Working on information management projects for the last 13 years I have seen a lot of change in technology, from humble intranets and document solutions on SharePoint Portal Server 2003, through to the large array of services on Office 365. I think most people will agree that the capability we have today far exceeds our expectations back then, certainly from a technical standpoint. But technical aside, have we changed our working and delivery patterns in line with the technology? In this blog I will review a number of trends I see when organisations select and implement new technology.
We live in an age of instant gratification. If you need to solve an argument with a family member, Google it. If you want to learn how to cook a roast chicken, Google it. This means that customers tend to be more informed than before, which is a good thing! I have seen some incredible solutions developed by people with little IT experience (using tools like LiveTiles), especially in the education space where budgets are usually tight. However, for larger projects there is a lot to be said for engaging with a specialist to implement a robust information architecture (IA) and user experience (UX). Mistakes made in IA and UX early on can have large repercussions down the line, resulting in a higher TCO (total cost of ownership) and poor user adoption.
Pre-Packaged Intranet as a Service
Many organisations don’t have either the budget or resources to engage in a custom intranet project. This is when a product or pre-canned offering that meets some or all of their requirements can be enticing, especially in industries where a high percentage of the workforce doesn’t use a computer – such as food and beverage, retail and construction. Kiosk workers (in Microsoft speak) may have only just received an email address so the cost to engage these staff in new systems is high. A pre-packaged solution is a great way to ensure you meet some of your business outcomes and then use it as a springboard to implement more advanced capability in the future. PortalGo!, our intranet solution built on Office 365 is proving very popular for this reason. Cloud offerings combine cloud economics to manage costs, cloud infrastructure enabling a scale-out approach and reuse existing IP to deliver additional business value. When time to value is seen as key, these solution types offer rapid business value capture that justifies the budget for further phases and a solid base to build upon.
The traditional consulting approach relied upon long periods of discovery and information gathering followed by a customised deployment. The desire for rapid ROI (78% expectation of <3 month SaaS RoI3) means that consulting firms have to start sharing their existing knowledge (package IP) up-front, so that new high value services can be delivered in shorter time-frames. This has resulted in an increase of agile delivery methodologies and a fundamental change in the way we think about consulting engagements. Proof of concepts or pilots are common place in the early stages of a project, and can assist with the change management process. Project staff and end users become educated on the technology earlier and are likely to be more engaged as they can visualise the final solution.
These have traditionally been high value and high cost. For large enterprises with complex systems integration, workflow, IA and security requirements this may be the only option. There is potential to deliver significant business value, however the high up-front costs in time and infrastructure has created its own challenges in the risk/reward equation. Many large organisations are now wary of customisation, previously burdened by operating and maintaining legacy systems. Instead opting for SaaS solutions like Office 365, which it may not do everything they need, but offers great capability out of the box and removes the upgrade cycle impact on the users and the IT capex budget.
By Daniel Goss, VP Solutions, rhipe Solutions