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Definition: groupware

Software that supports multiple users working on projects both locally and remotely. Also called "collaboration software," groupware is more than just allowing access to the same data for many people. Groupware provides a mechanism that helps teams coordinate and keep track of tasks. Any worthwhile groupware product is able to perform many functions within the same application and menus.

Lotus Notes, which debuted in 1989, is often considered the father of groupware. Today, Slack software is widely used for collaboration. See IBM Notes and Slack.

Groupware Is Comprehensive
Groupware includes any combination of document sharing, calendaring, scheduling, contacts, task management, threaded discussions, email and conferencing (data, audio and video). Workflow may also be part of groupware, which allows messages and documents to be routed to the appropriate users,

From Simple to Complex
The Internet focused attention on groupware because of the ease with which data could be shared. However, as files became widely distributed, security and synchronization problems surfaced. Access control and replication became issues. What started out as a simple way to distribute data wound up requiring the integration of many more functions and controls. See workflow, contextual collaboration, collaborative browsing and wares.

Groupware and Workflow
Groupware focuses on the information being processed and enabling users to share it. Workflow emphasizes the process, which acts as a container for the information. Groupware is "information centered." Workflow is "process centered." (Illustration courtesy of Delphi Consulting Group, Inc.)