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Large budgets are allocated to either off-the-shelf products or large development efforts. In many cases organizations are left with software that is not able to bend to the needs of the business or development projects that are over budget and old before they are released to the business users.
As a director of emerging technologies, one of my jobs is to work with clients to identify any existing technology platforms already owned by the company that can be leveraged to extend or build new systems. Generally, I’m a fan of new development and certain off-the-shelf products. But, why invest in off the shelf or custom software when the platforms that you already own may have the necessary building blocks to create the line of business solutions you need?
One example is the functionality built into collaboration, document and customer relationship management systems, such as Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. Both of these applications contain workflow and process automation functionality that can be used to create highly functional line-of-business systems. And, if the functionality is not built in, the platforms allow for extensibility via open application programming interfaces and configuration.
During my time in the field, I’ve come across three applications that most companies need and don’t realize they already have. With some planning and configuration, both collaboration and customer relationship management applications could be used to create the following line of business solutions:
• Expense Authorization: Collaboration and CRM applications can often provide the workflow for reviews, approvals and supporting documentation to automate expense authorization processes for businesses of all types.
• Incident Management: Collaboration and CRM applications can often provide the platform—including mobile accessibility—to help quickly report, document and share incident information that is vital for safety and compliance management.
• Talent Acquisition Management and Employee On-Boarding: Collaboration and CRM applications can also provide workflow capabilities to enable HR departments to capture and document all aspects of the applicant hiring and employee lifecycle, making access to information easier and more auditable.
The bottom line: be sure to maximize your current investments in technology before you add more to the mix. This approach can certainly help your company improve efficiencies through automation, without significant new expenditures.
Frederick "Apollo" Gonzalez is the director of emerging technologies for Catapult Systems, an award-winning Microsoft-focused IT consulting company with offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Denver, Tampa and Washington, D.C. He has served as an emerging technologist and enterprise solution architect for service-based organizations since December 2001.