Adoption of web-based group decision support systems: Conditions

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While organizations have massively adopted enterprise information systems to support business processes, business meetings in which key decisions are made about products, services and processes are usually held without much support of information
   Procedia Technology 16 ( 2014 ) 675 – 683  Available online at ScienceDirect  2212-0173 © 2014 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license ( ).Peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of CENTERIS 2014.doi: 10.1016/j.protcy.2014.10.016 CENTERIS 2014 - Conference on ENTERprise Information Systems / ProjMAN 2014 - International Conference on Project MANagement / HCIST 2014 - International Conference on Health and Social Care Information Systems and Technologies Adoption of web-based group decision support systems: Conditions for growth Jos van Hillegersberg a *, Sebastiaan Koenen a   a School of Management and Governance, University of Twente, Address, po box 1738 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands Abstract While organizations have massively adopted enterprise information systems to support business processes, business meetings in which key decisions are made about products, services and processes are usually held without much support of information systems. This is remarkable as group decision support systems (GDSS) seems very fit for this purpose. They have existed for decades and modern versions benefit of web-based technologies, enabling low cost any-place, any time and device independent meeting support. In this exploratory case research, we study nine organizations in four different adoption categories to learn more about the reasons for the relatively slow adoption of web-based GDSS. Using the Fit-Viability adoption framework we conduct interviews with the organizations that have experience with using GDSS. We conclude that adopting GDSS requires considerable and carefully planned change of processes that are deeply grounded in the organization. Existing meeting routines need to be adapted. Introduction needs to be carefully planned and room for face-to-face meetings and creativity sessions away from the keyboard need to be built in depending on the type of meeting. Not all companies find the cost level affordable. Clear and convincing business cases are lacking. Still the added value is ranked highly and there are frequent and enthusiastic user organizations that may lead the way for others. Their success stories show others how the mitigate the afore mentioned problems. © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committees of CENTERIS/ProjMAN/HCIST 2014  Keywords: adoption, implementation, group support systems, collaboration, meeting support systems, GDSS  ; * Corresponding author. Tel.: +31-53-4893912  E-mail address:   © 2014 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license ( ).Peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of CENTERIS 2014.  676  Jos van Hillegersberg and Sebastiaan Koenen / Procedia Technology 16 ( 2014 ) 675 – 683 1.   Introduction While enterprise information systems have been implemented by virtually all modern businesses, the adoption of automatic support for group decisions has lagged behind. Commonly, information from enterprise systems serves as input to business meetings, but the meeting itself is still held with very limited or no support of information systems. Around the world, on an average day, millions of such meetings are being held. Studies indicate that considerable time is wasted in these meetings, estimating 35% [1] to even over 50% of lost resources [2]. Research into effectiveness of meetings show that employees appreciate meetings with a clear structure and meetings that accomplish something meaningful but do not look forward to meetings that are unstructured, start late and do not lead to results [3]. Group Decision Support Systems (GDSS) seem to address exactly what is needed to have effective meetings, promising to provide structure, effective information exchange, idea generation and organization and support for effective decision making, even if participations cannot be present on-site. So why are most meetings still held without support of a GDSS? Severeal studies have addressed this question and we will review representative and review publications here  briefly. It is important to realize that most of these works deal with earlier generations of GDSS. The current generation of GDSS, by making use of Web based collaboration and Software as a Service concepts, seems to substantially lower the barriers for GDSS adoption. The emergence of these new GDSS are the key motivation for our study. Watson et al. [4] describe a GDSS as a combination of computer, communication and decision support technologies to support problem formulation and solution in group meetings. They define the goal of a GDSS, based on many sources, as to reduce process loss. Process losses are all interactions within the group that slow down the  process of making a decision. These include disorganized activities, dominant members and social pressure. Using a GDSS enables a clear structure in the decision making process. It supports to generate, clarify, organize, reduce and evaluate ideas. The structuring often helps to make the decision making process more efficient and effective and delivers an added value for the organization. Fjermestad and Hiltz [5] evaluated 54 case and field studies and concluded that there are several elements contributing to the successfulness of a GDSS implementation. The use of a facilitator (the session leader), the number of sessions, the amount of training and kind of tasks performed are found important. Still, limited adoption and failures of GDSS use have been reported [6]. The authors find that improperly designed GDSS sessions, technology breakdowns, unskilled participants or facilitators are frequent causes of such failures. Today, more than a decade later, for most professionals it is still exceptional to be part of a meeting that is supported by a GDSS. While the use of Internet, mobile technologies and social media have become commonplace, GDSS remains a rare commodity. Modern GDSS have benefitted from advances in hardware, software and network technologies. They now typically run on various devices using web-browsers as their platform in a Software as a Service (SAAS) delivery