I. Introduction

Technology has played a major role is creating a complex global economy, and the type of long distance business that hing
es on the ability of group work. Technology also plays an enormous role in facilitating this increase in group work. Communication and data exchange continues to increase in both speed and efficiency as companies develop newer and more sophisticated technologies. Just like humans, however, technology is not perfect; and there are some drawbacks to the increased reliance upon it. There are also some key points for managers to consider when implementing technologies into their groups.

II. Groups and Technology

A. Group Communication - How technology has changed group communication, for better and for worse.

The Abundant Presence of Mobile Phones and Advances in Mobile Technologies

In this day and age, everyone has a cell phone these days. This gives group members the ability to reach each other from practically anywhere. Features such as text messaging have further expanded the availability of group members since messages may be sent at times when talking is not permitted. In addition, practically every cell phone now on the market allows contacts to be stored as groups such as "coworkers", "families", "friends", etc., to allow a message to be typed only once and sent to all.
Even more recently, smart phones such as the iPhone and Android devices have emerged which now enable group members to access the internet and emails on the go. Also, built in to the majority of state-of-the-art mobile phones is a conference call feature. These devices, as well as apps for things such as social media have opened up channels of group communication that are still being explored and understood. Here is a link to a study by a group of engineers and innovators who are calling for, and laying out a plan for, an increased integration of group communication and mobile devices. They claim that mobile apps too often try to mimic their desktop versions, and ignore the differences in behavior of the mobile user.[1]


Email quickly replaced the fax machine as the main way businesses, and consequently the groups and teams within, send letters and documents. An email account can hold the addresses and info about group members and keep them grouped together for quick selection when sending documents. They can be sent either to all members, or to a select few, just as easily. Using email's attachments feature, group members can send entire presentations and projects back and forth instantly. This allows for faster editing and revision processes.

Social Media

Social Media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are rapidly becoming a preferred method of communication among groups. Despite it's rapid popularity ascent, Email is now quickly losing ground as the preferred way to send messages to group members among the ages of 18-54, as these sites make it increasingly easier to send and receive messages. LinkedIn Beats Email for Group Communication[2]

Video Conferencing

Even more recent than mobile phones and email is the development of internet-based video conferencing. Video phones have been around for over a decade, however the technology of the past was much to expensive to be significantly integrated into daily business operations and group interactions. Newer internet-based technologies are cheap and easy to integrate into practically any business. These technologies allow video conferencing to be done either through desktop applications such as Skype and OoVoo or through mobile applications such as Apple's famous Facetime.
By using video conferencing we not only get the convenience of instant messaging but the rapidness of talking in person. Meetings can now easily span large distances countries, even countries, and severely cut the corporate costs for traveling. Many of these applications also allow the conversation to be recorded, which creates a permanent reference and eliminates the need to frantically write notes as the meeting progresses.

B. Changes in group presentations and exchanges of files and information.

Increased speed and ease of data exchange.

Google Docs creates a fast easy way to edit and send files in real time. Users can start sharing with anyone that has an email address. Users create their document in Google Docs and then can send the invitation link through email to anyone that they wish to collaborate with.
Google docs allows for collaboration on Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations. It is a free to use program that is available to anyone that has internet access, and has many of the same tools that companies would normally have to pay for in the Microsoft Office Suite. By having companies switch from the Microsoft Office Suite to this free service, they can save thousands of dollars. Google docs also allows users to make use of its free storage. Google Docs provides 1 GB of free storage and Picasa holds 1GB of pictures and videos, but if more storage is necessary upgrades to paid storage are available. Google Paid Storage includes Picasa, Google+ and also Google Docs.

Google Paid Storage:
  • 20 GB - $5/yr
  • 80 GB - $20/yr
  • 200 GB - $50/yr
  • 400 GB - $100/yr
  • 1 TB - $256/yr
  • 2 TB - $512/yr
  • 4 TB - $1024/yr
  • 8 TB - $2048/yr
  • 16 TB - $4096/yr

Changes in editing and revision of projects and presentations

Allows easy and faster ways of finding out the newest and latest version of projects. All authors see the document and revisions in real time, instead of having multiple versions and revisions to attend to.
The new Google Docs has added pre-built editors, to enable a faster and richer collaborative effort for all group members to edit together.
The new and improved version of Google docs allows users:
  • To see every character modification in real time
  • Chat with partners directly in the project
  • Draw charts, design diagrams
  • Add effects on transition between slides in presentations
  • Create Dynamic presentations through animation
  • Revision history stores edits so you can return to earlier versions

Cons of Google Docs
Formatting in browser is a different experience for the users, so therefore can be a bit challenging switching over from Excel to Google docs. Google Docs also sometimes messes up the formatting when users upload a document that has already been created in word or another program. Pictures cannot be directly uploaded, they must be put into a document in order to be sent. In the older version of Google docs you had to be connected to the internet.


