Yes, it’s not a typo. I often write about GDSS – Group Decision Support Systems – (I have actually a Linkedin group on the subject here) but the title of this article is correct.
I was going to name it ‘RealtimeBoard vs StormBoard’, two novel tools for visual collaboration but changed my mind. I figured that talking about the tools without explaining first the context for using them was probably a bad idea.
Besides GroupMap, my favorite GDSS tool, there are a number of software products out there that are designed for helping groups to make decisions. I call these the purebred GDSS tools, and key consulting companies tend to adopt them. Such is the case of Stormz (in CapGemini), MeetingSphere (in PWC), ThinkTank (formerly GroupSystems) and Powernoodle which is Gartner’s CoolVendor 2014.
Visiting these companies’ websites, we can see they all provide support for group decisions and preferably in workshops, the recommended way for participative decision-making to be effectively made. If you want to learn more about GDSS and watch a presentation from my regular webinars or access a product comparison chart you can check this page.
Visual collaboration tools
There is now a new class of software tools in the wider Group Support Systems (GSS) area. They are not designed for decision-making, but just to support the visual creation and sharing of information during the group discussions in project team meetings. I include here the industry pioneer ConceptBoard, and the latest new entrants Mural, RealtimeBoard, and StormBoard. I have started a workspace in each of these latter two. My impressions are that there is an offer for visual collaboration support in teams well above the product demand side of the market.
Firstly, these platforms are almost identical. They both adopt the FREEMIUM sales model, so you can start to use them for free. If you then decide to adopt one of these tools for a larger team or the whole of your organization, their prices are exactly the same. Both platforms currently offer a USD 100.00/monthly charge for a team of 10 members, although they slightly differ if you buy for a full year.
I just wonder if there are that many project managers in the English-speaking world eager to adopt this kind of tools, that do not deliver the group decision-support part that most team facilitators need. Stormboard and RealtimeBoard are designed to visually support the group discussions on a shared screen but for that, we can also share a GSuite doc (or an Excel sheet in Office 365) in the cloud and do a lot of visual collaboration with a Hangouts or Webex call.
The advanced visual collaboration features that Storm Board or RealTime Board offer are great but perhaps more than the common practitioner requires. They are conceived to be used with handheld devices and in a new kind of collaborative working environment in the meeting room – the large interactive display.
Two popular examples are the Microsoft Surface Hub (that integrates proprietary with Skype for Business) or a more affordable alternative, the CTOUCH which works with any kind of voice and video-conferencing platform. However, most companies have not yet started to equip their huddle rooms with interactive displays. In spite of their growing demand, I see that most interactive display’s users will be laggard in relation to sophisticated forms of visual collaboration.
Group decision-making tools
Let’s face it, the real challenge for a group to engage in a discussion is not just to share information, the crucial part is the decision-making process. The software makers that offer GDSS (Group Decision Support Systems) they all have learned that with their customers in the hardest way.
Any work group has normally an assigned ‘team leader’, but that does not necessarily convert them into becoming a team. Transforming groups into teams is a top management priority in the most thriving organizations today. Such companies rely on the services of group facilitators, that assist managers and team leaders in running workshops instead of meetings.
Once in team, you will find that the most powerful combination to support group interactions is to run a GDSS (not just a GSS) in the huddle room that is equipped with interactive displays, preferably two in a pair, as the ones pictured on the top of this article in the CTOUCH Cvolution Meeting Center – one for annotations and the other for content sharing.
For basic facilitation in any kind of workshops, you can use a tool such as GroupMap, which is a purebred GDSS that has the best visual collaboration options in the market today. For developmental facilitation or organizational decision making, you can rely on platforms such as Stormz or Powernoodle, that can also be used well on interactive displays during the project review meetings. Finally, once the group decision-making is sorted with GroupMap, you can move along and export your group tasks to any popular project management tool such as Trello or Asana, besides, of course, Realtime Board or Storm Board.
To conclude, only if you possess interactive displays in your huddle room you will be truly rewarded with the power of interaction of these novel project management tools to support your team discussions. Finally, only with team facilitation and GDSS software, you will be able to transform groups into teams and to reach effective decision-making.