model. Sessions and data are stored in the cloud allowing participants to take part in a meeting any place, anytime. New devices such as smart phones and tablets have been massively adopted and allow virtually any knowledge worker to use a GDSS. While there are many, partly free, tools on the web that provide part of the typical GDSS functionality, full featured GDSSs continue to be the domain of a limited set of specialized vendors. A GDSS provides a comprehensive set of functions to support all phases of a meeting. The participants are taken through the inventory stage to the categorizing and prioritizing stage, the so-called funnel model. This ultimately leads to a decision by the group. This paper aims to address the question why still so many meeting are held without a GDSS. More than 30 years after the developments of the early GDSSs, the technology seems mature. Why is the adoption of GDSS by organizations so low? What can organizations the plan to adopt GDSS learn from current experiences? The next section introduces the adoption model we use in this study. Then, we explain our research method, the results from the case studies are shown and conclusions presented. 2.   Adoption models for GDSS Several models can be found in the information systems literature to study the adoption of GDSS. DeLone and McLean view systems, information and service quality as key variables that impact intended use, use and user satisfaction and ultimately net benefits to the organization [7][8]. The Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of  677  Jos van Hillegersberg and Sebastiaan Koenen / Procedia Technology 16 ( 2014 ) 675 – 683 Technology (UTAUT) combines elements of several theories and researches on the adoption of information systems  by individuals. The UTAUT model makes a distinction between four key constructs for the behavioral intention and use: Performance Expectancy, Effort Expectancy, Social Influence and Facilitating Conditions. Both the expectancies are about the beliefs of the user that use of the software will help him/her in the job and the belief of  being able to use the software without a big effort. Social influence is the degree to which an individual perceives that important others believe he or she should use the new system [9]. The classic Diffusion of Innovations work by Rogers is also relevant to the adoption of GDSS. Rogers defines five stages in the Innovation-Decision Process [10]. In the first stage the individual has been exposed to the innovation, but does not take action to learn more about the innovation. In the next stage he/she starts to get interested and actively seeks for more information. When enough information is gathered, the third stage is entered and the individual decides whether to adopt the innovation or reject it. In the next stage the innovation is used in some way and judged for its usefulness. In the last stage the decision is finalized. Several types of users can be distinguished, each in a certain state of maturity. Figure 1: A Framework for Adopting Social Networking Software for group decision support [11] A recent framework tailored to studying the adoption of the newest generation of collaboration tools (so called Collaboration 2.0) is developed by Turban et al. [11]. They combine elements from several adoption theories and integrate them into a framework to study the adoption of Collaboration 2.0 tools, aimed at group decision making. According to the authors the ease of use of current tools is higher and costs of use are much lower than their  predecessors. Web-based collaboration tools offer more interaction and flexibility. They state that adoption of GDSS  678  Jos van Hillegersberg and Sebastiaan Koenen / Procedia Technology 16 ( 2014 ) 675 – 683 is based on two things: Fit and Viability (Figure 1 ). The Fit component focuses on the firm’s needs, core competencies, structure, value and culture of the organization. The decision making tasks and nature of the group are “checked” against the chosen tool, in our case a GDSS. The Viability part consists of three elements; First, the f inancial element, where costs for maintenance, training and acquisition have to be compared to the value of the tool for the organization. Second, the IT infrastructure is an important element. This involves all infrastructures necessary for running the software, for example, server configurations and security upgrades. In case of a GDSS there is an option of using the supplier’s servers for hosting the session. This considerably lowers th e requirements for infrastructure. Third, viability to the organization is a relevant element. The users need to see the benefits of the software for their tasks. The fit can occur, but it has to be acknowledged and be observable and measurable. 3.   Research method In this research the Fit-Viability theory discussed in the previous section is used. It is very suitable for this research as it lists a wide range of explanatory factors so that the cause of adoption or non-adoption can be explored taking a broad viewpoint. Moreover, it is explicitly designed for studying the adoption of collaboration 2.0 tools, a category to which modern GDSS belong. In order to reveal the reasons for not adopting GDSS on a larger scale, we conduct a number of case studies using the following steps. First, criteria for participating companies were set for each of four groups. The first group is the group of frequent GDSS users. The second group are non-frequent users. These users are seeing the benefits of using a GDSS, but are not using it very often. The third group acquired a GDSS, but stopped using it. The final group had a demo session with a GDSS, but decided not to buy one. An interview guide was created consisting of a protocol and semi-structured questions. Next, companies in each of the four groups were invited to participate in the research, interviews were held and analyzed. To make sure the research would not only show the flaws in a certain GDSS, the users of two different GDSS systems were interviewed: Spilter and Group Support. These two companies are responsible for about 90% of the Dutch GDSS-market. An adopting organization was interviewed from each group and for each of the two GDSSs. There are thus two results in each category of organizations. In the low adoption group, three organizations were interviewed, which brings the total to nine case companies. The first step of the research was to select case companies. It was decided to invite companies from various industry sectors. GDSS vendors Spilter and GroupSupport each provided a sample group. The first part of the interview was aimed at gathering knowledge about the interviewee. The following questions were included:    What is your function and what tasks are you performing?    