The Role of Communication, Collaboration, and Content Technology Investments during Tight Economic Conditions (part 3)

January 22, 2009 at 3:13 pm | Posted in collaboration, communication, Content Management, Economics, portals, Recession | Leave a comment

This is the third in a series on how organizations can frame and deal with the issue of constrained budgets due to the recession at the same time users are demanding productivity-enhancing technology for communication, collaboration, and content. 

In part 1 I set up the idea that companies that do best coming out of a recession are those that invest prudently while they are in one.  In part 2 I mentioned three approaches for meeting user needs with no ability to increase budgets: cost savings, cost avoidance, and “free” stuff.

In this part I will discuss the fourth approach which I’ll call “leveraging existing investments” or “doing more with what you have”.  I’ve given this approach an entry of its own because I think it’s the most useful – but overlooked – of the four approaches.

Doing More With What You Have

Communication, collaboration, and content management technologies have been around a long time – long enough for large organizations to have accumulated quite a portfolio of them. Many are going unused or underutilized.  An initial attempt at rolling them out may have been ill-planned, badly timed, or poorly messaged.  Or the champions or experts on that technology may have left the group, leaving no one to push them forward.  Now is the time to dust off these valuable assets and take a fresh look at how they could meet current user needs.

Not all existing assets can be scaled up without incurring substantial expense.  If new versions haven’t been licensed, playing catchup to get current may be expensive.  In other cases the product cost is mostly based on per-seat licensing, in which case scaling up the existing investment may still be cost prohibitive since costs will rise in near-linear fashion with users.  This applies to some high-end document management and web content management systems for example.  But other products, such as portals, are licensed on a per-CPU or per-server basis, which can allow for some economies of scale when upsizing the usage.  Portals are a good example since initial purchase and setup was often funded during better economic times but they may be underutilized today.  This is a good time to do a portal refresh and beef up parts that are working, fix or ditch parts that aren’t, find out information sources that aren’t on the portal but should be, and re-launch a freshened portal.

The best opportunity for leveraging existing investments is to utilize communication, collaboration, and content technology built into superplatforms that hasn’t been used.  SAP shops have access to a full suite of portal, content management, and collaboration technology in NetWeaver.  IBM Lotus Notes shops may be focusing on email and ignoring its collaborative capabilities.  Organizations with Windows Server have access to Windows SharePoint Services (the no cost part of the SharePoint portfolio).  Oracle’s application server still includes Oracle Portal.  Microsoft OCS 2007 includes instant messaging built in.  There are many examples where useful technology has been bundled in with something the enterprise is already using. 

It is still important to do due diligence in order to avoid winding up with a lot of technologies that were just installed because they were already paid for, but aren’t right for the organization.  But if the option is to wait until the recession is over to get painfully needed communication, collaboration, or content technology, leveraging existing investments should get some very close scrutiny.

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