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Sittin at my desk half the day....

Posted on May 10, 2006

By Mark Jordan, This Week's Expert

Web page please refresh
before i run a---waaaay, yeah..

(to be sung to the chorus of "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay"; Otis Redding, Jr.)

Maybe there's money to be made here if i finish the song and market it as the Web Application Blues.

Anybody who has ever had to do some serious work on the web knows that working in a pure web application can be very frustrating.  You do your work on the first page, save, wait, do a little more of your work, save, wait, and pretty soon you feel like you're listening to a song on an old record player that skips every third word.

One of your challenges in reviewing and selecting new meeting technologies is trying to make an intelligent assessment of the short and long term impact they wil have on your work efficiency and process flow.  You can ask the salesperson if working in the application slows people down, but the response you're likely to get is, "Oh no!  Absolutely not!  Once you and/or your people get over a 'small' learning curve, you'll be working smarter and faster than ever before."  Or, "Did I tell you about this really great report you can run?"  It's hard.  You look at the carefully crafted demos, talk to the very carefully screened references, and you just can't help but feel that maybe you haven't gotten the whole story.

Worse yet, Travel Management has come in and said that their travel management vendor has this really great product for meetings and you should/WILL use it.  Have you ever known a travel management company that really knew meetings?  It's possible that they're so thrilled with the product because they're getting a great financial reselling deal, and not that they're convinced that the tools will make you and your people shine within the company.

Now, this is not to say that all these technologies are terrible tools - they're not.  They do alot of good things in theory, and some good things in practice too.  But without careful implementation planning, and management of expectations, everything can blow up in your face. Here's a fact:

1) Almost all web-based applications are slower than ones you may have been used to working with on your local machines or networks.

2) The problem is compounded because many planning departments incorporate a hodgepodge of tools like spreadsheets, Word documents, email, phone and even pencil and paper in the course of executing their business processes.  All of it will have to be scrapped, so you'll have to create new processes and then train staff to work within them.  Odds are that when they're overworked already, and now their job takes 30 - 50% longer to perform, they won't be happy or particularly compliant.

Planning, motivating and incenting your people, and having a realistic understanding of what's going to happen will serve you well.

And then there's this other thing you can do, depending upon how much clout you have to wield.  You can insist on broadening your product search to include vendors who have technology that merges desktop functionality with the Internet.  I promise you - they're out there.  While you're doing that, also review and compare how easy it is to integrate the various meetings technolgies with other technology already in use in the organization by Accounting, Finance, HR.  Integration can reduce implementation backflow. 

Finally, sit on the heads of your technology provider, and try to get them to provide tools that will help you to work faster and more efficiently.  For example, why can't you do your budgets in excel spreadsheets and then upload them to the meetings database you use. Or why can't you use the RFP formats you've always used?  There are often good reasons why not, but "We just don't do it that way" isn't one of them.  Technology is supposed to support your business process, not destroy it and force you to work exclusively the way it wants you to work.

Am I right, or am i wrong??  Shrewd Sage or Silly Idealist?  Let me know!


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