What experience do you have in using GDSS?    In what kind of meeting are you using the GDSS and what role and rank do the participants have (e.g.  board member, manager or operator)?    How did you get interested in GDSS? (non-user question)    What did the decision process to acquire a GDSS look like? (current and ex-user question)  Next, the Fit between the task and tool was discussed: What are the benefits of using a GDSS and where does the tool not fit to the task? Also, the perceived value of the tool was addressed. Does the tool accelerate the decision making process and is the quality of the decisions better using a GDSS? Next, the Viability part of the Fit-Viability model was discussed. First, the financial cost-benefit analysis is assessed. Then, the organizational readiness is reviewed, possible IT problems were identified and the implementation process was discussed: The non-users were asked why they decided not to purchase a GDSS? The ex-users were asked why they decided to stop using the system. At the end of both the Fit and Viability part, a series of propositions was discussed with the interviewee to verify the answers. The interviewee was asked to rate each proposition from 1 to 5. The interviews were conducted and analyzed from the end of 2012 to early 2013.  679  Jos van Hillegersberg and Sebastiaan Koenen / Procedia Technology 16 ( 2014 ) 675 – 683 4.   Results This section summarizes the results of the interviews. Each summary starts with a short description of the  participant and his/her working environment. Then the outcome of the interview is presented. 4.1 Frequent users Participant1 is employed at a large consultancy firm. Her first experience with the system was while working on an assignment as a consultant. The business now provides about 35 sessions per year. Roughly four kinds of sessions can be distinguished: creative sessions, strategic sessions, risk assessment and “create order”. These sessions are mainly attended by highly ranked managers discussing tough issues. In this situation the use of a GDSS  provides several benefits. The system very clearly shows what has been discussed and shows those subjects which need furth er discussion. “Accelerate where possible, to decelerate where you have to”. This leads to better consensus, which leads to more support towards the outcome of the session. But there are some concerns. During the session the role of the facilitator is crucial. The facilitator has to decide what the desired outcome is and what questions need to be asked to gather them. This leads to a more carefully prepared meeting and better outcome. It is also important to realize that the tool is not the only option in the world. Sometimes it is better to take another approach to solve the issue. This is something the facilitator has to assess. During the session it is important that the facilitator makes sure everyone goes along with the session. The suggestion that maybe key positions in the organization might be occupied by the kind of managers that need the traditional model is denied instantly. If the manager wouldn’t want to know the opinion of his employees, there wouldn’t be a session. There are some other causes that lead to resistance. The use of new technology always makes people anxious. Also the use of a computer or tablet can be distracting and the transition from a verbal discussion to electronic voting can be a bit unnatural sometimes. Looking at the costs there are license costs, write-off on the used hardware and the costs for the facilitator and the coordination. These costs are compensated by several benefits. Use of this tool allows for more  branding and it even brings new customers to the company. This advantage is largest in cases where many stakeholders are involved. “It is a nice and effective way of meeting”. Participant2 is also working for a consultancy firm. He has a lot of experience in the use of GDSS. His first experience with a GDSS was during his study at Delft University. As a student assistant he was responsible for the technical support of the session. Later on he became a facilitator and did lots of research on the success and quality measuring of GDSS sessions. Nowadays he is working as a consultant and also as the project manager for the GDSS. In this role he tries to “sell” the GDSS to his colleagues and get them ready for taking the tool to their clients. The system is used two to three times per month. Use of the system really speeds up the decision process. He finds that the easier voting and possibility to work simultaneously really speed up the process. But the biggest advantage is that use of the system forces you to prepare the session more extensively. Participants in the sessions like the fact that the session enforces a certain structure which is clear from the beginning. This does not mean that everything has to be done in the system. There still has to be a human contact, the system is just an aid in getting to the desired out come. “I always try to make a 50 -50 diversion between using the system and discussion. Otherwise  people could just have stayed at home.” According to the participant this is one of the major problems for the system. People think that use of the system eliminates all contact during a meeting, but in a properly organized meeting this is surely not the case. Besides this there are some other issues. Use of technology in general scares  people, so it is hard to build any trust in the system. If a person has one bad experience using the system, all trust is gone and can hardly be restored. But most of all it is hard to accomplish the needed mind shift. People have been working in a certain way for a long time and changing this is really hard. Preparation takes more time and some specific process skills are required. The facilitator has to sense the group and lead them through the process. This scares away people. Within the company two portable sets are used to host sessions. This gives two additional obstacles: transportation costs and the need for a second person to do technical support.
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