1991 - Support Functionality in the Office Environment

Canterbury, UK, 9-12 September

Proceedings edited by A.A. Verrijn-Stuart, H.G. Sol & P. Hammersley.

Title Pages
Morrison, J. and Vogel, D. R.

This paper addresses the requirements of an integrated software system to support small, ongoing workgroups doing a variety of tasks in multiple domains and environments. Office automation and task literature is used as a starting point to derive a set of domain-independent individual atomic office tasks. The group process literature is used in conjunction with these individual tasks to develop a set of atomic group tasks. These tasks are then aggregated with supplemental input to support higher-level project and organizational needs. Examples are supplied to illustrate the application of the atomic tasks. Technological support options are identified in the context of a prototype system currently under development, and an example of these tasks and their related support options using an organizational scenario is presented.

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Chaudhury, A., Deng, P.-S. and Rathnam, S.

This paper explores and explicates the concept of coordination. We develop a framework within which the key constructs of coordination can be precisely defined. This framework can serve as the basis for additional theoretical developments and as a basis for software systems. Our perspective on coordination draws upon research in information economics, group communicative behavior, and belief revision systems. As our approach is definitional we first conceptualize the underlying primitive concepts that constitute the idea of coordination. This conceptualization views coordination as an unending cycle of four phases: the definitional phase, the conflict resolution phase, the action phase, and the adaptation phase. We then set forth a formal model of coordination, both as a phenomenon and as a process. Within the context of the framework we have created, the key concepts of decomposability, Pareto-satisfactory, informational privacy, informational decentralization, and informational efficiency are explored. Finally, we describe the implications of our framework in terms of the behavioral characteristics of the modules involved in the coordination process, and incentive compatibility.

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Kreifelts, T., Woetzel, G. and Woitass, M.

In this paper, we propose a coordination model for off-line group support that integrates a communication model based on a certain class of Petri nets with application specific problem-solving techniques. By including message contents in conversation rules, our model allows for representing relevant decision criteria in the rules, thereby resolving possible indeterminisms of the system behaviour. To validate its practical use, we apply the model to a specific decision problem in the office, namely the scheduling of meetings. Based on empirical studies published over the last years, our concept does not rely on the use of electronic calendars. Our idea of meeting scheduling focuses on negotiation support, with explicitly asking the participants for their preferences. Based on a formal description of our scheduling mechanism, we have implemented a prototype system. In this system, decision support for meeting scheduling is achieved by a rule-based heuristic evaluation technique. To show the reliability of the meeting scheduler's coordinating activities, we use a feature of our coordination model allowing for consistency proofs.

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Jakobs, K.

The paper aims at pointing out the importance of providing most sophisticated network services to lay the foundation for any kind of data communication in general and group communication - the basis for cooperative work - in particular. I will discuss benefits of well-designed standardized network services compared with local solutions based on interface functionality. Second, I aim at giving an idea of the complexity of most diverse communication mechanisms required for provision of intelligent group communication services. I will focus on introducing relevant mechanisms provided by Message Handling and the Directory Service, respectively. Additionally, I will discuss addressing and routing issues necessary to provide for the required functionality.

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Schäl, T. and Zeller, B.

This paper presents an approach for the understanding of cooperative work in distributed management processes and its implications for the design requirements of Office Information Systems to support coordination, collaboration and co-decision within the workflows of business processes. The theoretical concepts are applied to a professional training company's managerial processes in order to design an appropriate Office Support System. Cooperative networks and communication flows are analyzed for these processes and the results are reported. The characteristics of the designed Office Information System based on advanced communication software are described.

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Lubich, H. P.

In almost all CSCW applications that have been described and implemented so far, the collaboration of the end users through joint access of shared data is mostly realized by means of strict resource reservation and locking mechanisms in order to ensure data consistency. However, with initial design experience and first end user studies being available, there is a continuing discussion on how much consistency enforcement users of CSCW applications are willing to accept. Within this paper we will shortly review the most important strict reservation schemes, namely locking and distributed transaction processing, with respect to their usability within the context of synchronous CSCW applications. Based on this review, we will then pre- sent the resource reservation strategies as proposed for the MultimETH collaborative conferencing and editing system as an example of a highly configurable, user-friendly approach.

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Hägglund, S.

Designing effective consultation models for systems providing cooperative knowledge-based decision support in an office environment is an essential task for assisting a computer user. In this paper we apply a knowledge communication perspective, where the system is perceived as a kind of intelligent handbook, combining the capacity for individualized advice with the availability and permanence of a textbook. The emphasis of our studies is on the use of an expert critiquing approach for the human-computer cooperation, where the user holds the initiative and the system provides feedback and reflections based on the actions of the user. Experience from applying this perspective and extending it to intelligent tutoring is accounted for in the paper.

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Van Hee, K. M., Nuijten, W. P. M. and De Vet, A. C. F. M.
Keywords:Operational Planning Decision Support Systems Interactive Planning Problem Solving by Search DSS Generator

Operational planning is an essential feature in office information systems. It can be supported by the use of Decision Support Systems (DSS’s). We analyze the problems that arise with the classical or Operations Research approach of making DSS’s for operational planning. Based on this analysis we come to a two-phase method that separates problem analysis and solver design. Both problem analysis and solver design are based on formal models. We will illustrate the use of these models and we propose a generic software tool, called a DSS generator, for generating DSS’s from a formal problem type specification.

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Celentano, A., Fugini, M. G. and Pozzi, S.