An Example of what Google Docs and Google Presentation is capable: (video highlights the amount of animation as well as tools to make the presentation stand out)

C. How technology can hinder group progress.

Group understanding of technology

With any technology a group uses, whether it be the operating systems on their computers or the applications being used, the user must have a certain level of understanding of how it works and how to use it. Lack of knowledge can hold back the user from doing their job and/or contributing to the group. It takes time to adapt to new technology. Learning how to use technology can detract away from time spent towards work in the group as a whole. Some group members may know how to operate and utilize technology better than others and the ones who do not may need constant instruction. Those that are better users may feel like they are doing more work within the group and cause group equilibrium to be imbalanced. Delays in group work due to technical problems can cause dissatisfaction and put stress on the relationships within a group. For this reason, groups often go to seminars or training to learn how to use the technology efficiently and effectively.[6]

Reluctance to upgrade to newer technologies

Technology is constantly being improved faster than groups can keep up with. Cost is a major factor in why many groups are slow to adopt new technologies. The latest technology can come at a high price. Groups, whether they be entire companies or independent offices, sometimes do not have adequate funds to resource them, and find upgrading to be a huge financial undertaking. Also, with older technology, group members have higher levels of familiarity and comfort. Changing to a new and foreign technology may potentially be more of a hassle and inconvenience to learn as well as time consuming.[7] [8]

Older technology can be a liability

Older technology may problematic because it is not always compatible with newer technology and can cause group progress to backtrack. Not using current technology and systems can be a security risk as well. Upgrades are meant to protect operating systems used in the group from hackers attempting to hack into systems with outdated security and holes in the software.[9] [10]

Groups Relying on Technology on too Heavily
There is no doubt that technology can make it easier to perform specific tasks. However, with advances in technology, groups tend to rely more heavily on the usage of such tools and can sometimes become too separated from the task. For example, a business uses a program to track inventory, keeping records of products that are sold/shipped out and bought/shipped in. A problem could arise if the program said the business has a different amount of an item than is actually in the inventory. If too much faith was put into this program, the difference might not be noticed until a sale is made for inventory which is not there. Therefore, there should be a happy medium with the use of technology and overseeing manually instead of relying completely on a program that could contain errors and mistakes.

D. Suggestions for Managers

Moderate assignments easier using group share programs

Group share programs make it easier for managers to see who is on task and participating in projects and discussions. The programs allow feedback to be sent and received instantly. Managers can also grant view and edit rights to members as he/she pleases. When new information is inputted into the program, group members are automatically notified. An example of a great group share website a manager can utilize for groups is here.

Using technology makes your team gel

Using new technology creates an atmosphere that encourages ideas, aspirations, and creativity. Transcripts show team history, so members feel included and are updated on current events and meetings. Technology quickly becomes the most important vehicle for team culture. Once a group becomes well versed in several technology vehicles, they can become more effective and efficient in presentation and/or research. For example, if Microsoft put a group together to find out what price for Xbox consoles and games will maximize profit, the group can use Microsoft Exel Solver to determine the maximum optimization. Solver uses Simplex LP to determine optimization.

Use texting and social media professionally

Cell phones allow users to communicate quickly through texting. This allows for easy communication at moments when members cannot make a phone call or send an email. However, text messages can be easily misconstrued, so managers need to keep this in mind when communicating with a team. Social Media sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow groups to communicate with each other and promote and share ideas with others. Utilizing these tools correctly can promote the group and create a wide "fan" base. However, they can decrease member morale and popularity if the posts are not politically correct, single out members with criticism, or are seen as unprofessional. In order to maintain a professional and positive setting, managers need to monitor member posts. A seminar on the usage of these technologies would increase member knowledge on how to best utilize them.

III. Conclusion

Technology is increasing the amount of communication within groups, the speed of group work, and the ease of editing that work. Depending on the degree, it may or may not be difficult to integrate new technology and to use that technology efficiently, but the benefit to groups is undeniable. Through the use of smart phones, e-mail, social media, video conferencing, and Google Docs, groups are able to collaborate, share, and coordinate more efficiently than ever before. However, groups must be cautious as to not over rely on technology, and must remember that in-person communication can sometimes not be matched. With the proper knowledge, and through proper management by leaders and users, the use of technology within groups will continue to increase productivity.
  1. ^ Grob, R., Kuhn, N., Wattenhofer, R., & Martin, W. (2009). Cluestr: mobile social networking for enhanced group communication. Retrieved from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1531686&bnc=1
  2. ^ GroupCharger. (2011). LinkedIn Beats Email for Group Communication. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://www.groupcharger.com/linkedin-beats-email-for-group-communication/
  3. ^ Group video calling for your business with Skype. [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zib7A4KdKW8&feature=player_embedded
  4. ^ Introducing a new Google Docs. [Video File]. Retrieved from
  5. ^ Google Demo Slam: Epic Docs Animation. [Video File] Retrieved from
  6. ^ Shah, S. (2009, January 20). Project managers: The value of understanding technology. Retrieved from http://pmstudent.com/project-managers-the-value-of-understanding-technology/
  7. ^ Tripsas, M. (2009, August 08). Prototype: How old-technology companies can extend their lives.The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/business/09proto.html
  8. ^ Kaplay, M. (2011, June23). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://mike.kaply.com/2011/06/23/why-do-companies-stay-on-old-technology/
  9. ^ Lee. (2011, January 17). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.security-faqs.com/are-you-putting-your-company-at-risk-by-not-updating-to-windows-7.html
  10. ^ Quillin, J. (2011, September 14).When should outdated tech be replaced?. Retrieved from http://dualedgestudios.com/archives/268