships
(Warkentin, 1997). In a virtual team it can be harder to form bonds because you don’t
meet your team members in person. The connections made are on a virtual level, which
can affect the teams dynamic. Also, asynchronous communication relies on technology.
Team members may not know how to use the program used for communication so they
would need to be trained, which costs time and money (Otter, 2007). This could also
slow progression on the project and hurt their overall performance.


The company Virtual Communications uses asynchronous virtual communication in
order to run their business all around the world. Because of asynchronous
communication this company has been operating for seven years and has worked with
many important companies. They do all of their communication using virtual technology.
Their goal is connect people in the most efficient manner without compromising
communication (Virtual Communications, 2000).
Synchronous Communication


Synchronous communication, as opposed to asynchronous communication, occurs
simultaneously between members in a virtual group. Since this type of communication is
widely used in virtual groups, it takes place by use of various technologies (Asherian,
2007). These tools can pose numerous pros and cons and can range in price and
efficiency. The virtual group may or may not have a choice when choosing which
communication tool is used, but the overall purpose of the tool is to allow the group to
communicate and collaborate in a same time-different place mode (Ashley, 2003).
Some examples of synchronous communication channels include chat rooms, instant
messaging, and phone conversations (Anonymous, 2009).


Once a tool is put to use, it can impose certain advantages and drawbacks. A
disadvantage may occur if the tool is required to be used by everyone at the exact same
time. This can pose a challenge when a group is spread out among time zones or when
conflicting schedules arise. Another drawback of some synchronous tools such as
audio, web, and video conferencing is that they tend to require significant bandwidth to
be efficient (Ashley, 2003). Conversely, one main advantage of a synchronous tool is
cost efficiency. If a company can use this collaborative technology correctly, then it
allows the company to save millions of dollars by facilitating effective communication
(Khosrowpour, 2003). Another benefit of a synchronous communication channel is that
everyone can access and contribute equally to a project. Also, it removes the need for
all team members to be physically present in the same location. In order to ensure a
communication tool will provide an advantage to a group, the team must decide how
they want to use the communication device, whether it’s at same time or separately,
and utilize it accordingly. Lastly, companies can save even more money with
synchronous tools because they can eliminate the need for costly deliveries or
international phone conferences.


Synchronous communication is most helpful when a group faces a quickly approaching
deadline or when there is a need for a general agreement between the members. This
communication channel also allows a discussion or message to be direct between
virtual groups of people. In addition, synchronous communication can facilitate
extensive group projects or events which need to be coordinated. Due to the structure
of synchronous communication, the time it takes for groups to collaborate or reach
mutual understandings is greatly reduced. Consequently, synchronous communication
is assumed in most treatments of team functioning (Massey, Montoya-Weiss, & Song,
2001). Therefore, since synchronous collaboration tools provide virtual groups with an
effective channel of communication, it allows the teams to consist of the most qualified
members and not merely the ones who are closely located.


Content Management


Content management can be defined as the system used to manage the content of
information. It is usually associated with web sites or other documents that can be found
online. Typically, it allows many different people to post, edit, and remove information
online without having Webmaster permission. This feature helps to make sure that
webpage’s are updated. Since content management allows anyone to update website
information, it is one of the largest systems used by organizations. Each company has
their website designed a specific way so training is required for everyone who uses
content management. A company’s website must reflect the long-term strategies as well
as the direction of the business.


There are many features involved with content management. Individuals can post
general business documents that include numerous documents or that are linked
between pages (Robertson, 2002). There are also different formats to be used when
setting up documents. Most companies choose one-format but post different templates
of that format online for employees to use. In many cases, training materials are posted
online for the company to access. In order to use content management each company
must purchase a warranty and resources. Some of these resources might include
employee training services, hardware, software, maintenance agreements, and
operating systems.
Before a company or organization invests in content management there are a few
factors that must be considered. If an organization is spread out over many states or
countries, the organizations size and geographic dispersion must be reviewed. When a
company has many different locations it is hard to use a content management
systems. Another factor that needs to be considered is the diversity of electronic date
forms used in a company. If a company uses text documents and images to convey
information, that content will be harder to manage within a content management system
(“Content Management System,” n.d.). Companies and organizations must review these
factors before taking the time and spending the money to use a content management
system.


Version Control


When using content management that allows many people to edit a web site the
chances of that website developing a bug or losing information increase. Version control
is a system that allows you to track your files over time and back up your database
(Fogel, 2005). According to “How to Run a Successful Free Software Project,” version
control is a combination of technologies and practices for tracking and controlling
changes to a projects’ files, in particular to source code, documentation, and web
pages. This system helps with running every aspect of the project.


A good version control system does some if not all of the following: backups the
information and restores them if needed, synchronizes the files so that all users are
updated with the latest changes, tracks all the changes made, tracks the ownership of
the owner so that they receive all credibility, sandboxes, which is insurance against
yourself, no comma after sandboxes and branching and or merging which allows you to
move work and then merge it back into the common area (“A visual guide,” 2007). Even
though control systems have many different types of codes and names, they all follow
the same format.
Workflow Control

Workflow is defined as the amount of work to and from a person in a team setting.
Workflow control is essential when working with a team to complete a project. In order
to make sure that workflow is controlled throughout a group, it is helpful to have a
central database that everyone can easily access (Gale Group, 1992). The database
should be easy to use and maintain data. By using a central database, it makes it easier
to assign activities to individual group members (Russell, 2006). The central database
should manage the workflow of each member in a group. But a team should not only
rely on one source of workflow control. Although one central database helps teams
collect and review work in one place, there has to be other mediums of communication
throughout the workflow process. There are many successful ways to share works with
members of a team without a central database. Emails can easily be used to collect
information for a project (Gale Group, 1992). Although emails can be harder to
organize, it is still an effective way to control workflow within a team.


