Off-the-shelf software application
A primary responsibility of a CIO is to evaluate the costs associated with procuring a new enterprise application versus the value it provides to the organization. While many will argue that there’s more risk involved with the decision to build an application from scratch, there are at least as many hazards deploying a packaged software application. With little effort, most CIOs can conjure memories of enterprise software implementations that took too long and cost significantly more than the original budget estimate.
Nevertheless, a variety of collaboration management systems are currently on the market, many of which offer full feature sets and a rich customer experience. These systems typically are geared to handle many of the more advanced requirements for organizing and executing a collaborative event, such as online payment, Web and audio conferencing, and reporting.
Unfortunately, prepackaged applications share many of the disadvantages of the homegrown application. A company still needs to invest in the equipment and infrastructure necessary to host the solution in-house. The licensing fees for the application itself can easily meet or exceed the consulting costs that would be incurred to custom develop the application.
Moreover, most software applications require customization that's costly or difficult to execute. Companies routinely spend many months and thousands of dollars to redesign an off-the-shelf product, and many of these deployments still require the support of professional consultants and systems integrators, whose time is yet another expense the company must incur. In addition, system upgrades can be expensive and a significant time sink, especially when customizations are part of the picture.
As a result, most CIOs require managers to make a definitive business case prior to implementing an enterprise software system. The IT department, in conjunction with line managers, must be able to show how the cost to deploy the application will be offset by the return-on-investment. Given the high costs of such projects, this is a difficult case to make. And, with so many variables unclear, the decision to use an off-the-shelf software application is no easier than the choice to build your own system.
- Investment costs: $75,000+ (includes Web server, database server, firewall, RAID, network upgrades, database license, and application development environment)
- Application costs: $75,000-$100,000 (includes the purchase of the application, customization, and deployment consulting)
- Maintenance and enhancement costs: $50,000-$100,000 per year (necessary for staff to continue using and getting value from the application)
- Time: 6-9 months (includes deployment and customization)
- Potential results: High hosting costs, high application costs, long implementation cycle, ongoing maintenance, and costly and difficult upgrades
A hosted solution
Despite the bleak picture painted above, there’s hope for the progressive CIO. Conveniently, the hosted model is rising to the top of CIO strategies. Fortune 500 companies are leveraging hosted services from application suppliers that deliver all of the benefits of the best in-house and application software while eliminating high costs and long implementation cycles.
Hosted collaborative event management solutions simplify all of the steps required to organize and execute global events, in-person conferences, and marketing or training Webinars. A comprehensive service captures and combines the relevant information for both in-person and virtual events, and integrates the content for use across the enterprise. Typical features include event planning, scheduling, registration, online payment, communications, certification, approval, and reporting. This sort of functionality streamlines the collaboration management process, replacing the disparate combination of custom programs, manual spreadsheets, and repetitive tasks. Better yet, most hosted offerings integrate easily with other Web and audio conferencing services.
By nature, a hosted collaboration management solution removes the burden of installing, maintaining, and upgrading the event management system, freeing IT and training staff to manage other pressing tasks. And in most cases, a hosted solution can be deployed across the enterprise in less than 30 days.
Of equal importance, the cost to use a hosted service can be significantly less than the purchase price of an off-the-shelf or homegrown application. In a hosted engagement, a company pays for the number of event registration it needs and nothing more. The combination of these factors allows most companies to see a quantifiable ROI after the very first event.
- Investment costs: None (a custom site is hosted by the application provider)
- Minimal annual subscription fee. Most hosted service providers offer a low-cost solution branded to the customer’s corporate look-and-feel
- Maintenance fees. None; the provider maintains the company’s Website and generates upgrades automatically
- Time: Typically less than 30 days; the provider sets up the company’s Website and provides a login to plan and enter training classes or marketing Webinars
- Potential results: No capital investment; fast deployment; maintenance and upgrades included in subscription fees
Take a closer look
Few CIOs would argue that collaboration tools are established as a key building block in the enterprise. Collaborative solutions, including Web conferencing and instant messaging, initially were useful for reducing the costs of business travel. Now, they're strategic resources to the most advanced organizations.
By engaging a hosted collaboration management system, companies retain optimum system flexibility, which is necessary to balance organizational growth and evolving business and technology requirements. As a company adds staff, expands its product line, and moves into new markets, the demand it makes on a solution will likely change. To ensure these transitions are managed fluidly, a hosted solution is your best bet.
The most advanced hosted collaboration management system providers already have close relationships with complementary collaboration technology companies. The emergence of Web and audio conferencing are driving forces behind what is quickly becoming a multibillion dollar global market. Making the correct decision to deploy a hosted solution will most definitely have an impact on a company’s bottom line. It’s incumbent on a company’s senior management and IT staff to choose wisely.