The purpose of this paper is to present what features have to considered in the design and implementation of tools that allow the user to access knowledge about the usage of documents in the office, to obtain operation assistance while performing his tasks. The office document knowledge describes both the structure and contents of documents and the relationships between the documents and the office environment. A prototype browser that supports navigation in the system knowledge is described. Examples of use of the tool to obtain operation assistance are given.

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Stark, H. A.

In this paper, the computational requirements of heuristics for multi-attribute choice are used to generate suggestions for computer-based decision support tools. These support tools, together with the people that use them, form a joint information processing system. In the design of joint information processing systems, the analyst must specify an a priori division of labour between computer and human processors. In this analysis, initiative and responsibility for information selection, evaluation, and integration are assigned to the human decision-maker(s). The computer-based support tools provided to users may affect the preferred algorithm for applying different decision heuristics. Despite this complication, it is possible to generate clear empirical predictions about the consequences of different types of tool support for the behaviour of people making choices. The special problems of computer-based support for choice in an organizational context are related to system integration, work practices, and decision justification.

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Swanson, E. B. and Zmud, R. W.

Organizational decision support systems (ODSS) combine elements from both the decision support system (DSS) and office information system (OIS) fields. The greatest challenge arises in the context of unstable organizational environments. Here the traditional hierarchy offers weak foundations for ODSS. Support may be better targeted at the organization’s virtual positions, those teams, committees, and task forces which provide lateral, rather than vertical, information processing capacity. Information sharing, problem structuring, and negotiated choice are suitable strategies for supporting virtual positions. Suggested core support facilities include: an electronic communication facility; an electronic meeting room complex; an electronic decision support toolkit; and an electronic organizational guide. A variety of questions call for research to advance our knowledge in this area.

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Gazendam, H. W. M., Jorna, R. J. and Blochowiak, K. R.

The successful emergence of DSS-based approaches to computerization in the last decades asks for an understanding of human and computer tasks based on human intelligence and communication. Therefore, we want to explore a DSS architecture based on cognitive science. This means that we use the mind as a metaphor for information systems, especially decision support systems. We see a DSS as a partial simulator of human intelligence, aimed at assisting people in performing their tasks. To give this type of DSS a theoretical basis, we have to explore cognitive science. Cognitive science states a functional equivalence and a physical dissimilarity between human beings and computers. The functional equivalence is demonstrated by Soar, a computer simulation model of the human cognitive system with powerful generic problem solving and learning methods. Soar can be used as the basis of a mind metaphor DSS architecture. The characteristics of human cognition and communication demand that in the human-computer-interface, a user can directly manipulate task-related objects which look like, and behave like, objects the user is familiar with. Based on this theoretical background, the mind metaphor DSS architecture can be described as either an intelligent assistant or as a virtual reality. Several (prototype) information systems based on the mind metaphor DSS architecture have been developed: the DISKUS system, the UNICORN research support system, the multi-agent organization model ISM, and the multi-agent system MAG. Further research on the use of DSSs in practice will be based on cognitive science as well as semiotics. Semiotic theory offers the possibility of a systematic study and observation of communication and sign interpretation.

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Lundberg, B. G.

Some decision support models are discussed from the point of view of supporting a decision-maker with information about a problem situation. The model-based approach is compared with the information retrieval approach and based on that discussion the concepts of information support, and information support systems, is introduced. An experimental computer-based system intended for information support applications is presented and discussed. The system is based on the assumption that information is represented in free-text form. In the system an information net is constructed automatically based on an assumed mutual relevance of information items, which is derived from a mutual similarity between informational items. Further, a preliminary explanatory model of the system is presented and some topics for research are pointed out. 

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Harper, M. E.

This paper attempts to explore some background office tasks which appear to be under-supported by current office automation (OA) software and office systems, and to offer some applicable concepts for better support of these tasks in future OA products. The exploration and analysis is less than rigorous, but the author hopes nevertheless to persuade the reader that this is a domain of office work in serious need of more attention by office system researchers and designers.

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Savolainen, V.
Keywords:Information Systems Decision Support ISD Method and Tool Tool Selection Decision Criteria Reference Framework

A Framework of Reference was constructed by the HECTOR Project to act as a common language and structure for describing concepts, methods and tools in information systems development (lSD) projects. The need for constructing an aid for method and tool selection was revealed by the users of methods and tools in the HECTOR study. In Finland, the tool selection criteria were investigated from the decision makers’ point of view. HECTOR founded a SESAM data base which includes analysed descriptions of concepts, and lSD methods and tools. A decision aid called OISEAU to support the selection of useful methods and tools for the lSD projects was designed and constructed on a demonstration level, and its development activities continue. Our interactive approach to tool selection has been shown to be a practical way to tackle generally known complex lSD contingency problems and to handle more contingency factors than there has earlier been met in scientific literature. In this paper we present the foundations, structures, functions, use and further development plans of OISEAU Decision Aid.

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McCosh, A. M.

The present conference is dedicated to the convergence of decision support concepts (DSS) and office information systems (OIS). The present paper is theory based, in that it draws up the specifications of a combined OIS and DSS system that will meet the needs of a particular class of user, which class is growing rapidly in size in the UK. The goal of the paper is to specify the constraints on the work of this user class, and to design a series of systems which will enable them properly to discharge their increasingly onerous responsibilities. The paper does not attempt to deal with the technical aspects in full, but attempts to set forth the business requirements in sufficient detail, and to suggest the most promising technical approaches.

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