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Early Adopters of Collaborative Workforce Initiatives

-- Vinny Alex

In their article on 21st-Century Workplace Trends and Their Implications, Joseph H. Boyett and David Pearce Snyder 1 describe four major shifts that employers and employees need to take into account. They are:

Trend # 1

The Growing Contingent Workforce. Leading to a greater percentage of the workforce being non-permanent; either hired as temporary, or employees who see their careers in an organization as only one phase of their total career plan.

Trend # 2

Telecommuting

Trend # 3

Up-skilling of Jobs and the need for everyone in the organization to become technically competent

Trend # 4

Self-led Teams that require minimal or no supervision.

But what do these trends mean to an organization, in terms of its IT requirements? One major implication would be the need to rely on better collaborative tools so that people have access to information where ever they may be. Information that is relevant to the individual and in a format that the individual can use.

Portals have played a powerful role in bringing together relevant information from various sources onto one single common platform. These intranets help unite a decentralized workforce is a way that has never been done before. The need today is not so much for software with new functionalities, rather it is for applications and data repositories to talk to one another, making information meaningful to the recipient, wherever and who ever he may be. All the more so, since in today's world, where an organization does not succeed or fail based on the value added by individuals (since process focus has ensured that the process ensures that every individual adds value in some form or the other), but rather how effectively and efficiently this value is integrated into a coherent whole.

Granted, not every organization today is looking at portal based collaborative workforce solutions today. But the move towards this has become so strong, that Gartner Group can confidently predict, that "now is the time to get high-impact value from collaborative workforce initiatives. Today they provide differentiation; soon they will only offer parity" . Internetweek, in an article by Larry Stevens, stated that "Web collaboration software has made significant strides in the past year. Not long ago, Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange were the only games in town. Today, budget crunches and skills shortages have made Notes and Exchange rollouts harder to justify. And the newer, cheaper and easy-to-implement Web products offer viable alternatives."


collaborative work flow initiatives

Some of the more common uses of web based collaborative tools are to streamline the supply chain (SCM) and manage customer relationships, through Customer Relationship Management software. However, these need not be the only areas for portal based collaboration. One significant area for enterprise differentiation and cost savings are in the area of Talent Engagement (nee Human Resource Development and administration). As today's workforce spends more time out of office, the strain and complexity it brings to the HR administration is immense. This can result in a more than proportional increase in administration costs. A portal based solutions such as an Employee Relationship Management solution would be ideal in such a scenario to help cut down time and cost in managing such a system.

But looking at Portal based solutions just as an option to reduce costs would make one miss out on the many other advantages that a portal based solution can bring. One of the greatest advantages that new generation of websites provides today is the ability to personalize the viewer experience. Every user can choose what he or she would like to view and how. New intelligent searches and learning tools help users sift through large volumes of information to access relevant information. Since the Portal based solutions rely on software created for the internet, they are inherently designed to handle large volumes of information.

Since 2001, the market has taken on a new look, as new portal product offerings from major platform software providers (IBM, Oracle, SAP, Sun) have come on stream. These platform offerings target the portal requirements of the e-business enterprise. Their moves are indicative of the broad acceptance portal based collaborative computing has gained among corporate business managers and IT buyers as the next model for enterprise information work.

The issue at hand is not whether organizations need move to a portal based solution: rather it is whether any company can hope to survive in today's scenario without it. Stylus Systems is taking up the challenge to develop solutions that deliver a new level of effectiveness for delivering internet and intranet solutions to the extended e-business community. Gartner concludes that by 2005 collaborative workforce applications will be adopted by most organizations, as those that haven't done so far struggle to keep pace with those that have. And not everyone will survive that struggle.

http://horizon.unc.edu/bios/Snyder.asp

http://www.internetweek.com/indepth01/indepth092601.htm

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