Deploying technology without understanding end user or employee requirements is probably the best way not to empower an enterprise. Many IT projects have produced minimal benefits or have even failed completely because they have overlooked what users need from applications and how they work. But the converse is also true. Well designed web sites and applications can be truly effective.
One example: the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB)’s web and intranet sites, which recently won the Infoconomy awards for the best use of technology in a project.
Web manager Maureen O’Donnell and best practice officer Hugh Huddy explained that their challenge was to develop a site that is accessible for the blind or partially sighted, but which worked well for fully sighted workers as well. O’Donnell and Huddy ran a project to determine which aspects of the external and internal sites made them hard for partially sighted and blind users to use and what made the intranet less useful for employees.
With over 10,000 pages on five differently branded sites, the web team of two people knew it was impossible to ensure consistency and site accessibility by acting as the manual gateway to the site themselves. But by giving staff sufficient training and the ability to publish pages themselves, O’Donnell and Huddy were able not only to improve the currency of the sites, but also to give staff more responsibility.
Another problem the web team solved was getting information from one format to another. “We used to get given all sorts of files and we had to convert them for the site,” says O’Donnell. “But we gave everyone copies of Word, trained them in how to use it and they could then publish documents themselves.”
This problem is one of those that StreamServe’s software is intended to overcome. A middleware layer that extracts information from, and inputs information into corporate systems, the software (and products like it) is necessary because most enterprise applications do not produce information in a way that is integrated with other systems or user-friendly.
While a typical SAP invoice may look attractive to “a programmer in Walldorf, Germany”, it is meaningless to most people, says Nick Earle, the company’s CEO. By making the output much friendlier, usage of technology (and therefore efficiency) increases.
It is this kind of approach that Dr Kalyan Chakravarthi of Wipro Technologies also sees as being essential to the empowered enterprise. It is not enough to buy technology in isolation for specific projects.
Each vertical market sector that Wipro serves has unique performance drivers that are based on the products they sell, the customers they sell to and the costs associated with conducting business, says Chakravarthi. By setting out a blueprint for the enterprise architecture, organisations can identify specific productivity “levers” and business processes which will benefit from IT. They can then invest in appropriate technology in the right order to take advantage those levers.
By uniting process, technology and people, organisations will be able to realise the full benefits of IT and becoming truly empowered.