Why does a team need anything more than Email? In short, speed. What can speed-up their processes? The answer is digital group memory (DGM).
In an era of pencil and paper, teams used file folders and notebooks to organize the team's plan, work products, and communication, which collectively comprise an analog group memory. The team leader tracked progress toward goals using a hub-and-spoke information exchange whereby information was captured on paper forms from each individual team member. The team leader then combined, aggregated and summarized these individual reports in order to produce various reports that were then distributed to management and stored in filing cabinets.
While Email and file servers have since replaced the paper notebooks and filing cabinets, team leaders follow the same hub-and-spoke process of collecting updates. This means that they are still left to combine, aggregate, and summarize individual updates from documents that arrive in their inbox.
One of the powerful capabilities of information technology in support of teamwork is in its ability to provide for a digital group memory to which all team members can have direct access. Team members can contribute to it, view it, and manipulate it. Team leaders no longer need to waste time combining individual updates from Emails because team members update the digital group memory directly. Furthermore, when new members or experts need to be brought on board, they can be given access to the team's digital group memory to orient themselves to the specifics of the team's work. This is in contrast to forwarding them months and months worth of fragmented Emails and pointing them toward a file server.
A global leadership team may organize its digital group memory by projects. By having those directly responsible update key pieces of information directly, communication is immediate, yet structured. Compare this to Email that may be immediate but lacks structure. A manager may look at an aggregate view of information or drill-down into any aspect of the digital group memory at any time. With Email, he or she must scour the Inbox and laboriously piece together the story. This is not only time-consuming but also prone to misinterpretation and error. In essence, a digital group memory flattens the hierarchical communication structure such that the top can see immediately the actions and progress of the efforts on the frontline.