boost your productivity
Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business
11-17, 2005; issue 833
High Tech Office
Web services provide a model far different from the traditional
personal computer and software duet: programs are stored and run on a
distant server and come to your computer across the Internet. There's
nothing to install or store on your computer. You access them using a
Web browser, any Web browser, running on any operating system anywhere
you can connect to the Net.
You may prefer the responsiveness of keeping your word processor
installed on your hard drive. But there's a lot to be said for having
your calendar and address book available wherever you happen to be.
Kitsilano-based Function Point (www.functionpoint.com
offers Web-based software targeting "creative businesses."
It also provides customer relation management, invoicing and
connections to accounting, along with an attractive user interface
created by local graphics designers Fleming Design.
Individual users can keep track of time spent on their tasks;
management can stay on top of their projects' overall workflow, while
drilling down as deeply as required.
Simon Fraser University's Faculty of Applied Sciences faced a different
challenge. It needed a way to allow a large number of staff to take
charge of its own online content without having to learn about Web
design or burden an IT staff. While there are a number of firms
offering Web-based content management systems (including
Vancouver-based Maestro CMS and The Level), it opted, as did UBC's
Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, to build its own, using the open
source (and hence freely available) Plone (www.plone.org
They were pleased that Plone, developed in part by Vancouverite Andy
McKay of Enfold Systems, was available for the wide range of computing
systems found in the faculty.
According to Barry Shell, the faculty's research communications
manager, the new system has also improved workflow. Previously, to get
an announcement online, for instance, it was necessary to e-mail one of
a few people, who would then have to manually edit and post a Web page
advertising the event.
Now, the click of an online button brings details about an upcoming
event to the attention of a reviewer, who verifies the content then
with a single click posts the event online.
Shell points out, however, that getting up and running required a
part-time developer to set up and maintain the system.
Function Point president Chris Wilson notes that his customers are
finding that the system's instant feedback changes company culture. The
ability to know what's happening at all phases of a project results in
You may not be ready to dump your word processor for a Web-based
software service, but whether you roll your own or access a customized
service like Function Point's, you can expect to do more and more of
your job online, working anywhere you have access to a Web browser.