ERCIM News No.20 - January 1995 - GMD

POLIKOM - Projects on Telecooperation

by Wolfgang Prinz and Thomas Knopik

Support for interpersonal cooperation in large, geographically distributed organizations is one of the great challenges for the information and communication technologies of the future. Cooperation problems are similar everywhere; in large economic enterprises, amongst the governments of the European states, and in the German federal and state governments, whose ministries are geographically distributed. In the new research programme "Telecooperation - POLIKOM" the Minister of Research and Technology will promote research in this area. So far three of twenty-seven proposals have been approved. GMD is involved in two of the successful proposals: PoliTeam and POLIWORK.

The two projects with GMD involvement will develop systems to support cooperation in groups distributed over space and time. In these projects research institutions, industries, and pilot users from ministries will be engaged. The systems should be applicable both within organisations and between different organisations. PoliTeam will focus on the coordination of asynchronous group work while POLIWORK will concentrate on decision making in small groups and on document management.

The PoliTeam consortium consists of the System and Software House VW-GEDAS, the GMD Institute for Applied Information Technology and the Institute for Computer Science at Bonn University. Pilot partners in the project will be Audi AG, the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs and Senior Citizens, as well as the Ministry of Justice, Federal and European Affairs of the State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

In POLIWORK the partners are the European Networking Center of the IBM Deutschland Informationssysteme GmbH, the Integrated Publication and Information Systems Institute of GMD, the Research Center for Administration Informatics at the University of Koblenz and the Institute for Organisation and Automation at the University of Cologne, and as pilot users the Information Technology Coordination and Consulting Center of the Ministry of Interior, the office of the Committee of the Parliament for Research and Technology, the Ministry of Research and Technology, and the Ministry of Education of the North Rhine-Westphalia state.

The objective of the PoliTeam project is the development and introduction of a system to effectively support coordination of group work, office procedures and archiving. The system will allow for electronic circulation folders and will support tight cooperation through the provision of a shared electronic desk. It will support awareness in computer supported work processes by means of an information and notification service. Typical processes which PoliTeam seeks to streamline are documentary operations in large businesses and administrations, which must pass through various stages from inception to archiving requiring a multitude of processing steps.

The goal of POLIWORK is the creation of innovative solutions for human cooperation in organisations which are distributed over space and time and to evaluate their applicability through their use in real world practise. The system should facilitate "cooperation as if being in the same room". The most modern technology should be applied such that a high degree of user friendliness can be achieved. Furthermore the organisational embedding of the solutions developed in the project in the organisation of the pilot users will be of high importance.

Both projects will start with the evaluation of already existing products or stable prototypes with the pilot users. PoliTeam uses "synergie für windows" whose kernel system has recently been awarded "Best of Comdex `Fall 93" and "Software for Europe Gold Award CeBIT `94". Based on the concrete practical experiences new requirements will be derived and drive further system development.

The engagement of partners from industries and research organisations in the system development and the early involvement of pilot users as practised in both projects represents a new way for the development of systems fulfilling practical needs.

Please contact:
Wolfgang Prinz - GMD
Tel +49 2241 14 2730
or Thomas Knopik
tel: +49 6151 869 954