Workflow control is an important part of collaboration. In a team, it is important that the
team leader or project manager controls the workflow of the individual team members
(Nof, 2003). In order to collaborate, there needs to be workflow from each individual. If a
team member does not participate or contribute work, the team will not be able to
collaborate effectively. By controlling workflow from each member, it allows
collaboration to flow easily from member to member and easily assemble a project.


Evaluation

Our group chose Google Docs as the collaboration tool for this project. Mainly, the tool
was used for collaborating during the writing process. Although one group member had
difficulties with the tool, overall Google Docs allowed the group to communicate
effectively and efficiently. This led to the completion of the project on time. Google Docs
provided an easy way to share each group member’s individual research about the
components of collaboration.
The Google Docs system managed each group member’s information. Each member
had the ability to post and edit information at their own leisure. The changes made by
each member were automatically saved by the system. Therefore, the updated version
of the document would be available to other group members. In this aspect Google
Docs provided version control, however, within the document you cannot determine who
edited the information or track the changes made.


For Workflow control, the group mainly used face-to-face meetings or GaView Vista.
Our group met after class to divide tasks evenly. The information not discussed in class
was written on GaView Vista. Our Project Manager used GaView to send reminders
about deadlines. Also other members used GaView if they had questions or needed
assistance. GaView better supported Workflow control because all group members use
this system more frequently than Google Docs. Group members checked the site daily
and would be more likely to see the posted comment. Also, it was easier and fast to
post comments on GaView than to send an email through Google docs.


Google Docs provided the group with the opportunity for synchronous and
asynchronous communication. Each member could post and edit the material on the
document at their convenience. However, if another group member was viewing the
document they could communicate with each other or watch the edits the member was
making. Working together in a virtual team was made easier by Google Docs because it
enabled both forms of communication.


Overall Google Docs was extremely helpful while collaborating on the writing portion of
the project. The tool effectively managed the information the group placed in the
document. Also, it allowed the group to communicate asynchronously and
synchronously. However the tool did falter in a few areas. For one, it does not provide a
log for the changes made on the document. Google Docs only shows who edited the
document last. Meaning the group is unable to tell when they were made and how many
group members edited the information. Also, the website was not conducive toward
Workflow. The Dominators had to use other methods such as face-to-face meetings and
GaView Vista to manage Workflow.


Experience with Google Docs also created a problem for the Dominators. Only two of
the four group members were familiar with this tool. The other two members had to be
taught how to use Google Docs. Since the website did not provide instructions on how
to use the tools, the Dominators had to conduct a face-to-face meeting in order to teach
the two group members unfamiliar with the tool. Due to a team member’s unfamiliarity
with the tool, difficulties arose with accessing Google Docs. Initially they could not open
the Google Docs from their home computer. Until this problem was resolved, the team
member had to use the computers located in the BISM 2100 classroom. Finally the
problem was resolved after the team member realized their error.


Google Docs’ Grade
This table shows how well Google Docs supports each aspect of collaboration. The
Dominators have rated Google Docs on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the best and 1 being
the worst).


Areas of Collaboration                         Rate (1-5)
Synchronous Communication                      4
Asynchronous Communication                     5
Content Management                             5
Version Control                                4
Workflow Control                               2

Average                                        4


Conclusion


Google Docs is a good tool for virtual communication in a midsize company. The tool
allows for asynchronous and synchronous, which is important for a company. A
company would have the ability to share the document with any employee. Also, this
tool is helpful in sharing information, such as individual research, with many individuals
who can then edit or comment on the information given.


However, the company should provide a class to teach their employees how to
efficiently use Google Docs. This tool is user friendly, so training will not be expensive
or take long. Employees who are not computer savvy, or have not used the program
before, will benefit from the training and ultimately so will the company. The companies
employees will be more efficient and therefore will increase the efficiency of the
company.
References

Academic

Anonymous . Collaboration 2.0. (2009). Library technology reports, 45(4), 16-18.
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Asherian, V. (2007). Distance education: synchronous communication and its assessing
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Bellman, G. & Ryan, K. (September 2010). Creating an extraordinary group. T+D, 64(9),
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Cross, R., Gray, P., Cunningham, S., Showers, M., & Thomas, R. (2010). The
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Gale Group(1992). Workflow control. November 2, 2010. Gale Group(1992). Workflow
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Park, N. & Nof, S. (January 2003). Collaboration and integration of business processes
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Otter, A., & Emmitt, S. (2007). Exploring effectiveness of team communication:
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Warkentin, M. E., Sayeed, L., & Hightower, R. (1997, Fall) Virtual teams versus face-to-
        face teams: An Exploratory Study of a Web-based Conference System. Decision
        Sciences, 28(4), 975-996. Retrieved November 1, 2010, from Business Source
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Other

A visual guide to version control (2007, September 27). [Online Forum Comment].
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Anonymous. (2000). Virtual Team Communication. Exforsys Inc. Retrieved November
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Ashley, J. (2003). Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication Tools. The Center
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        http://www.asaecenter.org/Resources/articledetail.cfm?ItemNumber=13572

Content Management System. Searchsoa. Retrieved November 2, 2010, from
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Fogel, Karl. (2005). Producing open source software [How to run a successful free
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Khosrowpour, M. (Ed.), (2003). Advances Topics in Information Resources
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Massey, A., Montoya-Weiss, M., & Song, M. (2001). Getting it together: temporal
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Robertson, James. (2002). How to evaluate a content management system. Step Two
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Russell,N., Hofstede, A., Van der Analst, W., and Mulyar, N. (2006). Workflow control
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Virtual Communications. (2009). About us. Virtual Communications. Retrieved
      November 2, 2010, from http://www.virtualcommunications.org/index2.htm

				
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