By Wayne Turmel
When is the solution to a problem a bigger problem? It might be when you have too many solutions to choose from. That’s the challenge many teams and companies are facing with the boom in small applications and cool software tools available. Many teams are calling a halt to the madness.
Once you were at the mercy of the IT department and whatever enterprise software and tools they chose. Then came “The Cloud”, “Software As A Service” (SAAS) and a mind-boggling number of “apps” for both the network and your phone. Suddenly you could find a cheap, easy solution to any problem you encountered. That could be the problem. How do you get all those cool apps to play nicely together so everyone can get their work done?
According to HyperOffice CEO Farzin Arsanjani, there are several reasons managers and companies need to think about bundling these solutions. “Sending documents back and forth as attachments is a habit workers just can’t seem to break. Untold suffering has been caused to people frantically searching for a document in their inbox, or losing hours of work working on a wrong document version. With HyperOffice’s document management integrated with email, documents need not be attached, but emails can simply point to the location of the document in the document management module. This ensures that everyone accesses the same copy of the document, and that changes can be tracked with version control. Files are also easily found using document search rather than digging through old emails in an inbox.”
Task delegation is another thing people abuse email for. As a result, tasks get lost and forgotten in the inbox, and are a nightmare to keep track of. Tools like HyperOffice’s “email to task” feature allow an email to be entered as a task into the project management system with a single click, where it can easily be traced, tracked, assigned or dealt any way a task should be.
The answer for many teams and companies is bundling these pieces into “suites” of applications. Rather than have one stand alone app for managing a project (say, basecamp or projecturf) and another for managing email (like rightnow), companies are looking for a single platform that integrates a lot of those functions into a standard that the whole team can work on whether they’re on their iPad, their office computer or on a smartphone in an airport lounge or Starbucks somewhere.
Arsanjani cites three main reasons it makes sense to bring some order to the chaos.
You need to manage how people work and avoid redundancy. Management of a maze of vendor relationships, SLAs, billing cycles, usernames and passwords, administration policies, and administrative interfaces can be an IT administrator’s nightmare. Integrated solutions greatly simplify this equation.
Data silos are counter productive. Communication and collaboration tools often need to share data and interact with each other. Some examples – a contact management system needing to pull contacts from email, document attachments in email, tasks involving working together on a document, or meeting invites to be sent from the calendar needing to pull contacts. If all these systems are separate, companies need to manually move data, or get a custom integration job, or simply contend with siloed and duplicated data.
Security matters, but it has to be offset by user friendliness and productivity. When systems with disparate architectures are integrated it creates the potential for “leaky joints”. Since the two systems were never designed primarily to work together, data may be exposed by bugs in the integration, or be compromised simply because of a poorly performed integration. Moreover, the data in a “unified” system lies on a single server system, as opposed to “patched” systems where data lies on different servers which increases your risk exposure. This doesn’t even count the problem of people just getting tired of multiple log-ins and passwords and doing everything off-network or on their home equipment where nothing is secure and viruses roam free.
This doesn’t mean if someone on your team discovers a cool app that solves an immediate problem they should ignore it. What it does mean–you need to look at what problem will it solve for one person while making life complicated for the rest of the team. They should also learn how to communicate as a team first, then pick the tools second.