Hard times offer chance to improve through IT


POSTED: Sunday, December 06, 2009

By now we're all tired of the phrase “;these tough economic times.”; If there is one silver lining in such times, however, it's that this is a good time for organizations to innovate and improve their business processes, usually through the use of technology.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that IT is one of the first places that organizations look to cut during difficult times. Common sense, however, says that it is better to reduce overall costs by improving efficiency. (Interestingly enough, another area that organizations look to cut during times like these is staff training, which has a similar parallel to IT.)

It is universally recognized that properly automated processes have been proved to provide dramatic increases in productivity. Eliminating the need to re-enter duplicate information, reducing paper consumption and minimizing time spent faxing and making phone calls are but a few simple examples of improving efficiency.

One tangible manner that organizations are using to increase efficiency is by improving the exchange of data. The technology known as “;web services”; is a proven tool for such situations. Initially coming into vogue in the early part of this decade, web services provide a standardized method of facilitating communication between different computer systems. The respective owners of the computer systems really don't need to know much about the other system, making data transfer much easier.

For example, importers can submit their manifests to an oversight agency in advance of the actual arrival of the cargo. The oversight agency can use its own computer system to help identity items that might need special handling or inspection, and send this information back to the importer. The need for paperwork to be passed between these two organizations is eliminated, along with all of the potential situations for human error.

All of this can be done with relatively little interaction between the IT staffs of the involved organizations. Each IT staff is responsible for making changes to its own system, without needing any detailed knowledge of the other system.

Contrast this solution to the “;old days”; where programmers needed intimate details of the other system. In some cases, data transfer was cumbersome to the point of being cost-prohibitive, especially if the systems were manufactured by different vendors.

Improving business processes through the use of technology should be a priority in difficult times. It is a key investment in your organization's future.